Understanding “Food as Fuel”

In the dynamic world of fitness and nutrition, understanding the relationship between dietary choices and performance is crucial. A recent study titled “ Food as Fuel: Performance Goals Increase the Consumption of High-Calorie Foods at the Expense of Good Nutrition” by Y. Cornil, Pierrick Gomez, and D. Vasiljevic, published on August 1, 2020, sheds light on this intricate relationship. This article aims to translate these findings into practical strategies for nutrition coaches, helping them guide their clients towards more informed nutritional choices.

Key Findings of the Study

The study reveals a fascinating aspect of human behaviour: when performance goals are activated, individuals tend to consume higher-calorie foods, driven by the belief that these foods are necessary as a source of energy. This phenomenon occurs across various domains, be it at work, school, or during physical activities. The research underscores a common misconception among people that high-calorie intake directly translates to enhanced performance, often at the expense of good nutrition.

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Application in Nutritional Coaching

As fitness professionals, it’s essential to address this misconception head-on. Here are some strategies to guide your clients:

  1. Increased Customer Satisfaction: Emphasise the importance of a balanced diet that includes a mix of macronutrients. High-calorie foods are not the sole source of energy. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats all play a vital role in fuelling the body efficiently.
  2. Highlight the Role of Micronutrients: Stress the importance of vitamins and minerals in enhancing performance. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve overall health and athletic performance.
  3. Personalised Nutrition Plans: Develop tailored nutrition plans that align with individual performance goals, considering the intensity and type of activity.

Motivational Strategies for Coaches

  1. Set Realistic Goals: Solicit regular feedback from your clients and adjust training programmes as necessary. This iterative process keeps clients engaged and demonstrates the trainer’s dedication to their success.
  2. Regular Check-ins: Maintain regular communication with clients to monitor their progress and make necessary adjustments to their nutrition plans.
  3.  Success Stories: Share stories of individuals who have achieved performance goals through balanced nutrition. Real-life examples can be powerful motivators.
  4. Educational Workshops: Conduct workshops that debunk myths about nutrition and performance. Use interactive methods to make learning engaging.

The study by Cornil et al. provides valuable insights for nutrition coaches. By understanding the misconceptions around “food as fuel,” coaches can better guide their clients towards healthier eating habits that support their performance goals. Remember, good nutrition is not just about calorie count; it’s about the quality and balance of the diet.


  1. Cornil, Y., Gomez, P., & Vasiljevic, D. (2020). Food as Fuel: Performance Goals Increase the Consumption of High-Calorie Foods at the Expense of Good Nutrition. Journal of Consumer Research, 47(4), 564-581. Click here to review the full research article.

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