16 Habits that Improve Sports Performance

There are many different aspects involved in sports: nutrition and training, as well as what goes on in our heads. Read on and we'll tell you how you can manage these factors to your advantage.
16 Habits that Improve Sports Performance
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 08 October, 2022

There are many different habits to improve sports performance. This includes paying attention to aspects such as nutrition, training, and what goes on in our minds.

In general terms, sports performance can be defined as the relationship between the means used and the result obtained by taking into account previous performances. That is to say, we must also always observe if we improve with respect to what we have been doing.

Here are the best 16 habits that will make you progress in your favorite sport.

1. Maintain adequate nutrition

For all people, maintaining a balanced diet is synonymous with good health. In particular, there are foods that are essential to include in the diet of athletes, as they supply them with the necessary nutrients to improve their athletic performance.

Among these, we have the following:

  • Protein: This should be mainly fish, chicken, or turkey. Red meat can be consumed to a lesser extent. Other sources of protein to take into account are eggs, dairy products, and legumes.
  • Foods rich in antioxidants: This includes vegetables and fruits.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbs are the body’s source of energy par excellence.

2. Adapt your nutrition to improve sports performance

Since the level of physical demand of a high-performance athlete is higher, his or her diet must often be adapted to the type of activity and caloric expenditure. According to research, the total protein intake for an athlete should account for 10-15% of the total. However, this has to be calculated per kilogram or pound of body weight and according to the discipline.

On the other hand, in terms of carbohydrate intake, it’s also necessary to consume high-carb foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. This will allow for maintaining glycogen levels, which is the way glucose is stored.

For a long-distance runner or a cyclist who must compete for hours, carbohydrate intake should be higher than for a baseball player, for instance.

A cyclist
Cyclists need high doses of carbohydrates to withstand the long demands of their rides.

3. Respect  and adapt your meal times

Meal times should be adapted to training or competitions so that digestion doesn’t interfere with your sport. This can occur if we have a large or abundant meal that’s high in fat and protein on the eve of a competition, for instance. It’s always best to resort to foods that are easy to digest.

On the other hand, during long competitions, some athletes often consume foods such as bananas or dried fruits, as well as other sources of carbohydrates. This will depend on their body’s tolerance, of course.

Also, after a heavy training session or the competition itself, glycogen replenishment should occur with meals that are high in rapidly absorbed carbohydrates. Easily digestible proteins are also recommended.

4. Maintain the right weight

This might seem strange if we’re talking about athletes. However, people can have a tendency to gain weight, even if they’re highly competitive athletes. A case that’s always talked about is that of the Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo, whose weight gain affected his knees.

Therefore, one should try to maintain the correct weight according to one’s body type, gender, and discipline. A weightlifter sometimes needs to gain mass, especially for a competition. On the other hand, in the case of a long-distance runner, the extra weight will definitely affect his or her performance in the marathon.

5. Stay hydrated to improve sports performance

When talking about habits that improve sports performance, we mustn’t forget this important aspect. Dehydration affects performance and even increases an athlete’s risk of injury.

In this regard, we are always told that we should hydrate well before, during, and after exercise. This means drinking enough water, as well as replenishing salts lost through sweat, such as sodium and potassium.

In particular, we need to pay attention to hydration when exercising outdoors and temperatures are high. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.

In terms of quantities, it’s estimated that you should drink at least half a liter of water per hour of exercise. However, this varies with the activity: a baseball player doesn’t lose the same amount of liquid as a tennis player, for instance.

6. Never overtrain

Training is always the key to success in sports. However, overtraining won’t lead to increased performance, but quite the opposite.

There are several situations that happen in the body when you overtrain:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Higher level of exhaustion
  • Hormonal alterations are produced
  • Increases the possibility of suffering injuries
  • The immune response of the organism is affected

7. Remember rest and recovery

Between each exercise, we should always make the corresponding pause. We should never overwork our muscles.

