Good nutrition is important to any athlete. Eating well and eating to maximize your results can often mean two different things.
Eating well for a person who is inactive or participates in light or moderate physical activity and a person who trains at high intensities have very different needs and varying diets.
If you’re looking to improve your vertical jump, you’ll need to be ready for lots of training, as it won’t come easy; but you’ll also need to have the right support system for your body.
Physiological Adaptations To Training
Physiologically, your body will start to change once you start training.
Your muscles will be working, tearing, learning new movements; your tendons and ligaments will be strengthened and better enforced; and your nervous system will be making new and improved connections.
All of this activity means your body will be working overtime to accommodate to the new demands you’ve placed on it, without you being aware of it.
For this sort of adaptation to occur, cells are multiplying and growing, reacting to your workouts. This is where the right nutrition comes in.
Growing, strengthening and improved power are all reliant upon what you put into your body to build the cells.
You are what you eat! Everything you put in your mouth will be used for something in the body, unless it’s considered junk and is sent away as waste.
Perhaps you’ve heard about or seen ads for ‘jumping foods’ or ‘jumping supplements’.
Let’s get real: there are no jumping foods! There are no pills or supplements that you can take which will somehow make you jump higher, faster, stronger, or make you more powerful.
Contrary to what supplement companies claim (let’s remember they are trying to sell to you) there is really, truly, scientifically, no such thing!
Getting a better jump height is about choosing the right foods and engaging in the right training that will take your jump to the next level.
Foods To Shop For
To improve these components, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting enough protein, vitamins, minerals, water and fuel. You’ll want to be light on your feet, so any extra pounds are unwanted as they’ll just hold you down!
You’ll need foods high in protein, so look for lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish, and extra lean beef. Buy versions of this that are as close to natural as possible, chicken pieces and fish fillets are much better than chicken fingers and fish sticks.
For energy foods, you’ll need carbs in their natural state. These include fruits, rice, potatoes, and other whole grain items.
Also great for both protein and energy is nuts. These contain good fats, are healthy, and should be taken each day to help balance your diet.
The best foods for vitamins and minerals are fruits and veggies. Try new leafy greens, and differently colored foods; spice it up and enjoy your veggies.
Eat apples, pears, peaches, bananas, plums, asparagus, lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, peppers and cauliflower to name just a few. You’ll know you’re getting plenty of good stuff from it if it’s crunchy and fresh.
Foods To Avoid
If you’re serious about making your improvements and gains, you’ll avoid certain foods which are complete danger.
Fatty foods are not so great. Yes, it’s true that the body needs some fats, which are known as ‘good fats’ but we get enough of these through eggs and lean meat, so there’s no need to go looking for fatty foods particularly.
Avoid anything deep fried, as this method of cooking soaks your food in oil and destroys all nutrients in the food.
High sugar foods are those which are made up of simple sugars. If you take a teaspoon of sugar in your tea, it’s not a big deal, this won’t affect you the way that a high sugar food will.
If you are eating chocolate bars, candy, white bread, pastries, doughnuts, pop or any other sugar-based beverage, ice cream, etc, you are giving yourself two unwanted conditions.
First, you’ll spike your blood sugar levels. Every time you consume a high sugar food, your pancreas has to react by releasing insulin into your blood. It tries to reduce the amount of sugar floating around and starts storing it.
This is the second problem; you’ll be consuming and conserving extra calories which won’t likely be used, and probably stored to become fat later on.
Processed foods are to be avoided at all costs. How do you know if it’s processed?
The most obvious ones are the ones wrapped in plastic, or the ones with expiry dates for months or years ahead (with the exception of canned goods).
Stay away from processed meats (chick nuggets, for example), processed pastas (especially white pasta), processed cheese, microwavable food, etc. These are choked full of preservatives and have virtually no nutritional value to you.
How To Cook
Eating right means making your own food the right way.
Stay away from using your microwave. You need all the nutrients you can get!
When you microwave food, it loses its vitamin and nutrient values almost immediately. There is a reason why chefs don’t cook with microwaves; it ruins the taste and composition by being cooked too fast and too unnaturally.
Next step, try baking rather than frying. The slower a food is cooked (and especially meats) the more nutrient it will retain.
Eggs, for example, might be something you don’t want to bake, however, if you fry it, you end up losing almost all of the protein in it, compared to if you slow cook it into a jelly scramble.
Chicken and fish can be baked to retain all the good stuff your body is going to need. There is nothing better than eating the muscle of an animal when it comes to getting natural, healthy protein.
When To Eat
Simply put, eat when you are hungry. Before training, after training, morning or night, eating when you are hungry is the key when you start training.
This is not to say that you should eat all the time, but to listen to your body and its needs. Don’t eat because its meal time, or because you’re bored.
When you do feel hungry it means your body is working hard at using what you’ve last put into it, and needs more to keep on rolling.
The only eating rule to be aware of is that you should have something in you before training, and you should eat within an hour after training.
The The Jump Manual is a great resource if you want to know more about improving your vertical jump, and all of the different aspects associated with it.