Diet plays a major role in mental preparation as well as technical. A month ago I was observing one of my athletes training. She is extremely professional in every part of her game, has high goals, and is very talented... not to mention, she's only 12 years old. But on this particular day she was craving a cheeseburger. Now, of course a cheeseburger may be thought of as an unhealthy diet for an aspiring professional athlete but I want to share the less obvious problems to performance.
First, is the technical:
When she was training, she started feeling a stomachache but continued and fought through it. Later, she more specifically worked on a part of her game that demands her to use all of her body in perfect timing and extension to be successful. The problem wasn't just that the cheeseburger made it difficult for her to train correctly but that something as minor as a cheeseburger can also affect an athlete's muscle memory. Lets think about this, she was working on a very technical part of her game, practicing many, many, repetitions but with an "abbreviated" technique. The abbreviated technique when practiced many times can become her "go to" technique if she does not recognize early that she should stop training when their is pain manipulating her movements.
Second, is the mental:
If an athlete is in pain she may have more difficulty staying positive, motivated, and confident. Furthermore, if the technique is also altered, it will affect her consistency in staying in the moment because she will have an increased awareness on her "bad" technique, often trying to fix it when competing, instead of keeping her focus as simple as possible.
So the next time you or an athlete you know is considering eating poorly, please let them know about the story of the cheeseburger, because at the highest level, every detail matters.
To read more from Patrick Albán B.S., M.S., visit goSPMI.com.