T Nation

Eating For Performance vs Health or Aesthetics?


#1

I hear Jim and other people talk about eating for performance, can somebody explain what this means and how it differs from eating for health or aesthetics?


#2

I think it’s all the same thing. I think the amount of food just changes depending on the goals.

When I think about eating for performance (which is what I do), I just look at food like FUEL for your physical activities.

If you are eating for performance you choose Spinach + Chicken over a whole pizza.
If you are eating for performance you choose water over beer.
If you are eating for performance you eat a banana with peanut butter instead of a snicker’s bar.

I mean you should be eating foods that are GOOD for you anyway. Lots of meats, veggies, fruit, nuts, rice, potatoes, and water. That should make up like 80%+ of your food intake. Then you can sprinkle in all the other stuff like whiskey, fries, candy, etc.

For example this morning I was in a rush and when I got to the office some of my employees brought donuts. I didn’t have time with meetings to order some other food. But instead of eating donuts, I chose to drink a gallon of water and a handful of cashews. That was me picking performance fuel over pleasure.


#3

I see what your saying but do you track calories? If so are you eating at a deficit, surplus or maintenance? I imagine if your eating for performance you have to be eating at some sort of surplus of calories.


#4

Eat to support the demands of your training. If volume is up, food needs to be too.


#5

Here’s the difference: a competitive athlete eats for performance. If you are going to compete in anything (a 5K, and soccer game, a boxing match, a powerlifting event) you will eat to fuel yourself so you can be at your absolute best. You don’t care if the meal will help you get a 6 pack or improve your chances of not getting cancer. You eat it because it will help you a perform at a high level.

Example: long distance runners eat lots of carbs (bagels, energy gels, pastas) to fuel their runs. Michael Jordan would eat steak and potatoes to fuel his performance.

Eating for health would be choosing something like the Mediterranean diet, focusing on fish, greens, whole grains, and healthy oils. You are eating to maximize your lifespan and reduce your chances of developing diseases resulting from the “western diet”. (This can improve both your performance and aesthetics, but that isn’t the main objective).

Eating for aesthetics is different. Here, you may starve or dehydrate yourself to achieve the visual physique you want. For example, a bodybuilder prepping for a contest is not making food choices that will improve their performance in athletics, or will maximize their health, but they choose foods that will help them have the physique they want when they step on the stage (or the beach, photo shoot, etc…). This can get so extreme that people will eat paper just to have something in their stomach. Healthy? no. Performance boosting? no. But if you want to have a skinny physique and drastically restrict calories some people will do this.

I don’t agree. If performance is my goal I would make the opposite choices for each example you give.


#6

Eating to perform better is all dependent on how your body is. Some people can’t tolerate carbs well and others feel they need them to do well. It takes a few years of trial and error and seeing how your body responds to different types of food. Try it all and see what happens.

As far as the surplus topic goes, Pwn hit the nail on the head. Again, you just gotta try out different levels of calories and intake as well as types of food.


#7

I think this changes person to person. I’ve built all my muscle and strength staying around 2500-3200 calories. That’s low on the spectrum for most people, but it’s gotten me to some really big numbers. I always perform better in the gym if I have a day full of fruit and nuts VS eating a pizza.

Not saying you’re wrong, but it’s dependent on the person for sure.


#8

I agree that lines can get blurred between these categories. I’ll often say “I eat for performance”, but the reality is that I will also choose healthy options 90% of the time because I also want to maintain a desirable bodyweight and enjoy sustained health over the decades. So, I want perform and function well today, but I’m not going to put short term lifting numbers over longterm health.


#9

How about a whole chicken and spinach pizza?


#10

Wisdom!


#11

95% agreed. The only thing I would say differently (my opinion) is that these guys typically still choose healthy foods overall during contest prep, but they manipulate how they eat them drastically in such a way that is not healthy.

I’m at the tail end of a prep routine now (personal challenge, not a BB) and I can tell you that manipulations that I have made in the last week are not healthy and absolutely not sustainable.