Developing healthy nutritional habits is an essential part of a total training plan. Being properly fuelled will help maximize your workouts, allowing you to feel your best before, during, and after. The duration and intensity of your exercise will influence the frequency, quantity, and types of foods you should eat or drink.
When possible, rely on whole foods and avoid processed or packaged items. Some great whole foods to add to your diet are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. You will find your body is able to process these foods easier, and quicker, while reaping the total benefits of their nutrients. This isn’t to say that you can’t grab a protein bar in a pinch, but try to minimize the amounts of processed ingredients in your diet wherever possible.
Aim for meals that contain a mix of complex carbs (whole, grains, whole breads, unrefined pastas, and vegetables), lean proteins (chicken, tofu, eggs, nuts, fish, beans), and healthy fats (monounsaturated fats like olive oil, flax seed oil, avocados). Complex carbs provide slow and steady fuel, proteins are essential for tendon and muscle repair, and good fats will help synthesize protein providing energy. A good rule of thumb for a balanced meal is 20 % healthy fats, 60 % complex carbs, and 20% protein.
Finding What Works For You
Many people get discouraged during training because of gastrointestinal problems. No one enjoys the feeling of running on a full stomach with food jostling around causing cramps. At the same time, we don’t want to be lacking in energy and feel weak or faint after a workout. Finding the balance of how much food, what to consume, and when will keep your workouts productive helping you perform at your best.
Planning Your Meals
Eat large meals two to three hours before your workout, small meals one to two hours before, and snacks an hour before. Some good snack ideas are peanut butter on whole grain toast, smoothies, granola bars, or bananas. Make sure you are eating after you exercise to help your muscles recover. Eat a meal that combines lean proteins and complex carbs within two hours of your workout if possible.
Lastly make it a habit to stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses of water a day, but if you’re sweating you will definitely need more! Juices, and herbal teas are considered hydrating fluids, while caffeine and alcohol will dehydrate you. Sports drinks are useful in recovery to replenish your electrolyte levels and provide energy.
Make it Personal
A meal plan that works for some might not work for many. Pay attention to what and when you’re eating, and how you feel. If you keep a training log, add a food diary. You can look back and see that you felt great in your last work out, had lots of energy, and no cramps. This insight will help you develop a routine that works for you, and avoid the patterns that cause you problems. Remember that everyone is different. It is important to pay attention to how you feel and your overall performance to develop your unique nutrition plan.