On a recent phone call, a friend, who works with high-level baseball players and many of their strength and conditioning coaches, was explaining some of the players’ and coaches’ habits around recovery that were prioritized for performance. I was in awe about some of the dichotomous beliefs and habits that stir up through the fitness industry about what shortcuts to take to make us better.
I’m talking red light therapy and blue light blocking lenses. The weirdest supplement you’ve ever heard of. 300-500mg of caffeine AT A TIME.
These are not the things high-level athletes need to prioritize or create treatment plans for themselves. And they are most certainly not the way non-athletes should prioritize their lifestyle habits around recovery either.
I’m providing the 5 basics that should be fully in order before exploring these very specific, very advanced uses of therapies to improve performance.
Now keep in mind, these are still people who are looking to become the best of the best. The work needs to be done within these 5 realms in order to optimize your performance and when that optimization occurs is when it is appropriate for athletes to dig deeper and to go further and that is where these specifics are valuable.
But only as well as you’ve set them up to work and only if that is truly the lowest hanging fruit of your recovery options.
You have to be sure that the intervention you are utilizing is actually targeting the adaptation you are seeking. For instance, with red light therapy, if your intent is to target the mitochondria to increase ATP production, you need to be sure that ATP production is the true limiting factor here.
There are two sides to every coin, and the side opposite of ATP Production is ATP utilization.
There are specific wavelengths that target different depths within the body. Many people don’t bother to look into which wavelengths target what and still arbitrarily beam their skin with what they think is the next best trick.
I’m not saying it doesn’t work, I’m saying our limiting factor might not be what we think it is. And we probably have no idea what that limiting factor is until we have the 5 variables I’m about to share.
Mastering the basics will get you the most progress, every time.
The 5 Basics to Maximizing Performance
Can safely, routinely, and volitionally, carry out a food regimen to lose, gain, or maintain weight.
Shows up to training regardless of motivation and puts in the full available effort
Maintains a normal sleep schedule and acquires adequate sleep for recovery (8-10 hours for athletes)
Consumes an appropriate amount of water every day
Meditation and mindset work every day
All of these things together are GUARANTEED to maximize your performance. However, we see a gap in a few of these variables above that athletes tend to skip straight through for that next best trick.
Like wearing the cool, new blue-light-blocking glasses.
The glasses aren’t the problem, they have a time and a place. But, these athletes see another successful athlete wearing them or their buddies turn them onto it with zero context and just assume that it is the thing that will make them perform better.
But it’s not. And there was never any context for when to wear these glasses so athletes end up wearing them all day.
Actually DEFEATING the purpose of wearing them at all. They are meant to be worn at night if we have to be in front of a screen and are attempting to block blue light for circadian signaling purposes.
To top it all off, a 300mg energy drink is in every one of their hands.
It’s a bad spiral to get caught up in because it leads you to the land of more specifics of cheat codes on getting more energy out of your body.
Like using red light therapy to nurse that elbow injury that you believe is overuse from not enough ATP production now.
Which is the exact opposite direction you need to go in order to find your maximum potential because you have yet to nail down the basics. The caffeine in your hand, the blue light blockers on your eyes, the pain that isn’t getting any better more or less staying the same or getting worse, and your piss poor performance during practice because your methods of recovery are too inconsistent and completely miss the mark.
Your ATP production issue couldn’t possibly be an overutilization issue, could it?
You need to trade the caffeine for some water, trade the blue-light-blocking glasses for a better sleep routine, and to create a routine with meditation and positive mindset activities.
These are the core basics that will take you further than you are now sitting under a red light like a reptile, drinking that same energy drink you always rely on to get you through the day, and blocking all of the blue light that signals to your brain that it is day time and a time to function at high capacity.
Until you have those basics down, I will still just refer to you as a reptile if you tell me you sit under a red light daily.