Your athlete’s lifestyle affects their performance
The Cambridge dictionary defines lifestyle as
someone’s way of living; the things that a person usually does
An athlete’s lifestyle is the foundation of their well-being and potential. It is the set of habits and attitudes that form the pattern of how they go about their daily lives. Understanding optimal performance requires self-awareness about how lifestyle affects your readiness to train, compete and win! A balanced healthy lifestyle is crucial for success. To discount it as unimportant and not an essential part of athletic preparation is the downfall of many an athlete that had the potential for greatness.
What affects athletic performance?
At a training session, coaches are focused, and rightly so on the specifics and objectives of that training. On match day, all focus is on performance on the field. Trying to keep a close eye on the growing amount of detail required by today’s coach can be difficult and takes time and energy away from preparation and training. Every lifestyle choice an athlete makes, whether it be what they eat or how they sleep, has a direct impact on how they perform. Educating and empowering athletes to make informed decisions to improve their lifestyle can pay huge dividends on the playing field.
Lifestyle factors that affect sports training and performance
From sleep to peer pressure, there are a huge number of factors that form part of the daily lives of most athletes. Education and guidance are essential to help athletes navigate their pathway to success and understand how they can improve key areas outside of specific skills training, that can help them reach their potential.
We take a closer look at the research behind several key factors such as:-
- Health & Energy
and how small changes can reap huge rewards.
Upping your game with sleep
Getting insufficient sleep is a badge of honour in our society, yet has detrimental effects on our safety, performance and health – Cheri Mah
The most significant factor for your brain and central nervous system to function to its potential is that it is rested. Research has shown that sleep is a clear predictor of performance in sport. Insufficient sleep and/or poor sleep quality can cause issues which affect physical and academic performance, cognitive function, recovery from training and injury and your mental and cardiometabolic health. What we do know is that sleep is needed to conduct the basic functions of life no matter what your role or occupation, so naturally, for an athlete it becomes even more important to get adequate sleep. The benefits include:-
- reduced injury rates
- improved reaction times
- faster sprint times
- extended careers
- fewer mental errors and
- better accuracy
Educating athletes on tips to improve their sleep hygiene and the benefits of quality sleep on their performance can help.
How stress can affect athletic performance
Athletes who learn to manage their stress and anxiety and channel it into their performance are often the ones who succeed. No matter what level of competition you are at, the key is being able to deal with the pressure and ensure that it doesn’t adversely affect your performance. Therefore, it is vital to monitor your stress levels and to become aware of the tell-tale signs in order to take action before it becomes a problem. Being aware of stress and its source allows you the opportunity to deal with the issues and ensure that you reach the maximum performance in terms of life and sport. When not managed well, stress can play havoc with your mental health and ability to perform.
How does poor nutrition affect athletic performance?
Athletes need adequate fuel to maintain their level of performance. Nutrition is the fuel for athletes. This “fuel” can be broken down into 3 main components – Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein. The food we eat impacts our strength, endurance, training, performance, recovery and well-being.
In the case study: Nutritional and Lifestyle Support to Reduce Infection Incidence in an International-Standard Premier League Soccer Player, an illness-prone professional footballer was put on a 12 week intervention program where his diet was altered and he was educated and provided with a daily sleep and hygiene protocol. In the three months before the intervention, the player had suffered 3 upper respiratory tract infections and missed 3 competitive matches and 2 weeks of training. He routinely commenced morning training sessions without breakfast and was estimated to be in a large daily energy deficit. The intervention increased his calorie intake by 90%; the amount, composition, and timing of energy intake was altered, and quercetin and vitamin D were supplemented. During the timeline of the research, there was a positive increase in serum vitamin D concentration as well as a decline in the number of upper respiratory tract infections. More significantly with regards to training and competing, he maintained availability for all training and matches over the 12-week period.
This case study shows how even at the elite level of soccer, players are often unaware of the optimal fueling their body needs to help them perform their best.
Health and Fatigue
Fatigue is defined as
extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness
Acute fatigue can happen when there is a decrease in muscle power and the power and intensity required by an athlete to perform an activity is not there. Acute fatigue is part and parcel of the high level of training and endurance required by an elite athlete and should be accompanied by rest and recovery. Optimal performance results when an athlete has a balanced approach to training and recovery. When physical exertion and emotional stress are not addressed, fatigue can become more of a chronic issue and this can lead to ongoing tiredness, reduced sleep quality, poor performance and an increased risk of injury and illness.
An athlete’s lifestyle has an important role to play. All the different areas of lifestyle draw on an athlete’s available energy resources. Warning signs can be monitored through use of relevant questionnaires and daily metrics.
