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Fueling Your Best Life: Performance Nutrition for Every Stage

Vanessa Peat

08 December 2023

Performance nutrition refers to the science and practice of providing the body with the optimal nutrients it needs to support physical activity, enhance exercise performance, and promote overall health and well-being. This field of nutrition focuses on the specific dietary needs of individuals engaged in various forms of physical activity, including athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and those involved in rigorous training or competitive sports.

However, performance nutrition isn’t just for athletes or exercise enthusiasts. It provides the necessary nutrients to fuel the body, ensuring optimal energy levels for daily activities, whether it’s work, exercise, or leisure. Even for those not engaged in professional sports, performance nutrition can enhance physical performance in daily activities, making routine tasks more manageable and enjoyable.

UCU co-founder Vanessa Peat is a qualified Performance Nutritionist and a Personal Trainer. Vanessa is passionate about sharing her knowledge to empower and educate others so they can make informed choices about nutrition relevant to their unique situation. At UCU, our holistic approach to performance nutrition considers not only your diet and personal goals but also encompasses mind, body, and movement.

Performance nutrition for older adults

As we grow older, it is essential to factor in the metabolic and physiological changes within our bodies and adapt our approach to eating and exercise accordingly. By tuning into these changes early on, navigating each decade becomes a proactive step toward a longer, healthier story.

Adopting a performance-oriented nutritional approach can contribute to long-term health, supporting you in ageing well and maintaining vitality as you progress through different stages of life. At UCU, we help you re-evaluate your unique health and well-being requirements and look ahead towards the next phase of your life. We educate and empower you to plan and readdress how your physiology will change over time and help you understand how any nutritional and physical adaptations you put in place now will benefit you later.

For example, we lose bone mass or density as we age. This is especially true for women after menopause. You can adapt performance nutrition to support the health of joints and bones by providing essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, reducing the risk of injuries and conditions like osteoporosis. Also, the deterioration of muscle mass, strength, and function associated with ageing, commonly known as sarcopenia, can contribute to a decrease in physical performance, a loss of independence, and a diminished quality of life. But, you can possibly delay the progression of sarcopenia through the use of performance nutrition and nutritional supplements. 

A well-balanced diet can also contribute to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, promoting overall longevity and health. 1-2-1 advice and support from our registered health and wellness practitioner can help you re-address any underlying future health concerns, providing early preventative intervention.

Enhancing your sporting performance with UCU

Performance nutrition is a strategic and personalised approach to fueling the body, ensuring that athletes have the right nutrients in the right proportions to maximise potential, achieve peak performance, and recover effectively.

Here are ten ways in which performance nutrition contributes to improved athletic outcomes:

  1. Optimal Energy Levels: Carbohydrates are a primary source of energy for the body. Proper nutrition ensures that glycogen stores are adequately replenished, providing sustained energy for training and competition.
  2. Muscle Repair and Recovery: Adequate protein intake supports muscle repair and recovery. Protein is essential for repairing damaged muscle tissue and promoting the growth of lean muscle, which is crucial for athletes to bounce back from intense training sessions.
  3. Hydration and Electrolyte Balance: Proper hydration and electrolyte balance are critical for performance. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, impaired concentration, and decreased endurance. Performance nutrition emphasises maintaining adequate fluid levels and electrolyte balance.
  4. Enhanced Endurance and Stamina: Nutrient-dense foods and proper hydration improve endurance and stamina. This is vital for athletes who require sustained effort over extended periods.
  5. Optimised Body Composition: Performance nutrition helps athletes achieve and maintain an optimal body composition, balancing muscle mass and body fat. This is crucial for sports that benefit from a specific power-to-weight ratio.
  6. Nutrient Timing: Timing nutrient intake around training sessions is key. Consuming carbohydrates and protein before and after workouts can enhance performance, support recovery, and minimise muscle breakdown.
  7. Improved Mental Focus and Concentration: Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals play a role in brain health. A well-balanced diet can enhance mental focus, concentration, and decision-making on the field.
  8. Injury Prevention: Proper nutrition supports the strength and flexibility of muscles and joints, reducing the risk of injuries. Nutrients like calcium and vitamin D contribute to bone health, which is crucial for overall athletic durability.
  9. Immune System Support: Intense training can temporarily suppress the immune system. Adequate nutrition, including vitamins and minerals, helps support immune function, reducing the risk of illness that could impact training and competition.
  10. Individualised Nutritional Plans: Performance nutrition involves tailoring plans to individual needs. Athletes have unique requirements based on their sport, position, body composition, and personal preferences. Customised plans optimise performance on an individual level.