Likewise, if there’s a day off in our activity plan, we should give the body its time to rest. Remember that rest is a key part of training.

This includes getting a good night’s sleep. For an athlete who has a high physical expenditure, proper sleep hygiene is one of the most important habits to improve athletic performance.

8. Pay attention to your body

When something isn’t working well and you experience a lot of fatigue, your body shows signs to pay attention to. These include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Absence of the period
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Muscle or joint pain

When faced with these signs, you need to stop training and see a doctor. It’s better to lose a few days recovering than to ruin a sports career.

9. Gradual increases and realistic goals

When drawing up a training plan to improve our sporting performance, we must consider gradual progress and realistic goals that are within our reach. This means, for example, that if we’ve been running 5 kilometers a day, we shouldn’t suddenly increase the number to 20.

Likewise, if our average over that distance is 30 minutes (to name one figure), we can’t expect to cut the time in half overnight. We can manage to improve by a couple of minutes, then a couple more, but always gradually.

10. Work on the technical aspects to improve sports performance

We can have great natural abilities, but we must know how to channel them. In this sense, each sport has its technical aspects that we must work on and improve.

Among the various examples, we can mention the following:

  • The balance of the body in golf
  • Your racquet grip in tennis
  • Your standing and punching technique in boxing
  • The movement of the wrist and elbow when shooting in basketball

Only by constant training will we master our bodies and technique.

11. Pay attention to your coach or trainer

To achieve improvement in the technical part, we must pay attention to those who know how to do it best. In this case, we’re talking about the functions of the coach. Not only does he or she know what he or she is doing, but your coach or trainer can observe aspects of us that we don’t see when we train or compete.

12. It’s all about discipline, consistency, and commitment

Of course, discipline and consistency must be part of our habits to improve our sports performance. This applies equally to professional and amateur athletes.

If we train irregularly or every other day or if we don’t comply with what is outlined in the plan, we’ll hardly see the results we want. Therefore, our level of commitment to practice and, in particular, to training is important.

13. Positive thinking and motivation are key

Sports practice is not all about the body. The mind also counts. In fact, there’s always talk of psychological skills in sports.

Perhaps this may be one of the factors that explains the difference in results between two athletes with the same level of training. There’s also the motivational aspect or the hunger for triumph,

During a competition, we may experience fears and doubts. However, we must have faith that we’ve done everything necessary. We must believe that our training will pay off.

improve sports performance
Motivation is there to make a difference in all areas of life. The same goes for sports.

14. Manage your stress before the competition

When a competition is around the corner, one of the biggest enemies can be the level of stress tolerance in athletes. Fear, fear of failure, doubts…There are many things that go through an athlete’s head, and that can make them lose concentration.

It’s even possible that the anxiety itself prevents us from sleeping the night before. Therefore, we must learn to manage our emotions. This is one of the key habits to improve sports performance.

15. Evaluate the results and learn to handle frustration

The results aren’t always going to be in our favor. The other competitors have also prepared. And sometimes, the competition is defined by a factor in which chance may intervene.

However, we must learn from each experience, not be overcome by frustration, and analyze what went wrong and, above all, how to overcome it. We all fall sometimes. The important thing is to get up and keep going.

16. Have fun and distract yourself

To prevent stress from affecting us too much, from time to time, it’s great to disconnect a little, have fun, and be distracted. Of course, this shouldn’t mean missing training sessions or competitions.

Likewise, you should have fun in moderation while limiting your consumption of alcoholic beverages and junk food and avoiding risky situations. The idea is to rest and disconnect – not to spoil everything you’ve built up!

The formula for success

The balance of physical, technical, tactical, and psychological factors is different for each athlete. There are no exact or infallible formulas to achieve success.

However, there are good habits that can help you to improve your sports performance. These are the tools that are within our reach and that we must know how to handle always to give the best of ourselves, whether that be in training or in competitions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.