Nutrition for performance vs aesthetics

There is a big, BIG difference between eating for performance and aesthetics. A lot of people, including myself, have trouble separating the two from time to time. Especially in the CrossFit world but in other forms of fitness as well. There’s a line that has been blurred in the past decade or so. Are we fueling our bodies to perform well or are we eating to look good naked? Because let’s be honest, if we’re working out for aesthetics that’s what it is all about right? There is a scenario where you can fuel both for performance and aesthetics, which will get to later on as well.

The big difference

The biggest difference between eating for performance and aesthetics is the specific foods that you’re eating, but especially the why behind it. Why are you eating what you’re eating?

For aesthetics it’s pretty obvious that we’re trying to get to a fairly low but healthy body fat percentage. As I have discussed a couple of times before, in order to lose fat, we have to eat more protein, fat and reduce our processed carbohydrate and sugar intake. Unlike keeping a low body fat percentage, we want to hold on to or gain as much muscle mass as possible. How do we accomplish that? Well, I think a lot of us know the answer to that question, up your protein intake. This way of eating will benefit a lot people that workout in regular gyms and are looking to get fitter, healthier and leaner. However, we always have to keep in mind that every body will respond differently. So, to summarize our aesthetics-based nutrition protocol: moderate to High fat (30-50%), high protein(30-35%), moderate to low amounts of carbohydrate (10-30%) and as little sugar as possible. Pretty simple right? Well not so much when it comes to eating for performance.

Eating for performance is a whole different ball-game. You have to be aware of what nutrients your body burns through leading up to, during and post-performance. It’s not just about the game/performance itself but the build up to that point. It’s arguably even more important than the actual game itself. If your nutrition is not on point during training, your performance is going to show it. The thing that makes performance-based nutrition so difficult and complex is that no individual reacts the same to all foods, or the body goes through different stages of burning the macronutrients (good example: endurance sports). Just like the aesthetics-based nutrition, someone might respond better to a high fat-protein/lower carb protocol, but some people and sports will just simply benefit more from a higher carb-protein/ low fat protocol. 

This is the reason why some of the best athletes in their respective sports might not have the best physiques and some of the most aesthetically gifted people in your gym might not be the best at performing certain tasks or sports.

Nutrition for Performance and aesthetics

The solution to this ”problem” is pretty simple and complex at the same time. The easy part is that you will have to figure out what works best for you. The complex part is that you have to factor in what’s going make you perform best, because those 2 might not always line up perfectly. Let’s take a long-distance runner for example; your energy levels and body will probably feel much better while eating high fat-low carb, but there’s no getting around that you will probably perform better while eating more carbohydrates.

One factors in how you feel and what you look in your daily life (aesthetics-based nutrition) and the other factors in what type of energy systems are being while you’re trying to perform (performance-based nutrition). Like I mentioned before, the key is to figure out how far you need to go over to one side over the other. The difficult part is that minimal changes could make the difference between being successful at both, failing at both or half-assing both. We’re talking about an extra 10-20 grams of carbohydrates or fat that can make a big difference in your overall performance as well as your aesthetics.

*My tip: Make small changes on a weekly basis, change one or two things every week until you see what (doesn’t) works. Changing too many things at once will make you lose track of what is making you feel good and what is not. Your body also needs time to adjust and let you know what works well for your personal body and performance. Keep in mind, if your nutrition works well for you a couple days in a row you can be fairly sure it’s going to keep working for you in the future.

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Categories: nutrition, post workout nutritionTags: , , , , , , , ,

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