Most elite athletes have a natural talent for their sport. But what motivates them to drive themselves to succeed?
Given the pressures and demands associated with competitive sport, it is not surprising that interest in athlete burnout has been on the rise. The role of motivation in athlete burnout is something that has been looked at in research. From a self-determination theory perspective, burnout is associated with a chronic failure to meet your psychological needs. Numerous studies have found that intrinsic motivation is negatively related to athlete burnout, while amotivation has been shown to be positively related to burnout symptoms.
Coaches behavior with their athletes/team can have a profound impact on athlete satisfaction and motivation. Motivation is an integral part of the ‘secret to success’ in sport and life. Everyone experiences times when they are less motivated and times when they feel the world is at their feet. The most successful athletes are not always the strongest and the fastest but maybe they are the best at staying motivated.
Anxiety is an inescapable part of being an athlete and as it is almost impossible to eradicate it completely, the key is how the individual actually deals with it. Athletes need to find techniques to allow them to get proper sleep and ensure a good balance between stress and relaxation. Breathing exercises, time with family and friends, positive self-talk and visualization are all ways that an athlete can ensure that they are achieving that balance, Relaxation skills can help athletes reduce stress, doubts in their ability, mental and physical anxiety and at the same time increase concentration and both physical and mental performance.
How Metrifit can help
Successful change is about small steps in the right direction rather than giant leaps forward. By monitoring these areas, coaches can help manage the 24-hour athlete and have a positive effect on athletic performance. Research on relationships between athlete workloads, injury, and performance has highlighted the benefits of athlete monitoring.
Introducing monitoring tools may serve as a means to reduce the detrimental effects of stress and other lifestyle factors in athletes. Regardless of what monitoring tool or application you decide to use for your athletes and team, it is crucial that you understand why you are monitoring and how you are going to use the data to inform your decision making process.
Metrifit’s athlete lifestyle profiling product takes up very little time for busy athletes (about 5 minutes each month) but provides you with actionable insight to help improve your team’s performance and more importantly highlights the key lifestyle stressors that are affecting the health and well-being of your athletes.
Follow us on social media where we post regular blogs related to sports, performance and well-being.
Nutritionist, Wexford Camogie
Strength and Conditioning Coach at DCU Sport and with Dublin Minor GAA
Head Volley Ball Coach, Southern Illinois University
Head Coach, Women's Soccer at Regis University
Associate Director of Strength & Conditioning
Director of Olympic Strength & Conditioning
University of Wisconsin
Kerry Senior Football, Manager
Robert Karlsson, Professional Golfer
Lincoln University Athletic Performance Manager
Head Physiotherapist, Cornish Pirates Rugby Club
Tino Fusco, B.Sc. ChPC
Head Coach, Women's Soccer, Mount Royal University (Canada)
Head Strength and Conditioning Co-ordinator,Noblesville High School
Head Coach, LMU Lions, Loyola Marymount University
Head Coach, Irish Hockey
Director of Strength & Conditioning and Head Strength Coach Men’s basketball, University of Wisconsin
Athletic Development Coach, MSc ASCC
Millfield School, UK
"When COVID altered college athletics as we knew it, Metrifit came to the rescue. This intuitive athlete monitoring, health and well-being system provides the athlete, coach, and sports medicine staff a way to monitor and balance the physical, emotional, health and well-being of our athlete’s. Metrifit provided that calm in the middle of the perfect storm for our entire athletic department for the future. Thank you to the entire Metrifit family for assisting our department with a seamless process."
Head Athletic Trainer, Colorado School of Mines
NISUS Fitness, S&C Coach Clare Senior Hurling, Horse Sport Ireland and Limerick Senior Hurling
Edgar K. Tham
Founder and Chief Sport & Performance Psychologist, SportPsych Consulting (Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines)
Emma Hawke, PhD Exercise Physiology
Coach - Sweden Climbing, Olympic Offensive - Female Coach Swedish Olympic Committee, Senior Lecturer - Coach education programme (Sweden)
Academy Directory, SJ.B (St. Joseph’s Bray ) Academy
Assistant S&C Coach, Tulane University
Kildare Senior Football Manager
Sports Scientist, Kildare Football, PhD Sports Science Researcher
Head of Fitness for International Football/Fitness Coach Men's Senior Team
Football Association of Ireland
Dr. Dale Richardson
CEO Achieve Total Performance Pty Ltd
Quinnipiac University, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach
CEO, Shift Performance, Miami
Head Basketball Coach, Carmel High School
Team Manager and Athlete Support Services Coordinator at Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby