10 Steps To Improving Your Athletic Performance

10 Steps to Improving your Athletic Performance 

Are you taking part in a charity 5K run? A cycling event? Just a Gym Goer?  

Then here’s some simple tips to increase your chances of reaching your athletic goals. 

Firstly………..What makes up a balanced diet for active people? 

A healthy balanced diet should have around 60% carbohydrates (avoiding too much High GI foods!), 15% protein and 35% fat. 

Foods with a low GI:  


Gusto Nero Black Jasmine Rice Pasta 

All bran, Barley, Buckwheat Bulgur wheat  

Oat bran, Oats, whole wheat pasta  

Pumpernickel bread, rice noodles, seeded breads, sourdough Rye Bread 

Vegetables and pulses:  

Baked beans, black-eyed peas, butter beans, chick peas  

Haricot beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans  

Peas, new potatoes, soya beans, sweet potatoes  

Sweet corn, radishes, lettuce, cucumber  


Apples, bananas, cherries, dried apples  

Dried apricots, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi fruit  

Oranges, peaches, pears, plums  

Prunes, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes  

Foods with a medium GI:Grains

Arborio rice, arrowroot biscuits, basmati rice, brown rice Chapatti, couscous, croissants, gnocchi Melba toast, pitta bread, wholemeal bread Vegetables and pulses: 

Beetroot, carrots, potatoes, broccoli Fruit:  

Dried figs, melon, pineapple, apricots Peaches, mango  

Foods with a high GI:  


Baguettes, bagels ,bread stuffing, Corn pops, crackers, crunchy nut cornflakes White rice, tapioca, rice krispies, white pasta Vegetables, Pulses: Broad beans, jacket potato, mashed potato, pumpkin Swede, parsnip  


Dates, watermelon  


Plan meals ahead of time 

Aim for 4-6 meals a day 

Use suitable portion sizes  

Make sure you’re getting enough protein   

Food is fuel  

Remember the 80/20 rule  

Keep a food diary  


2. Hydration  

Keep properly hydrated!  

Water is the most plentiful substance in our body and is vital to our health. Water penetrates every cell and regulates all bodily functions.  

Secrets of Hydration  

A) The rate of passage of water from your stomach to your intestines depends on how much water is actually in your stomach. If there is lots of fluid then it is like a flood flowing from your stomach to the intestines. So the idea is to have a smaller amount of water so it drips like a tap into the intestines. So practise sipping often throughout the day. Take 3-4 sips of water every 10 minutes or so.  

B) If you’re going to be exercising for less than 60 minutes, do not worry about putting carbohydrates in your drinks, plain water is fine. But for prolonged exercise please add a carbohydrate. C) Cold drinks aren’t absorbed quicker into the body more quickly than warm however, cold drinks are often more palatable thanwarm ones during exercise. So if cold drinks help you to drink large quantities of fluid while you exercise then stick to that.  

Good Hydrators= water, isotonic drinks, juices, herbal teas  

Bad Hydrators= tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, alcohol, 


3. Rest and Recovery  

Importance of Rest  


• Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (8 hours per night is a good guideline) • Ensure your sleep is good quality, make sure the room is dark, quiet and peaceful.  

Passive resting such as reading and listening to music are great ways for the body to relax, both physically and mentally.  

Cool Down: 

The cool down is a group of exercises performed immediately after training to provide an adjustment between exercise and rest. Its purpose is to increase muscular soreness and bring the cardiovascular system back to rest.  

Stretching is often combined with the cool down. 

Massage is a great way to relax.   

4. Mental attitude 

It all starts with a good attitude towards success and failure and having to put in effort, so no giving up. No high performance athlete or business person would be where they are NOW, if they had given up.  

Stay motivated  

Remember, your goal is to be able to perform at your best. Be  

determined and stay the course.  

Fuel the brain to fight off the blues 

B vitamins. People with low B12 levels have more brain inflammation and higher rates of depression and dementia. Falling short on folate has long been linked to low moods.  

Iron. Too little iron in the blood (iron-deficiency anemia) has been  

linked to depression.  

Omega-3s. These healthy fatty acids improve thinking and memory  

and, possibly, mood.  

Zinc. This nutrient helps control the body's response to stress. Low  

levels can cause depression. A great source is oysters, which pack  

500% of your daily need of zinc but have just 10 calories apiece,  

Mussels, which are rich in brain-healthy selenium, are  

also a good choice.  

5. Goal setting 

Setting your goal  

Before embarking on this life-changing journey you need to set SMART goals: SPECIFIC – MEASURABLE – ACHIEVABLE – REALISTIC – TIMED  

Now that you’ve set yourself a goal it’s time to get started. Sometimes it helps to display your goal somewhere you’ll see it every day, such as on a bathroom mirror or on the fridge.  

Tracking progress 

The following tracking diary will help support your efforts. Simply keep it up to date, and at the end of each week take a moment to reflect on how you’ve done.  

