You’ve got your training down to a science, never missing a workout, even scheduling regular rest days, yet something still seems to be missing in your program. Have you examined your diet lately?
Many people still do not realize that what they eat determines how well they perform - both physically and mentally. Others recognize the importance of sports nutrition, but get lazy when it comes to preparing meals and eating wisely. Still others eat well but have gotten into a nutrition rut by eating the same foods day after day.
Whichever category you fall into, now is a good time to take a nutrition inventory and, if necessary, do some spring cleaning. A nutritious diet can improve your recovery from hard workouts and possibly increase your performance. It can also help you perform better in school or at the office.
Get Out of Your Food Rut
You burn out on food by eating the same things day after day the same way you do by performing the same workouts week after week. Are you getting sick of chicken and rice or salmon and spinach? Try buffalo or tempeh or quinoa or kale. Or try a new ethnic food or restaurant. Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and Tai foods can all be a nutritious and tantalizing part of your meal plan.
Fast Food Does Not Make You Faster
Next time you drive by a McDonalds, keep driving. Fast food is fine once in awhile when nothing else is available, but don’t make a habit out of it. You can probably afford the extra calories, but fast food also contains excess sugar, sodium and saturated fat. Grocery store delis, submarine sandwich shops and bagelries are good alternatives when you’re short on time and money. Trader Joes and Whole Foods also have a great selection of healthful, freshly made meals to go. Stick with lean protein sources, whole grain breads and lots of vegetables and fruits.
Get into the Snack Habit
Frequent snacking aids in keeping your blood sugar level which in turn helps sustain your energy level by continually replenishing your muscle glycogen stores. Make a habit of snacking on convenient, healthful foods, such as fresh fruit, plain yogurt, hard boiled eggs, turkey jerky, whole grain crackers, vegetables dipped in hummus or salsa. Carry them in your workout bag and your car and stash them in your desk at work. Or, get a small cooler for your car and pack it full of healthy foods.
Balance and Moderation
Just like physical training, nutritional training all comes down to balance and moderation. There are no magic foods, instead the optimal training diet incorporates a variety of wholesome choices from the four food groups as well as some well-earned treats (in moderation of course). It’s also important to get a balance of calories from carbohydrate (45-55%), protein (20-30%) and fat (20-30%).
More Food For Thought
The following are some additional tips for cleaning and spicing up your diet:
1. Check out a new grocery store
Gourmet natural food stores are popping up everywhere featuring exotic produce and healthy convenience foods. You’ll also find the latest in sports nutrition supplements as well as nutritious hard-to-find items such as chia seeds, goats’ milk yogurt or gluten-free fig bars.
2. Explore a farmer’s market
For the freshest local produce head to your local farmer’s market. You can’t beat the freshness of locally grown, seasonal organic produce and often it’s sold at bargain prices.
3. Incorporate new recipes
Try a new recipe from a healthy cookbook or food magazine such as Cooking Light.
4. Take a healthy cooking course or watch one on TV or on-line
Learning to cook healthful meals doesn’t even require leaving the house. Turn on the Food Channel and set your kitchen in motion.
5. Have dinner for breakfast (and breakfast for dinner)
Don’t think of breakfast foods as strictly for breakfast. Particularly if you work out in the evening, you may want to make lunch your most substantial meal and eat lighter breakfast foods, such as cereal and toast or eggs, in the evening.