Everyone knows that eating the right types of foods can improve your energy levels, affect your sleeping patterns, and impact your general health. And you may have also noticed not eating enough or eating the wrong types of foods can alter or affect your mood. Is there any wonder why the term ‘Hangry,’ has quickly become part of popular vernacular? I mean who hasn’t experienced the irritable, impatient and annoyed feeling hunger can bring on?
Hunger brings about shifts in hormones, brain processes, and evokes emotional response. Your brain is always trying to monitor the body and send signals that alert us of our need for food. How? Through a connection between the brain and the gut via the vagus nerve. But is there more to the connection? The answer is yes. The vagus nerve oversees a vast array of crucial body functions including control of mood, immune response, digestion and heart rate. More importantly it carries sensory messages to and from the brain.
How does it do that? The vagus nerve is actually composed of a pair of nerves that extends from both sides of the brainstem just behind the ears, down the neck, across the chest, and through the abdomen. It touches several major organs throughout your body. Specifically, it is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions, including control of mood.
How does this gut-brain connection affect swimming performance?
Unhealthy eating can create mood swings brought on by blood sugar fluctuations and nutritional imbalances. This can leave you feeling weak, lethargic and unmotivated. There have been several studies that have explored the importance mood has on athletic performance and even practice. And while the role between food and mood is not completely understood- research linking the two is expanding. In fact evidence is starting to show that food can contribute to the development, prevention, and management of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders.
“Psychologists used to believe that our feelings were the result of chemical reactions in our brain. Fast forward to today and what we know is that our gut plays a profound impact on our mood," said Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers said,
Many things can affect your performance but none as much as mood and mindset. Negative emotions can reduce your confidence and self-esteem. It has also been shown to diminish concentration and focus, as well as profoundly limit your ability to mentally prepare yourself for competition. While having a positive mindset has been shown to boost your meet performance, help to better cope with intense training necessary for swimming, and a better chance of breakout meet performance. More importantly, staying positive helps you overcome setbacks.
Food is your mood- and I think the evidence is overwhelming. The role nutrition has on swimming isn’t merely the physiological impact that eating healthy has on your training, performance, and muscle recovery, but also the emotional impact. Athletes need proper cognitive function to perform at their best, proper nutritional and dietary habits will allow quicker response, better decisions, less lethargy and a positive mindset. In other words a recipe for success.
Nutrients important to a healthy mood:
Omega-3 fatty acids
Read More about Food Is Your Mood
The National Center for Biotechnology Information- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5481396/
University of Southern Queensland, Australia
healthcare.com-The Gut-Brain Connection: How it Works and The Role of Nutrition by Ruari Robertson.