Athletes consistently ask "what to eat," but rarely do they ask "who to eat with," even though sharing a meal may be the key to athletic performance.
While we all intuitively know that recipes made from scratch that use fresh, whole foods are the best for our health and performance, its' equally important to recognize that coming together with others for a meal often drives us to prepare healthier foods. Not to mention the social and emotional value of sharing a meal with those whom we care about benefits our performance, and well-being, in invaluable ways.
Clearly, nutrition plays an undeniable role in the athletic success and health. But as athletes strive to become more in tune with their diets in the pursuit of performance, they end up eating alone, in part because they define their nutritional needs as distinct from others, including their very close friends, family and teammates. These athletes are worried about whether they're getting the perfect ratio of nutrients, less about taste, ingredients or the positive social dynamics that manifest when sharing food. Many of them would gladly eat engineered prepackaged food by themselves if it means they can better meet whatever it is they believe to be their dietary goals. But when these athletes ask what to eat, rarely are the also considering who to eat with. Regardless of performance goals or dietary habits, we want to remind you to share food with others -- to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
While its often the case that we use our pursuit of sport as an escape, real nourishment - the kind we get from sharing a meal with those we care for - may very well be the ingredient we need most as we push ourselves to be and perform better. We don't have to hide behind our ambition or sport - and can actually accomplish more - if we view our nutrition as nourishment shared in the company of others. This isn't just a touchy-feely sentiment. There is strong scientific evidence demonstrating that the context of a meal can both shape the meal itself as well as our psychological and physiological response to it. Simply put, regardless of the meal, we do better when we consistently eat with others, and we do worse when we mostly eat alone.
For as much time and energy we, as athletes, put into perfecting our physical health or form, we put almost no time into our emotional or social health. Sharing a meal with others presents an invaluable opportunity to do both. So cook up something healthy and delicious, and invite those you love over to share it with you. The process will fill your heart, your belly, and your soul, making you better prepared to hit your pinnacle as an athlete.
The Feed Zone Table book is chalk full of recipes and ideas for how to healthfully share your next meal. Check it out!