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Body Image: Fueling for Better Performance

When you hear about Olympic runners, NFL players, or professional dancers, what image pops into your head? We all have that idea of a specific body type when it comes to elite athletes.

While we all strive to be at the level of these athletes, our bodies may not be genetically composed to be long and lean or tall and muscular. Our bodies all differ in their stature and composition.  Keeping this in mind is important in training because of the differing nutritional needs within these body variations.

In an article written by professional runner Allie Kieffer, she explains her journey to finding a positive body image and struggles she encountered along the way. When she focused on conforming her body to portray that of her “rail-thin” competitors, she found her performances to be worse and ended up with an injury that cost her the chance at competing in the Olympics. After changing her focus to eating for performance and fueling her body with healthy nutrients, she found herself crossing the New York City Marathon with a 26 minute PR and placing fifth in a very talented group of elite female runners.

Performing your best requires healthy and optimum nutrition. This requires determining your needs based on your exercise and intensity to ensure that your body receives enough nutrition to perform and recover. We often hear of reaching an “ideal” body size or body fat in order to perform our best, but the reality is that most athletes are significantly restricting their diets in order to achieve the superficial goal. Achieving this goal with inadequate nutrition has a more negative effect on performance than having a slightly different body shape or size. Nutrition is essential in being able to push your body to its limits and improve your times or performance.

If you’ve been striving for an “ideal” body weight or fat and are not seeing performance benefits, you may be under fueling. Talk with a registered dietitian to learn more about appropriate nutrition needs for your sport and training.

1. Kieffer A. My Weight Has Nothing to Do With How Good a Runner I Am. SELF. Published January 4, 2018. Accessed February 27, 2018.