If It Fits With Your MICROS: The overlooked key to sports performance

If It Fits With Your MICROS: The overlooked key to sports performance

What does a heavy boozin’, pizza-pounding couch potato have in common with an extreme athlete with <15% body fat? You may think not much, but on the cellular level, their blood work may be shockingly similar– pre-diabetic with dangerously low immune function. One hasn’t eaten a green veggie or darkened the doors of gym in years, while the other trains tirelessly, perfecting their daily macro goals. micros

How can this be? Individuals engaging in high-intensity physical activity, i.e. CrossFit, need even more “LIVING FOODS”, full of vitamins and minerals, then the average person. Intensive exercise, can lead to uncontrolled oxidative stress and systemic inflammation. If the body cannot keep up with the demands one is placing on it, cellular function begins to break down.

Many athletes recognize the importance of nutrition as fuel for optimal performance and pay careful attention to macronutrient intake (protein, fats, and carbs).

But, knowing your macros is just the beginning. The true catalysts are the MICROs needed to support optimal physical adaptation to athletic training and recovery. Focusing on not just the quantity and proportion of the food you intake, but the actual composition of your foods is the difference between being good and being elite.


How can you assess your need to continue reading this article on micros?

Do you struggle with:

  • chronic aching muscles and joints
  • inability to rebound quickly from workouts
  • nagging injuries that won’t heal
  • difficulty coping with stress- constant anxiety, mood swings, depressive thoughts
  • sleep disturbances
  • barely making it through the day without a large shot of caffeine
  • You may also be one of the many gearing up to attempt to crush the CrossFit open. If so it’s time for you to delve deeper into your nutrition routine, especially if you want to excel in the final stretch of competition.


What can MICROs do to enhance sports performance?

Mitigate exercise- induced fatigue

  • Vitamin B5– critical for generating cellular energy and often deficient in athletes
    • Sunflower seeds (3 oz.~60% DV), Shitake mushrooms, cooked (1 cup ~52% DV), avocado (1 fruit ~ 20% DV), sweet potatoes (1 ~35% DV), wheat germ (3oz.~23% DV) salmon (3oz.~ 20% DV), yogurt (1 cup ~14%), broccoli (1 cup ~ 5% DV), cauliflower (1 cup~ 7% DV), eggs (2 ~16% DV)
  • Choline- maintain stamina and reduce inflammation (AI 400-550mg/day)
    • Wheat germ (1 cup~202mg), eggs (2~ 294mg), salmon (3oz. ~ 75mg), chicken breast (3 oz. ~73mg), cod (3 oz. ~ 71mg), Brussel sprouts (1 cup ~ 62mg), broccoli (1 cup ~ 63mg), peanuts (2oz.~30mg)


Combat oxidative stress from intense physical activity

  • Vitamin C– This micro decreases post-workout soreness, required for collagen synthesis- also reduces cortisol-induced muscle breakdown
    • Guava (1 fruit over 628% DV), Black Currant (1 cup over 338% DV), Red pepper (1 cup raw: over 317% DV) Kiwi (1 piece: 273% DV), Orange (1 large: over 163% DV), Strawberries (1 cup 149% DV), Broccoli (1 cup raw, 135% DV), kale (1 cup raw,134% DV), Parsley (1 cup, fresh: over 133%), Brussels sprouts (1 cup raw 125% DV), Pineapple (1 cup, fresh, over 131%), Grapefruit (1 cup, 120% DV)
  • Glutathione– The “master” antioxidant, detoxifies cellular by-products after workouts
    • 3 oz. of: broccoli (9.1mg), asparagus (28.3mg), spinach      (11.4mg), okra (11.3mg)
    • Sulfur-rich foods recycle glutathione in the body: garlic, onions, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress
    • Bone broth soup, rich in glycine, also recycles glutathione in the body
  • Alpha- Lipoic Acid- reduces cellular damage due to intense physical exercise (50-100mg/day for individuals without diabetes)
    • Best sources: flaxseed (1 Tbs. ground~ 1600mgg, 1 tsp. oil 2500mg), chia seeds (1 oz. ~ 500mg)
    • Other sources: Broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, beets, carrots


Enhance Hormonal Regulation

  • Magnesium – enhances testosterone by raising both free and total levels
    • Spinach, cooked (1 cup 39% DV,), Swiss chard, cooked (1 cup 38% DV) Dark Chocolate (1 square, 24% DV) Pumpkin seeds (1/8 cup 23% DV), Almonds (1 oz. 19% DV) Black beans (1/2 cup 15% DV), Avocado (1 medium 15% DV) Figs, dried (1/2 cup 13%), Banana (1 medium 8%) Yogurt or kefir (1 cup 12% DV)
  • Zinc– Interacts with hormones to improve body composition and strength by enhancing the action of growth hormone
    • Pumpkin seeds (1 cup~ 44% DV), chickpeas (1 cup ~ 17% DV), cacao powder (1/4 cup ~ 24% DV), cashews (1/4 cup ~ 22% DV), kefir/yogurt (1 cup ~ 10% DV), mushrooms (1 cup~ 9%), spinach (1 cup ~ 9%)
  • Serine– buffers post-workout cortisol levels to prevent excess muscle breakdown
    • 3.5 oz: eggs (5590mg), almonds (1044mg), almond butter (681mg), flaxseed (970mg), sesame seed (1200mg), walnuts (1225mg), cashew (1079mg), pumpkin seeds (1148mg), chia seeds (1011mg), Brazil nuts (683mg), asparagus (120mg)


Before you stockpile on chemically made, low-bioavailable supplements to achieve your MICRO need, know that there is no substitution for REAL FOOD.

Did you notice bacon didn’t make the list? Neither did inflammatory, gut-destroying performance powders, protein bars and energy drinks containing, artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame) and added sugars.

The key is more water, colorful plates, plant-based fat and double portions of green veggies —LIVING FOOD.

Whether you are looking to improve your overall health or hit new personal records in the Open this year, prioritize your internal health- the MICROs that make up your macros- and the rest will follow.


For further questions regarding nutrition and sports performance, email melissa@performstrong.org


Melissa Crowson, MS, CSCS, USA-W







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