At UCU, we take immense pride in the art of guiding our clients through transformative experiences. As a Performance Nutritionist and Personal Trainer, co-founder Vanessa Peat has enjoyed working with a range of young athletes and sporting professionals. With an impressive career, she’s not just a practitioner but a partner in the journeys of numerous athletes. Vanessa brings passion and expertise to the table, transforming aspirations into tangible results.  

While nutrition information is available to athletes, research identifies that seeking guidance from a registered dietitian or nutritionist proves advantageous for optimal support and advice. Whether you’re gearing up to push your athletic boundaries during training or aiming for victory in a specific competition, our comprehensive range of performance nutrition services is finely tuned to meet your unique needs.

Engaging Directly with Young Adults in Educational Settings

Creating a healthy approach to fitness and achieving great sporting experiences starts from a young age. Ensuring adequate nutrition is crucial for the proper growth and optimal performance of adolescent athletes in sports. Cultivating these habits early on not only enhances their immediate athletic endeavours but sets the stage for a healthier adulthood, promoting longevity, and reducing the risk of chronic health issues.  

Vanessa’s impactful work includes guiding young recreational and sporting athletes from Year 11 to Sixth Form. Witnessing the transformative impact of education and support at this critical stage, she has empowered these individuals to make well-informed choices in fueling their bodies—the result: significant enhancements in their performance outcomes.

It’s important to note that at UCU, we have a food-first approach where we consider the unique individuality and situation of every young athlete and performer. We emphasise the significance of prioritising whole foods over the enticing packaging of sports supplements. Our focus is on educating individuals to critically evaluate the evidence supporting each product, determining its suitability for their personal needs, and specifying the circumstances in which it may be appropriately used. Embracing a “food first” approach ensures a more informed and health-conscious choice.

For adolescents embracing this knowledge early, it’s not just about the present; it’s an investment in a lifelong skill set. This isn’t just about athletic prowess; it’s about nurturing a skill that becomes the cornerstone of a healthy, vibrant, and fulfilled adulthood. It’s a journey where empowerment meets lasting success.

Optimising your performance: tailored nutrition for your body

At UCU, we prioritise a comprehensive approach to help you achieve your unique goals. Our process involves delving into what makes you, uniquely you. We meticulously:

  • Get to know you, your lifestyle, and your goals
  • Gain an understanding of what stage of life you are at and what that means for your body
  • Assess any specific sport or competition you are training for
  • Understand your learning styles to optimise your thriving potential
  • Explore your individual biochemistry and physiology
  • Equip you with skills and knowledge to enhance lifestyle and/or performance.

Our expert team is dedicated to educating and empowering you to live your best life. We emphasise the crucial understanding of proper refuelling techniques, adapting these methods to individual needs. And we stay with you every step of the way. Some elements that we look at when working with you to optimise your nutrition include:

  • Dietary Assessment: Conducting a thorough examination of your dietary habits, considering preferences, aversions, and any dietary restrictions. This information helps tailor nutritional recommendations to suit your taste and lifestyle, promoting adherence to the plan.
  • Body composition analysis: We can use advanced methods to measure body composition and then tailor nutritional guidance based on your body composition goals, whether it involves increasing lean muscle mass, reducing body fat percentage, or achieving a specific weight.
  • Assessing macronutrients: These are the essential nutrients that the body requires in relatively large amounts. They include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The proportion and timing of these macronutrients in the diet can significantly impact energy levels, muscle function, and recovery.
  • Assessing micronutrients: These are vitamins and minerals that are essential for various physiological functions in the body. Adequate intake of micronutrients is crucial for overall health and can play a role in optimising performance and recovery.
  • Supplement advice: Although we take a food-first approach at UCU, it is sometimes advisable to use dietary supplements to complement your nutrition and fill potential gaps. However, it’s important to note that supplements should not replace whole foods, and their use should be monitored to ensure safety and efficacy.
  • Individualisation: Performance nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. It should be tailored to your specific needs, goals, and preferences. Factors such as age, sex, body composition, type of activity, and training intensity can influence nutritional requirements. And we make sure we consider all this.

Performance nutrition principles extend far beyond professional athletes, proving to be a valuable asset for individuals at every stage of life. Regardless of age or fitness level, adopting a mindful approach to nutrition can enhance overall well-being, promote longevity, and contribute to a higher quality of life.

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