Perform, Refuel, Recover, Adapt

You might have noticed this slogan on the new line of tanks & tees that me and some of the guys and girls who I coach have been showing off online and in the gym lately.

Perform, Refuel, Recover & Adapt. These are the things that Sports Nutrition facilitates, and which "dieting" only hinders.

When we talk about "dieting", the inference is on calorie restriction, or an arbitrary list of restrictions on the choices of foods you're allowed to have. What's rarely involved is any sort of system of estimating or determining your actual energy requirements; it is just arbitrary restriction and deprivation to ensure that you fall short of those requirements, usually with the misguided belief that fat loss will be the outcome.

These are the facts, whether people like them or not:

There are no "fat burning" or "fat storing" foods. Clean eating, paleo, low carb and other deprivation based approaches work because restricting food choices, and in particular the omission of energy dense choices, results in a "calorific deficit'.

If you've been in the habit of consuming an excessive amount of energy, you'll have gained weight. When you make dietary changes resulting in a less excessive energy consumption, you lose weight. Regardless of the choices of foods.

The exception to this rule appears to be when you have an extended history of extreme and erratic chances between excessive intake and overly restrictive, insufficient intake. Also known as "crash dieting", "yo-yo dieting", and so on. It seems apparent that at a certain point, the body just settles at a certain weight & condition and does not respond to short term changes in energy balance the way we would normally expect.

Regardless though, other than in the specific circumstance described above (and even then, not necessarily in every case of the above) it is generally correct to say that "any change in dietary habits resulting in a caloric deficit will result in weight loss, regardless of the choice of foods".

However... it goes without saying that we're not here to talk about "weight loss" dieting. While fat loss may be an aspect of our athletic performance, condition and related goals, a weight loss focused calorie restriction approach tends to end up in a that counter productive pattern of erratic shifts between excessive and overly restrictive dietary habits that we discussed earlier.

So while it is technically correct to say that a caloric deficit is required to ensure fat loss, a calorie deficit shouldn't be our only focus when determining our sports nutrition requirements, and contrary to popular belief, merely being in deficit does not ensure improvements in condition.

Perform, and Refuel.

It should go without saying that the human body requires fuel to be available in order to perform at training and sports. For some reason, many people seem to believe that it is necessary to restrict their energy intake to (or even below) their BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate in order to draw upon fat stores. Doing so actually ensures that NO energy is available to perform. Obviously the body finds a way to cope and you don't just instantly collapse in a heap upon exertion of energy... but this is far from an ideal situation.

When active people who have been chronic dieters or have otherwise been restricting to an insufficient level of energy intake begin to fuel more appropriately, they see rapid and significant improvements in sports performance benchmarks and increases in personal bests, simply because the energy is available in the muscles to facilitate such improvements.

An active person's energy intake can and in most cases should be significantly higher than their BMR, without becoming excessive or precluding fat loss. It stands to reason that we want to do this more than once, and having fueled adequately, performed at our best, we need to refuel in order to do it again.

Recover & Adapt.

You require energy in order to perform, and having put in your best effort at training, you need to refuel in order to do it again. Failing to do so is just running yourself into the ground, and has the effect of making training destructive rather than productive. For this reason a lot of people think "net your BMR", as in... keep track of the amount of calories burned at exercise, add this to your BMR, and then you have your calorie requirement. Also referred to as "eating back" the calories burned at exercise.

While this is better than falling short of your BMR, it is still insufficient. We need not to merely replace the energy we have expended while active, but we need to provide energy and resources in order to recover from the stress we have placed our body under, in order to make that a productive level of stress rather than a destructive level of stress. Recovery may have two meanings here as people often have a goal of recovering from eating disorder, recovering from years of dieting, recovering both psychologically and physiologically.

Further still though, our aim is not merely to expend and then replace energy. Our aim is to facilitate further improvements in performance, and to adapt to training with a stronger, leaner, more athletic physical condition. This can only occur when sufficient energy, protein, and other resources are available to support and maintain an increase in lean mass. Your level of activity and fueling can either put you into an anabolic state where your body is able to prioritise the creation of lean mass, or it can put you into a state where lean mass is squandered to make up a shortfall in energy provision. It is important not to make the mistake of believing that fat stores are always the only, or the preferred resource that your body will draw from to make up an energy short fall.

Sports Nutrition takes all of this into account. Conventional weight loss dieting and buzzwords like "eat clean", "calorie deficit" and so on do not.

If this sounds like an approach you'd be interested in, check out the Online Coaching or Personal Training pages for more information. You can order this or other designs on a tank, tee or hoodie via my webstore.

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