I’d like to recap a few points from my ‘Why Esports Athletes Need to be Eating Differently’ post.
- You’re sport lies predominantly in the mental realm, rather than physical.
- You’re sitting for long periods of time doing repetitive tasks.
- You have less control over your food.
- Healthful foods are unavailable at sporting events
You can’t just copy what your family, coaches, traditional pro athletes, gym bros, or IG influencers are doing. Your needs are completely different. You need food that optimally fuels the brain. And you need food that helps mitigate and repair repetitive stress damages.
If you’re living in a gaming house, you might have access to a private chef. But even then, most players I speak to still opt for take out for most meals. All those food sources get paid to make food taste good. They don’t care about your health or performance.
If you’re at the collegiate level and living on campus, your funds are tight. If you’re living at home, your parents control the food supply.
The worst-case scenario is when you are trying to take your nutrition seriously, but the rest of your house is not, and it ends up being stocked with garbage.
It doesn’t help when the actual events (assuming you can even go to them now with COVID concerns) provide either no food or unhealthy options.
How are you supposed to perform at your peak with those kinds of constraints?? It’s impossible.
The bottom line? You need to find a way to have simple, convenient, and inexpensive performance food.
The solution is surprisingly straightforward.
You need to start taking control of your own food. Buy it and make it yourself. Trust me. You’ll need the skills eventually – you might as well figure it out now. Yes, even if you have a private chef. They’re not covering 100% of your food intake.
Life Pro Tip: You can develop significant goodwill with your household if you start making the occasional meal for everyone. They say, ‘The man at the grill is the closest thing we have to a king’.
I’ll be candid – it will take a bit more effort at the start, but once you get a good rhythm going it’ll become second nature.
Let’s get started.
Step #1: Develop a Strategy
If you haven’t already, I’d recommend you read my quick-start guide so that you have a better understanding of your needs.
Here are the baseline criteria for your meals:
- Start by picking your protein.
- Add a high quality carbohydrate.
- Include colorful vegetables.
Not so bad right? No need to get caught up in fancy recipes yet (unless you’re in to it). It’s a three component meal. Keeping it simple and modular lets you batch cook things with minimal effort (you can bake 20 pieces of chicken at once and call it a day).
As long as those criteria are met, simply think about what you want to eat in a week and create a menu. Please include a couple ‘flex’ meals so you can still be social (for example, you could earmark Friday and Saturday dinners as your ‘have fun’ meals).
I personally like to have two different types of menus so that I don’t get bored (typically one rest day menu and one workout day menu).
Next, consider what sorts of snacks you want to have. You’ll need:
- Simple carbohydrate snacks for sporting events (pretzels, crackers, fruit, rice cakes, etc.)
- Snacks for the rest of the day (nuts/seeds, yogurt, jerky, fruit, etc.)
Once your plan is complete, it’s time to buy…
Step #2: Buy Staples
I’m a fan of buying as many items as I can in bulk. It saves time and money. Here are some common performance-minded items you can buy in bulk:
- Lentils and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butters
- Frozen protein (fish, poultry, meat)
- Frozen fruit and vegetables
- Canned goods
If you are eating on a budget, you can stop there and have everything you need.
If you want to add some more variety and palatability, let’s take it one step further.
Step #3: Make a List
The following list was built from the people I’ve worked with. I compiled all the foods that they had success with and listed out the most common selections. Here it is:
Shopping list items
|Lean Protein||Vegetables||Healthy Fats||Healthy Carbs|
-Beef, 90% or leaner
-Turkey, 90% or leaner
-Unprocessed nut butters
-Olive, avocado, walnut oil
-Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, etc.)
Many items on this list can be purchased in bulk canned or frozen. However, including some fresh protein and produce can enhance the flavor of your meals.
A quick note on flavorings: Feel free to go wild with herbs and spices, you can use as much as you want. On the other hand, you need to be careful about sauces. The only ‘free’ sauces are mustard, hot sauce, lemon juice, and vinegar.
Step #4: Go Shopping
Here’s 10 tips you can follow to help you when you go shopping:
|Top 10 Tips to Grocery Shop for Performance|
|1. Make a list.||Use your menu to build out your shopping list (or just borrow from the one above). Having a list will help you save time while shopping.|
|2. Save money by making your own.||You cut the cost of food in half by making the food yourself rather than buying pre-made options.|
|3. Don’t shop hungry.||Shopping hungry leads to unhealthy impulse purchases. Eat before you go.|
|4. Stick to the perimeter.||The perimeter of the store has all of the healthiest options. You can find things like fresh produce, meats, and dairy.|
|5. Stock up on frozen produce.||Contrary to popular belief, frozen fruits and vegetables tend to be healthier than the ‘fresh’ produce. Fresh produce is picked before being ripe to account for the travel delay. Frozen produce is picked when it’s ripe, immediately frozen, and then transported. Frozen produce makes great additions to smoothies.|
|6. Buy store brands.||Store brands contain the exact same nutrients, but with an average 40% price reduction.|
|7. Selectively buy organic.||Reference the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’ lists (frequently updated based on current reports). Be sure to buy the organic version of foods shown on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals. You can safely buy non-organic versions of the food on the ‘Clean Fifteen’ list.|
|8. Read the label.||Pros read the labels before purchasing. For example, if you are trying to increase your protein intake, you should know how much protein is in the foods you are buying. The label also contains information on the fiber, carbohydrate, sugar, protein, and fat content of the food, as well as an ingredient list. You can avoid labels by buying from the perimeter.|
|9. Don’t fall for marketing schemes.||People will eat 50% more of an unhealthy food if you attach a bogus health claim to it. Don’t fall for the quick fix ads. You can avoid these claims by purchasing whole foods.|
|10. Don’t shop at eye level.||Companies pay a premium to get their products at eye level. This cost is shifted to you. Look high and low for cheaper products in the same food category.|
Step #5: Make Your Food
Don’t try to make all your meals to-order. Batch cook as much as you can to save time.
Spend a few hours on a single day (I prefer Sundays) making meals for the full week. Package into individual containers and store.
Enjoy not having to think about your next meal. All you need to do is take out the designated meal and eat it. You’ll know it’s good for your performance because you planned it to be.
Keep trying new spices, flavors, and recipes to hone in on meals you enjoy. After a few weeks, you’ll have a menu that’s filled with meals that taste amazing!
Give it an honest try for a few weeks. Once you get the hang of it, I promise it’ll improve your performance while saving you time and money (and don’t forget to use these skills to earn some brownie points with your house).
Be on the lookout for future articles, where I plan on covering some of my personal favorite meal prep recipes!
Ready to take your game to a whole new level?
Check out my advanced programs on Patreon for individualized guidance (and to support what I do).
While you’re at it, come join my Private Discord Server where you can find duo buddies who have the same fire you do to improve themselves (only invite me to duo if you are looking for a back workout). You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with, why not pick people who will push you to be better?