Diet and Sports Nutrition - Feel great while training
EAT TO FEEL GREAT WHILE TRAINING
Make the right food choices & experience the difference
Have you been training harder to achieve a personal fitness goal? Here’s a shortcut. We’ll tell you how to use food to get more from your workouts.
Whether you’re striving to set a new personal best at the gym, training to improve your skills in a sport or just wanting to tone up, you likely already know nutrition plays a strong role in getting the results you are looking for and helping you perform at your best.
Yet, did you know that eating to feel great instead of eating to train will help you make more gains in the long run?
We recently sat down with qualified nutritionist and fitness enthusiast Claire Turnbull to find out how to eat in a way that supports mind and body. We’re not talking about a diet but eating to feel good.
Focus on eating to feel good
The starting point for training success, according to Claire, is making choices about food which help you feel good while nourishing your body. Also, try to avoid becoming too focused on following a certain ‘diet’ or adhering to endless rules and restrictions.
In her experience, when you feel good and you’re well rested, everything is better. When your mood is better, this translates to better relationships, better performance at work and better workouts.
Essentially, she believes you should eat to feel good; exercise to feel strong.
A common pitfall: making too many cuts
Claire warns of the dangers of over-restricting your diet.
So many people say to me: “I really want to eat well. I am good for a while, but then I just can’t keep it going and I give up”
This often happens when people cut out too many foods. It’s easy to become incredibly strict with what you will and won’t eat. You may even try to stop yourself from ever having a treat ... but that way of eating is unsustainable.
Eating only chicken and broccoli for breakfast, lunch and dinner to further your training goals is taking things a bit far, Claire says. Nutritionally speaking, it’s a great idea to mix up your protein and plant food to get the unique nutritional benefits each can provide to maintain a healthy balance.
Further, if you feel deprived of foods you enjoy or you’re bored with the food you have told yourself you’re allowed to eat, you’re more likely to end up binging. When your willpower runs out, you’re also likely to revert back to how you were eating before.
If you want to make lasting changes to your diet, take heart:
“You don’t become an athlete in a week,” says Caire. “You practice and you make mistakes. Eating for health and wellness is the same as sport; you learn strategies to do it. Over time, it gets easier”
So, plan when you’ll eat the foods you want to consume less of.
If it turns out that you just want to eat certain foods when you are upset or stressed, it’s better to address the reason for eating the food before focusing on what you are eating or opting to follow the latest diet trend.
3 adjustments you can make for big impacts
The types of food we eat as well as how and why we’re eating the food is important. However the best strategy to start with is: eating more whole foods.
Most of us are aware of this, but here’s three key areas to focus on:
Eat more veggies! Five-a-day is the bare minimum, says Claire “We know eating a plant-based diet allows us to live longer”, she says. Yet, 5-a-day is the bare minimum. You should be consuming two servings of fruit and three PLUS servings of veggies per day. So, if you can increase the amount of non-starchy vegetables you eat, you’ll be feeling great in no time.
Drink more water
“Water consumption impacts your ability to concentrate as well as how well your brain functions. When you’re thirsty, you also tend to eat more”, she says.
By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. So, be sure to head to the water cooler a bit more often or carry your own bottle full of H2O.
Dehydration also negatively impacts sporting performance – so drink up!
Reduce your intake of “free sugars”
“Free sugars are any sugar source outside of those naturally found in whole fruit and lactose which naturally occurs in milk and milk products”, says Claire. These free sugars include: honey, maple syrup, golden syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, agave, fruit syrups, coconut sugar and, surprisingly enough, fruit juice is counted here, too.
The World Health Organisation guideline limits sugar consumption to 26 grams per day, which is 6 teaspoons. When you consider that’s how much sugar is typically found in a single glass of juice, you’ll want to take a closer look at the foods you eat.
With sport, there is a time and a place for additional free sugars as they can be helpful during endurance training and in recovery. Yet, it’s best to get specific advice on what's right for you depending on how you train and what your goals are.
The role of protein: are you eating it at the right time?
Most of the time, people tend to pack all of their protein into their evening meal.
“A great thing you can do to help balance your blood sugar throughout the day, regulate your appetite and assist with your recovery however, is to actually spread your protein out during the day and include protein post training, particularly if you’ve done resistance training”, says Claire.
The trick is to make sure you’ve got adequate protein in your breaky and lunch rather than just loading up at dinner.
The timing of your meals is also key as you’ll want to be sure your body is fueled up for workouts and ready for recovery afterwards. If you’re doing more than one training session per day or training every day, protein intake is really important.
How do you ensure you’re getting protein in all of your meals? “Organisation is key if you’re a busy person”, says Claire.
Need an energy boost? Food can help:
Instead of reaching for caffeine and sugar, a little healthy fat and protein go a long way.
A bag of mixed unsalted nuts is the easiest thing to have on hand. You’re getting healthy fat, protein and fibre. A piece of fruit is good too as you’re getting the sugar you need but as part of whole food.
Vegetable (only) green juice can provide a great boost, too. Juice from greens has B vitamins and is good for hydration.
Lastly, try a boiled egg or cottage cheese and whole grain crackers. Protein rich foods will make you feel satisfied.
Tips for eating before and after your workout
If you’re training or working out often, when and how you’re eating becomes more important.
Preparing for a workout
If you’re having a snack, Claire recommends eating at least 30 minutes before your workout or training session. Your body need time to break down the food you eat and digest it so the nutrients reach your bloodstream, says Claire.
She also recommends eating a small meal one to four hours before your workout if you're eating to support serious sport or a demanding training schedule. A carbohydrate/protein balanced meal is ideal.
Claire’s favourite pre-workout snack options:
- A healthy smoothie
- Crackers and cottage cheese
- Unsweetened, natural yogurt paired with cereal and fruit
If you exercise in the morning, you don’t have to eat before; eating before a workout or training session doesn’t work for everyone.
However, be sure to eat very soon afterward to help the recovery process.
Eating for recovery
It’s helpful to consider what you eat after any training session, but it becomes particularly important when you are training everyday because you have less time between training sessions to recover.
Opt for protein and carbohydrates that your body can quickly break down and absorb following your workout, she said. Whether you are doing resistance or endurance training, aiming to have 15 to 25 grams of high-quality protein within the first hour after exercise is the way to go. Having carbohydrate along with your protein also helps with recovery.
Claire’s favourite recovery options:
- Smoothies as they offer a convenient source of fruit, vegetable and dairy.
- Drinking a glass of low-fat milk and eating a banana is also good; milk is incredibly effective at rehydrating you.
The key thing to remember: avoid completing a lengthy workout or training session and then not eating for say three hours afterward”, Claire says.
Claire's final thoughts
“Work with what works for you to get results, and don’t compare yourself to others”, says Claire, before adding: “Nothing’s better than sorting your basics. You don’t get the best gains, if your nutrition isn’t right”.
With this, we encourage you to start changing the way you eat for training one meal at a time. Success begins with eating to feel good!
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