“Food is fuel for the body and mind” is a phrase my coach has drilled into my head ever since I first embarked on the journey of becoming a professional athlete.
Growing up in Ghana, West Africa, food was embedded into every aspect of my life. There was no “right” or “wrong” food, no counting calories or macronutrients, food was just.. food. This had been my mentality from a young age and into my early twenties as I moved to Canada to pursue my bachelor’s degree. It however wasn’t until I began powerlifting as a sport in university that I got introduced to the concept of food as fuel and the supplementation of micronutrients in addition to monitoring macronutrients.
This was never a priority of mine at the time – due to stresses from school, training and family issues, one thing took a significant decline in my life and that was nutrition. I began neglecting and skipping meals, deeming them the last priority atop my long list of academic deadlines and training schedules. The impact of this was not immediate but rather, gradual. I was slowly building unhealthy habits, habits which will later have a significant impact on my performance as an athlete.
I decided to pursue the journey to become a professional CrossFit athlete in August of 2021, and was thrusted into a whirlwind of frequent rigorous training and skill building sessions. This was in addition to working full time. As the phrase “Old habits die hard” suggests, my poor habits from the previous year crept in on me little by little. Just as I deemed nutrition of least importance in moments of high stress and meeting the demands of a busy schedule, I began doing the same everyday, unknowingly eating less than 2000 calories a day amidst three to four hours of training, in addition to working full time.
This opened up a pandoras box of health issues: hormonal imbalances, extremely painful cramping and anaemia, in addition to decreased kidney function. My performance output both at work and during training sessions reduced drastically – I was always tired and unmotivated, dizzy spells were a usual occurrence, and weight gain became gradual. This was the wakeup call I needed and decided to make the right changes for my performance and overall longevity of my health.
Food is fuel: Your body needs food to function, thrive and grow.
As living organisms, our body expends energy even in a rested state. We need fuel from our moments in deep slumber to hours we work hard in and out of the gym. Our bodies are biological machines that require a source of fuel to be able to thrive. It was not until I sought the assistance of a nutritionist, began tracking my macronutrients for the purposes of performance, and being invested in supplementation of the right micronutrients that I began to truly understand the impact of focusing on nutrition.
In the span of two weeks, I felt stronger, faster and more awake than I had felt for MONTHS! My numbers in Olympic lifting increased, I got faster in my conditioning pieces and that was just the beginning. It is never too late to begin making the right changes for your overall health.
Focusing on nutrition does not mean eliminating certain food groups but understanding the importance of consuming a balanced diet of macronutrients for performance, or just in everyday life.