From Competitive Athlete to Non-Competitive Athlete: 2 Big Ways to Adapt Your Mindset Around Nutrition When You Give Up The Competition Life

Hey guys!

Carina here, from Carina Morgan Health & Nutrition. I am super excited to be a guest on Ashleigh’s blog today - she and I both come from a background of competitive sports and have recently shifted into being non-competitive athletes.

I think it is really important to discuss the different approaches to nutrition when transitioning from being competitive in your sport to a recreational exerciser who works out just for fun and no longer for performance. 

When you are a competitive athlete, nutrition is a part of your job used to help control performance and recovery; as a non-competitive athlete, nutrition can help you feel good during your workouts, but is not the end-all-be-all, because your exercise routine is supplementary to your life instead of your entire life. Therefore, the way you approach food and nutrition as a competitive athlete is TOTALLY different than the way you should approach it as someone who wants to feel good, look good, and be healthy. 

Sometimes, when a person makes a drastic mental shift from competitive to recreational sports, the mindset shift that goes with it in regards to nutrition gets lost or skewed. So today, I am going to provide you two ways that you can adapt your attitude towards nutrition when you stop competing in your sport to pursue other passions in your life, and how the transition in mindset can benefit you in your health and happiness. 

1) Remember WHY you ate the way you did during your competition days.

If you have played competitive sports since childhood, it can be tricky to separate your habits based on what you need for athletic performance from your habits based on what you need for life. Serious athletes often use nutrition to gain a slight, yet significant edge over their competitors by dialing in their nutrition. I say “slight, yet significant” because the percent increase in your performance by using tactics such as macro counting, nutrient timing, and specific formulas for pre, intra, and post workout is quite small, but for someone looking for that 1% edge over someone else, that is significant. For the rest of the population, the amount of time and energy that it takes to do those things is not worth that 1% improvement. 

As a competitive athlete, you likely utilized some of those nutrition methods to optimize your performance as much as possible. As a recreational athlete, you probably don’t need those additional nutrient considerations in order to optimize your life. When you find yourself unsure of how to navigate retracting back to NOT doing those things after giving up competition, remember that you ate that way because you had different nutritional needs back then, and now, those needs are different. There was a strong PURPOSE for the counting, the timing, and the careful consideration of what you ate when. As a non-competitive athlete, there is not much purpose for that. Remind yourself why you used to eat that way and why it may not make sense for you now, because it is easy to forget when you are used to a rigid structure with your diet from athletics. 

If you continue to struggle, think about the ways in which your competition-style nutrition helped you when you were competing (better recovery, more endurance, etc). Now, ask yourself if you need those now that you aren’t competing. Chances are, the answer is no, and this will help remind you the difference in your nutritional needs now. 

2) Make a list of your goals from competition life, make a list of your goals NOW, and compare the two to see how your nutritional needs differ. 

Some of us need visual representations in order for ideas to sink in and to actually SEE the situation in front of us. Lists can be very useful when comparing two things, and this is no different. 

Write down what your goals in life were when you were competing in your sport(be very specific). What did you really want out of life? Then, make another list of your goals in life NOW. There is a reason you gave up competing, so what is it that changed in what you want out of life that was worth giving up competition?

Compare the two lists. How are they similar? How are they different? How will nutrition help you reach your current goals? (hint: it probably is NOT the same way in which it helped you reach your competition goals). 

I’ll give you a real-life example.

Let’s say you give up competing in your sport to start a business. When you were competing, your goals were 100% related to your athletic performance, and your nutrition therefore was geared towards muscle gain/maintenance, workout energy, recovery, and body composition. When you start your business and cut back the training, you re-prioritize your goals and now they are to run a successful business, spend quality time with your loved ones, and feel really energized so that you can make the most out of your work days. Your nutritional needs would change so that you were eating in a way that was not stressful, that keeps you full and satisfied, allows you to eat dinner with your partner or friends without the need to track, and ensure that you were eating things that make your body feel great. Do you see the difference in these goals and how food plays such a different role? 

Keep these lists handy, to use as a reminder if you forget what you chose to prioritize. 

I hope these two methods help you find peace with your new priorities. Life is a series of ebbs and flows, and our approaches towards things like food, exercise, and other health factors naturally need to shift with the transitions you experience in your life! Now that nutrition isn’t part of your job, spend some time figuring out which foods you LOVE, which restaurants you enjoy going to, and how food can be a part of your life that is fun instead of purely functional. 

About the author:

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Carina runs Carina Morgan Health & Nutrition as an online health coach who specializes in helping women achieve optimal & sustainable health without causing obsession or sacrificing their sanity. As a health coach, Master of Science in Nutrition, Whole30 Certified Coach, Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach, and CrossFit L1 coach, Carina uses her experience and education to empower women to take ownership of their lives so that they feel healthier, happier, and more fulfilled. 

Find her here: 

Instagram: @carinamorganhealth




Lauren Bordelon