Posted on February 18 2017
There are a lot of different nutritional plans out there but to really simplify it your body needs a balance of carbs (carbohydrates), protein, fats, vitamins and minerals to perform at its best. What I have found is that there isn’t a one size fits all diet. How you need to fuel your body depends on your body’s needs and what training you are doing. For example, if I have a high volume-training day (where I will burn a lot of calories) I will increase my carb intake to keep my energy levels replenished. On rest days I will reduce my carb intake to compensate for not using so much energy.
In fitness and sports nutrition you may hear the term ‘macronutrients’ or ‘macros.’ This basically means proteins, carbs and fat in your diet. To start with I would recommend you do some research to see what macro targets you should be aiming for, i.e. for your body type and training the amount of protein, carbs and fat recommended for your needs and goals. There are lots of free resources available online and via mobile apps, for example ‘My Fitness Pal’. Once you have an idea of your macros, I would recommend the following:
- Eat plenty of fresh vegetables (and some fruit*) every day and avoid processed foods.
- Track your food – make a food diary, i.e. write down everything you eat and drink over a set time period like a week or a month. You may be surprised what you are putting into your body. A food diary also helps to keep you accountable for what you are eating.
- Hit your calorie intake targets – undereating can have a serious impact on your results. If you are not fuelled correctly you are running on empty and can’t perform at your best!
- Substitute naughty foods that you love for healthy alternatives. For example, substitute white pasta for wholemeal pasta, or if you are reducing your carbs swap it for courgetti!** You could even swap that chocolate bar for a block of dark chocolate. Substitutes can kill the cravings and they are much better for you.
*Fruit contains fructose and although it is accompanied by vitamins and minerals, it means this food source provides a high concentration of simple sugars which essentially just equals energy in your body.
** Strands of courgette used as a food replacement for pasta.
With the above in mind, I’m not saying you should be counting calories and measuring your food every day for the rest of your life. However, if you have no idea what you should be eating then this is a good place to start. After a short time you will learn what kinds of foods and portion sizes you should be having in order to fuel your body. You will then learn to be able to adapt it each day depending on your level of activity.
If you’re serious about optimising your nutrition then seek advice from a professional nutritionist.
Stephanie Knapp: @sknappstar