I happened to be reading yesterday and stumbled upon this little article about Jonathon Brownlee’s approach to nutrition. With all the performance discussions and emerging thinking on performance nutrition, keto diet, periodization and more, I would love to know your thoughts.
I remember heading to a riding trip in France, with ten keen riders, when the local French farmer who was hosting us for dinner that night asked me, “Ahh, you are bringing Americans. I assume they will be bringing all of their allergies with them?”
As humorous as this was, it does highlight the tendency of the Western culture to over complicate things in any endeavor we pursue. Of course, many people and athletes have real allergies, but discussions like this always fall back to a simple question of întentional focus. What are the key aspects to focus on to drive the athlete forward?
Let’s think about the workplace first. Imagine if you are managing a team of ten employees. Whatever the project, it would not be hard to identify 30 things for each team member to nail in order to drive a project forward. There is typically just so much to do. Effective management is getting each team member to absolutely nail the very few things that are going to yield the greatest performance individually and as a team. Identifying and placing focus on the impact areas will bring the team collectively 90 to 95% of the way to the finish line in a powerful way, but distractions and focus spread too thin at the individual level will lead to a blizzard of underwhelming, confusion, and frustration.
So what does this have to do with Johnny’s dinner table? The answer is that he is absolutely right. There is a reason that we live and die by a saying nail the basics. All of these magical and mystical diets and approaches tend to lead to distraction and focus on things that might have a small positive impact, but will yield nothing is very basic and repeatable habits and approaches are not mastered. It is not about whether a Keto diet is a smart approach (I will save that discussion for another time), it is about where an athlete should place their focus. An obsession on eating habits, weighing food, and implementing restrictions seldom yields an improvement of an athlete’s relationship with food, enjoyment of the sport, or opportunity to be wholly focused on the most basic and important aspects of performance - training well. An eating intervention positioned in a restrictive box is seldom healthy or, in the big picture, beneficial. There are some (typically time-rich) people who have all aspects of performance dialed in. They train great, they have good recovery, they are healthy. Typically experienced and seasoned athletes, who have refined and dialed their approach in. If these athletes want to look for incremental gains in performance, I am not against it. But what around the 95% of athletes who still struggle to dial in recovery, appropriate mindset, technical development, and proper training rhythm? Well, these are looking in the wrong place by shackling themselves with some new voodoo diet.
I have been doing this for a while now, and the patterns repeat like fashion. What doesn’t change is that performance is based on an incredibly basic set of repeatable habits. So, Johnny, good man! I applaud the mindset as it is anchored in exactly what we discuss. Eat healthily, eat plenty, establish a balanced relationship with food, and enjoy where it sits within the context of life.
As one of our awards from camp said last week: No one cares about your diet, so eat your salad and be sad.
Please sign in to leave a comment.