Eating for Peak Health and Performance: Food for Thought (Eating to Boost Your Mental Game)

by Beth Mansfield

Eat breakfast. Runners who eat breakfast regularly are the fittest, leanest and likely the fastest runners amongst us. Breakfast is important to “break the fast,” reload the liver’s glycogen stores and get the brain and body ready to perform. Carbohydrate-rich foods at breakfast tend to improve morning performance. So whether it’s a fruit based smoothie or French toast with maple syrup, get those carbs into your morning routine.

Eat more frequently throughout the day. This has been shown to enhance verbal reasoning— perhaps not a big deal for the lone runner, but important for those runners who use training times to discuss work matters with fellow-runner colleagues. Enhanced verbal reasoning also comes in handy for any runner trying to talk his/her spouse into yet another weekend away at the races!

Choose carbs for positive thoughts. A lack of carbohydrate-rich foods in your daily diet can quickly turn you into a whiny runner, or worse yet, one with negative or self-critical thoughts. Maintain happy thoughts by keeping your brain fed. Low-glycemic index foods such as oatmeal will be your best bet as they provide a long, slow release of carbs – just add some berries and maple syrup for an extra carb punch!

Drink throughout training sessions. Studies also suggest that drinking carbohydrate and carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks enhances feelings of pleasure during and following prolonged endurance activities which is not similar to playing casino games in Canadian online casino sites. Anything that makes those grueling long runs feel better sounds good to us!

Keep that morning java. Two to three milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight has a positive effect on cognitive functioning, including the ability to pay attention, psychomotor skills, and memory. So for those of you that do physical training that requires you to count laps, remember sets and reps (such as interval training) or pay close attention to what you are doing (such as highly technical trail running) the caffeine in your morning cup of coffee could be helpful.

Choose protein for multi-tasking. Short term memory is best after a protein-rich breakfast like a vegetable omelette sans toast, while overall morning brain function is optimal with a meal that contains similar amounts of carbohydrate and protein-rich foods, such as two poached eggs on toast with tomato and low fat cheese. Eat a high-carbohydrate, low-protein lunch and your ability to concentrate in the afternoon will take a nosedive, predominantly from lapses of attention. Instead, choose smaller amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods (bread, pasta, rice, crackers, cookies, muffins, etc) to accompany your protein-rich foods (meat, poultry, fish, milk, yogurt, low fat cheese) at lunchtime.

Beth Mansfield is a sport dietitian and exercise physiologist with Peak Performance in Ottawa. Click here to visit the Peak Performance web site.