Whether you are a newbie to exercising or you are an elite athlete, proper nutrition plays a fundamental role in peak performance. With the right diet, you can ensure a steady flow of energy throughout the day that will help boost your metabolism, maintain and improve your energy levels as well as improve your mood and performance as well as help your body to recover and prevent injury in an efficient and effective way.
Creating a healthy meal, with the help of a registered dietitian, that includes all the main food groups (grains, protein, dairy, fruits & vegetables) will allow you to achieve your goals and as each person is unique, fueling your body with the right nutrients and calories from carbohydrates, protein & fat is important based on many factors such as gender, age as well as frequency, duration & type of exercise training.
Carbohydrates are our body’s main fuel for energy and help protect against muscle fatigue; they are converted to glucose and stored in our muscles as glycogen. Choosing the right type of carbohydrates is essential to one’s diet; it is recommended to include food items such as brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain breads, sweet potato, whole-wheat pasta and buckwheat while avoiding all the white, refined products.
Protein is your body’s building block for muscle growth and repair; including high-quality proteins such as lean cuts of meat, fish, chicken and other poultry, tofu, eggs, legumes and pulses and milk & milk products is beneficial, and your protein requirements will differ based on the type of sports you engage in; anywhere from 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight for the average, healthy yet sedentary individual to 1.2 – 1.7 grams per kilogram body weight for those endurance to strength training athletes. Having too much protein is not healthy, and may put strain on your kidneys, if you are able to consume well-balanced meals, and achieve all your macronutrient intake from the meals you are eating, then it is not necessary to take extra shakes &/or supplements.
Fats are the primary fuel for exercises of light to moderate intensity, and the general recommendation is to incorporate about 20-30% of your daily calories from healthy fats while reducing the amount of saturated and trans fats. Healthy fats include food items such as raw, unsalted nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and avocados.
Another important factor to keep in mind is proper hydration before, during & after a workout to help prevent dehydration, which can impair one’s physical and mental performance.
Here are key recommendations to achieving and maintaining your health & exercise targets with proper nutrition and commitment to leading a healthier lifestyle:
- Aim to eat at regular and consistent meal timings each day
- Avoid large gaps between meals and aim to eat every 3 – 4 hours
- Try not to skip meals especially breakfast as it is the most important meal of the day
- Consume small, yet frequent meals to help boost your metabolism and fuel your body with the right amount of calories and energy
- Enjoy a well-balanced & nutritious diet consisting of whole-grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Avoid simple sugars such as white flour, sugar, candies and sodas
- Eating the right pre- and post-exercise snacks help provide energy for muscles while working out and then help to restore energy levels post training. Examples of pre-exercise snacks include watermelon & feta cheese, cottage cheese & a bowl of berries or slices of applies with organic peanut butter and examples of post-exercise snacks include Greek yogurt with homemade muesli /granola or a bowl of fresh fruits, chocolate milk, a homemade smoothie or whole-grain toast with hummus
- Keep your body well hydrated throughout the day, especially on training days
- Reduce your intake of sugary beverages, fizzy & energy drinks and caffeinated beverages
- Rest, recovery and getting adequate sleep is also very important factors to keep in mind!
“Follow your dreams, work hard, practice and persevere. Make sure you eat a variety of foods, get plenty of exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
– Sasha Cohen