The saying, ‘You are what you eat,’ is vital when it comes to training.
Knowing where to start with a training regime can be a daunting process. Firstly, you should work out your goals and establish a training routine, but you should also consider your diet through any regular exercise to ensure you maintain optimal energy levels.
Food provides the body with power; therefore, consuming the right calories and nutrients will put you in a better position to maintain your regime. In particular, if you’re looking to increase mass or muscle strength, food is a vital component to avoid depleting your body’s natural reserves.
If you’re exercising to lose weight, it might seem a little counter-intuitive to eat more food; however, you’ll soon burn off those extra carbs through training. In truth, your body will likely need the additional intake to perform at optimal levels, so be sure to eat the right foodstuffs throughout the day to achieve the best results.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
With today’s hectic lifestyles, it’s often easy to skip meals over the day but when you’re training, it’s essential you take in a sufficient amount of food to power your energy levels. Breakfast is commonly regarded as the most important meal of the day, but you should also make sure you eat lunch and dinner.
With particular regard to breakfast, research by Harvard Health indicates that eating in the morning reduces the chances of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. So, be sure to find time to have a healthy, fiber-rich breakfast. As a rule, avoid sugar-heavy, refined cereals and instead go for brans, oatmeal or other whole-grain cereals. You could also add proteins into the mix with some milk, yogurt or nuts. Toast and egg or peanut butter will also increase energy levels.
Pack power-rich protein snacks
It’s always best to avoid heavy meals before exercise, so structure your program to allow sufficient time for your food to settle. Most trainers suggest allowing at least two hours digestion time before doing any activity — and longer if the exercise you’re doing is strenuous.
To avoid feeling laden-down or sluggish, try eating protein snacks throughout the day to keep energy levels high. Protein is used by the body for maintenance, growth and reparation so ensure you include it in your diet. Snacks packed with protein are a very efficient and easy way to top up levels.
Also, check online for tips or inspiration on what to eat. There are vast resources available from top coaches and sports stars, giving insights to their particular training and diet programs. Sites like Myprotein provide inspiration about what celebrity sports stars and trainers to follow.
As a rule, it’s suggested that adults need approximately 0.8 grams of protein daily per kg of bodyweight, so you’ll need to top up regularly. Also, remember that proteins work in harmony with carbohydrates so while they’re important, you should still maintain a high carb intake through exercise. As well as power snacks, proteins can also be found in:
- Beans and lentils
- Dairy, including milk and yogurt
- Chicken, turkey and other poultry
- Beef, lamb and other red meats
- Salmon, tuna and other fish dishes
Most trainers suggest you should try to limit the amount of red or processed meats you eat, so avoid highly processed meats and foods.
Fats – the difference between healthy and unhealthy
“Fat” may seem a word you want to avoid when training, but actually, unsaturated fats are full of calories and can help reduce inflammation. Fatty acids and calories help you exercise longer and more productively and can be a great aid to aerobic exercise. Go for the healthiest options, including avocado, olives, oils (including olive oil), nuts and seeds to get that extra power boost
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
Minerals, fiber and vitamins are an essential part of a healthy diet and are also low in calories and fat. Fruit and veg can be the perfect power boost to your training diet to bring much-needed extra energy.
Dietary experts suggest you should look to filling half your plate with fruit and veg when eating to maintain a well-balanced diet. Also, look at including vegetables and fruits of different colors to get the full range of minerals and antioxidants into your body. For snacks, keep a plentiful supply of raw veg in the fridge or eat dry nuts.
Get a carb boost before or after raining
Possibly the most important meal you’ll have when training is before your warm-up or after warm-down. Ideally, you should be looking for something filled with carbs and protein to boost energy levels.
For pre-workout snacks, try to keep things light and stay away from junk foods. The best, most lightweight options include:
Nuts: Nuts are full of essential nutrients and energy as well as healthy fats and protein. As nuts are high in fat, it’s usually an idea to eat them in advance of working out to give them time to settle.Berries, oranges and other zesty fruits: These fruit types are high in vitamins, minerals and water and are perfect for giving a light energy boost and improving your hydration levels.
Bananas: Bananas are loaded with magnesium and potassium which will help replenish minerals and add natural sugars to your system, making them the perfect pre-workout snack.
Avoid cutting too many calories
With many training programs (mainly those designed explicitly for weight-loss), it’s tempting to reduce your caloric intake in an attempt to shed pounds. However, you should be very cautious about cutting too many calories from your diet as your body will need them during exercises
As a guide, expert dieticians suggest the female body needs around 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day to operate correctly. For men, the figure is closer to 1,500 to 1,800. Depending on the type of exercise you intend to do, you may want to increase your calorie intake (particularly in strenuous programs). Consult an advisor or dietician to work out the optimal calorie intake for your particular fitness regime.