Sussex Performance Centre

The Power of Fuel: How Eating More Can Boost Exercise Performance

Exercise enthusiasts often focus on the intensity and duration of their workouts, but what about the role of nutrition? While it’s commonly known that eating well is essential for overall health, the impact of nutrition on exercise performance is often underestimated.

Surprisingly, consuming more food might be the missing ingredient to unlocking your full athletic potential. In this blog post, we’ll explore the science behind why eating more can lead to improved exercise performance.

Fueling Your Engine: Energy Requirements

  1. Just like a car needs fuel to run efficiently, your body requires energy to perform optimally during exercise. When you exercise, your muscles use glycogen (stored carbohydrates) as their primary fuel source. However, glycogen stores are limited and can become depleted during prolonged or intense workouts. By consuming more carbohydrates, you can replenish these stores, providing your muscles with the energy they need to sustain performance.References:
    • Hawley, J. A., & Leckey, J. J. (2015). Carbohydrate Dependence During Prolonged, Intense Endurance Exercise. Sports Medicine, 45(S1), 5–12. [DOI: 10.1007/s40279-015-0400-1]

Building Blocks of Strength: Protein for Muscle Repair

  1. Exercise doesn’t just break down muscle; it also stimulates muscle growth and repair. Protein plays a crucial role in this process by providing the building blocks (amino acids) necessary for muscle synthesis. Consuming more protein can support muscle repair and growth, leading to enhanced exercise performance and quicker recovery between workouts.References:
    • Morton, R. W., et al. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(6), 376–384. [DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608]

Staying Hydrated: Fluid Balance and Performance

  1. Dehydration can significantly impair exercise performance by reducing blood volume, increasing core temperature, and impairing cardiovascular function. Consuming more fluids, especially water, helps maintain hydration levels, ensuring optimal performance during exercise.References:
    • Sawka, M. N., et al. (2007). American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Exercise and Fluid Replacement. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(2), 377–390. [DOI: 10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597]

Mind Over Matter: Psychological Factors

  1. Lastly, eating more can have psychological benefits that positively impact exercise performance. Feeling adequately fueled and nourished can boost confidence, motivation, and mental focus during workouts, allowing you to push harder and achieve better results.References:
    • Pelly, F. E., & Burkhart, S. J. (2018). Nutrition for the Prevention and Treatment of Injuries in Track and Field Athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 28(2), 189–196. [DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0242]

Underfueling can have various signs and symptoms, both physical and psychological. Here are some common signs of underfueling:

  1. Fatigue and Low Energy Levels: Constant feelings of tiredness, sluggishness, or exhaustion, even with adequate rest, can indicate that the body is not receiving enough energy from food to meet its needs.
  2. Decreased Performance: Persistent declines in exercise performance, such as slower running times, decreased strength, or reduced endurance, despite consistent training, can be a sign of inadequate fueling.
  3. Recurrent Injuries or Illness: Underfueling weakens the immune system and impairs the body’s ability to recover from exercise, making individuals more susceptible to injuries, infections, or illnesses.
  4. Irregular Menstrual Cycles (in females): For female athletes, irregular or absent menstrual cycles, known as amenorrhea, can be a sign of underfueling and hormonal imbalances caused by insufficient calorie intake.
  5. Loss of Muscle Mass: Inadequate protein intake combined with energy deficit can lead to muscle wasting or loss of lean muscle mass, which may be noticeable as a decrease in muscle tone or strength.
  6. Weight Loss or Inability to Gain Weight: Despite increased exercise or physical activity, individuals may experience unintentional weight loss or struggle to gain weight due to insufficient calorie intake.
  7. Mood Changes: Underfueling can affect mood and mental well-being, leading to irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression, or difficulty concentrating.
  8. Disordered Eating Behaviors: Extreme dieting, restrictive eating patterns, preoccupation with food, or unhealthy attitudes towards eating can be indicative of underfueling and may develop into more serious eating disorders if left unaddressed.

It’s essential to recognize and address the signs of underfueling promptly to prevent long-term health consequences and optimize athletic performance. Consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional can help develop a balanced nutrition plan tailored to individual energy needs and activity levels. Additionally, working with a sports nutritionist or certified coach can provide guidance on proper fueling strategies to support training, recovery, and overall well-being.

In conclusion, fueling your body adequately through nutrition is essential for optimizing exercise performance. By consuming more carbohydrates to replenish energy stores, increasing protein intake for muscle repair and growth, staying hydrated, and benefiting from the psychological effects of feeling nourished, you can enhance your athletic abilities and achieve your fitness goals more effectively. Remember, what you eat matters just as much as how you train. So, fuel your body wisely and watch your performance soar!


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