By: Anita Nall Richesson, 1992 Olympic Gold, Silver & Bronze, Nutrition & Wellness Expert
What makes an athlete elite? I haven’t met an athlete yet that doesn’t want to be at the top of their game, the tip of the spear, the best of the best. So, how do you get there? There are many components to success in sport. We are all familiar with attributes like hard work, determination, commitment, dedication and focus. But what else could help take your performance to another level? The elite athlete is always seeking new ways to perfect and grow in sport and improve his/her performance.
After competing at the highest level in sport and winning gold, silver and bronze in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in swimming, I spent nearly a decade of my life struggling with chronic health problems. I tried everything in order to regain my health and compete successfully at a high level, however, it wasn’t until I learned about the powerful role nutrition can play in our health that my healing began. Nutrition is a subtle, yet powerful, contributing factor to success. I only say subtle because it can be hard to measure its exact impact at times. If utilized properly, nutrition can be THE THING that takes your performance to another level. It can also hinder performance and lay the foundation for illness, low energy and slow recovery time. I’ve completely transformed my personal eating habits and facilitated that transformation in others. It is the elite athletes I work with who are looking for an edge and see that nutrition is one area in which to do this.
There are 3 keys to having an elite mindset with your nutrition plan. Adopting this mindset and having a new awareness about the impact food can have on your performance will reward you greatly.
1. “Let food be thy medicine”
Hippocrates, one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine, said it best. However, in the land of quick fix prescriptions, grab and go foods, and diet book best sellers it can be a hard motto to live by. Linking what you eat with how you feel is the first step in letting food be thy medicine. Once you become aware, you may soon realize that certain foods give you headaches, possibly increase your eczema and/or contribute to sinus congestion for example. After you take on the mindset of connecting what you eat with how you feel, you are ready for action.
Action: Stay on the perimeter of the grocery store. The most nutritious foods are located there. Foods like fruits, vegetables, proteins, nuts and seeds contribute to high energy, quicker recovery time and decreased illness as opposed to the boxed foods that fill the inside isles.
2. Food is either enhancing your performance or hindering it.
Everything you put in your mouth impacts performance. Understanding this will give you the power to choose foods that contribute to your performance goals.
|Performance Enhancing Foods||Performance Hindering Foods|
|Eggs, Ham, Green Vegetables||Sugary Breakfast foods like Pop Tarts, Pastries & Donuts|
|Raw nuts & seeds||Sugary, super salted nuts & seeds|
|Baked Potato||Potato Chips|
|Fruit Based Desserts w/ minimal sugar or honey as sweetener||Pies, Ice Cream, Candy|
|Oatmeal||Dry, sugary cereals|
|Grilled Chicken||Fried Chicken|
3. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
If you think about your meal WHEN you get hungry, you are already behind the
nutrition 8-ball. Research shows us that once we get hungry, our decision-making capacity to choose healthy nutritious food dramatically decreases. Set yourself up for success and create a general meal plan for your day and/or week. Here is a sample day (Times, schedules & food requirements vary, this is just 1 possible example)
|Time of Day||Food Suggestion|
|Oatmeal w/ Fruit & Walnuts & 100% Maple Syrup (1 tsp)|
|Post- Morning Practice||1-2 Breakfast Sandwiches: Egg, Sausage & Spinach|
|Lunch||Quinoa w/ Grilled Chicken, Black Beans, Broccoli & Salsa|
|Snack||Banana or Apple w/ Almond Butter & Beef Jerky Slices
(Be sure its doesn’t contain MSG)
|Coconut milk yogurt w/Chia seeds + 2-3 slices of turkey breast|
|Post-Practice||Recovery shake: Protein powder*+ Fruit + Almond or Coconut Milk|
|Dinner||Crockpot pulled pork over baked red potatoes & carrots|
*The amount and kind of protein varies and is based on body weight and individual needs
Don’t wait until you have a health crisis like I did to adopt an elite mindset with food. Act now! Get your family, your teammates and your coaches on board!
Stay tuned for more articles on developing your elite mindset with food and other wellness strategies that can enhance your performance. I will continue to give you practical tips utilized by many of the elite athletes I work with in their quest to be #1!
Setting the swimming world ablaze at the young age of fifteen with 2 world records in one day propelled Anita into the fast lane of success. After swimming for the cycle (gold, silver, and bronze) in the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona, many health challenges hampered her attempts at returning to an Olympic level. Challenged by a series of “mystery illnesses” that lasted a decade after the Olympics, Anita rediscovered health through food. Traditional medicine’s failed healing attempts drove her towards a personal quest for wellness and a passionate understanding of the healing power of food. Her profound experiences with illness, healing and professional athletics have given her a unique perspective she shares with clients.
After completing her undergraduate degree in Communications and Spanish from Arizona State University she pursued holistic nutrition education at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe, Arizona. Anita is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Specialist, Certified Life Coach and accomplished motivational speaker. Anita is also an elite member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Anita coaches clients on how to become the CWO (Chief Wellness Officer) of their own lives through her company Feed Me Anita. She completed 3 NFL seasons as Nutrition Consultant for the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Football Team. She works with various elite professional athletes including UFC fighters, boxers & world-class swimmers as well as major corporations around the country. She recently began another business called More Than Medals. It is an empowerment program for teenage female athletes that centers around motivation, nutrition & increased self-esteem. www.morethanmedals.us
Read the following articles to learn more about Anita:
How Anita helped guide the NFL team the Jacksonville Jaguars.
How Anita caught Dana Vollmer’s food allergies and helped her get on the right nutritional track to succeed at the Olympics.