Daily tracking  

Simply record the following each day   

  • What you eat - be as precise as you can  

  • What you drink - particularly how much water  

  • What exercise you do – include how many circuits (please refer to the exercise routine in section 3)  

  • And most important of all, how you’re feeling (this could be simply one word)  

       Weekly tracking  

Simply record the following each day   

  • Weight  

  • Weight lost  

  • Chest  

  • Waist  

  • Hips)  

  • Arms  

  • Thighs   

6. Injury prevention 

Warm up 

One of the most significant ways to prevent injury is to warm up properly. Take a look at the Athlete Performance warm up cream to help with this process. 

A warm up session, depending on the sport, should be at least 5-10 minutes and involve gentle stretches gradually building up in intensity to increase flow of blood to the muscles. 


Listening to your body and knowing your physical limits puts you in a very confident position to be able to gently extend that comfort zone without causing injury.   

7. Pre/During/Post event routine 

Pre-event Tips 

There is lots of evidence concluding that a pre-event meal 1-4 hours prior to an event should be high in carbohydrate food and drink, particularly if the athlete has low carbohydrate stores due to prior events, training schedule or if the event is long and/or hard.  

Food to be taken 1-4 hours before depending on personal preferences, experience and event intensity, length and starting time. The closer the meal to the event, the smaller the meal should be. 

  • 200-300 grams of carbohydrate for meals 3-4 hours before exercise have been shown to enhance performance. 

  • Include fluids (400-600 ml). 

  • Low in fat and fibre to help stomach and intestine emptying and minimise gut upsets. 

  • Choose familiar foods that are easily digested. 

  • Food that are high in carbohydrate to maintain blood glucose and maximise muscle and liver glycogen stores. 

  • Be moderate in protein and save protein for muscle recovery after an event. 

  • Keep a food diary so you know what works and doesn’t work for you and practice the planned strategy before the major goal. 

Examples of pre-event meals might include: 

  • Green Tea Pancakes with honey, jam or maple syrup 

  • Pasta or rice with vegetable sauce or stir fry vegetables  

  • Rice cakes with peanut butter and banana 

  • Fruit salad and dairy-free yoghurt, seeds and nuts 

In the 1-3 days leading up to an endurance event, the following pre-event tips are suggested in order to maximise the levels of carbohydrates within muscle and liver: 

  • Increase carbohydrate intake three days before the event 

  • Spread the intake of carbohydrate foods and drinks over smaller and more frequent meals or snacks – try 6 smaller meals a day 

  • Reduce fat and protein intake to leave more room for the carbohydrates 

  • Increase fluid intake as carbohydrate need water to be stored 

  • Avoid alcohol in the 24-48 hours leading up to the event  

During the event Tips 

It’s important that you keep up carbohydrate (muscle glycogen) levels when taking part in an event, to maintain blood glucose that supplies energy to the working muscles. The dreaded feeling of ‘bonking’ can hit athletes, which makes it impossible to maintain intensity, as carbohydrate stores have run out, leaving athletes shaky and feeling empty. 

For events over 1 hour, carbohydrate intake needs to be well organised. Training pouches and other accessories mean that it is easy to transport snacks. Aim for between 30-60grams of carbohydrate per hour (depending on the intensity of your ride). 30 grams can be provided by the following: 

- 500ml bottle of commercially available isotonic sports drink (I like Precision Hydration) 
- 1 and a half carbohydrate energy gels (I personally don’t use these but some people find them useful) 
- Small handful of jellied sweets (Natural gummies bears) 
- 1 large banana 
- 1 large cereal bar or carbohydrate based energy bar (low fibre) 

Post event Tips 

Both proteins and carbohydrates are important for recovery after training and events.  Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel and are stored as glycogen (in the muscle and liver). With limited stores, these need to be replaced before the next training session. 

Protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue. Hard training and endurance events causes the breakdown of the muscle tissue (made from protein), therefore, it’s important to consume protein after and event to provide the building blocks (amino acids) for growth and repair, and can reduce muscle soreness the next day! It is usual for some athletes not to be hungry at this time, so use fluids in your recovery strategy if necessary.  

20 grams of protein is an average amount that you need to hit to optimise the recovery process after training. The following are good examples of recovery snacks. Consider combining snacks or increasing the portion sizes after heavy training: 

Snacks that provide 20g of protein are: 

  • 80g of tinned tuna 

  • 120g of scallops 

  • 80g of turkey 

    • 2g of egg whites (about 5-6 egg whites) 

    • 75g of shrimp 

    • 33g of spirulina 

    • 140g of Quorn  

    • Exercise schedule  

      8. Exercise schedule  

Athletes are incredibly fortunate to work alongside a variety of coaches who are invested in their success. In many cases, coaches are what make everything else on this list possible. A strength coach can help design an individualised training programme.  


9. Get the edge (going beyond what is necessary) 


  1. Buy good quality supplements – check out Barbara’s range online and I am happy to give you a FREE 15 minute supplement range consultation to tailor your supplement regime according to your goals.   

10. Be Humble 

Respecting others involved in their sport helps the wider community of supports who adore sports in general to have role models to admire.  

Barbara Cox