Now it’s time to talk about nutrition and its impact on physical performance. Take a good, long look at your daily meals. Every food on your plate, from the sauce to the veggies, is made up of micro and macronutrients, and contains calories. Local and seasonal produce, fish, lean meat, nuts, seeds, unrefined oils, and whole grains are the most nutritious. Processed foods, on the other hand, have little or nutritional value.
A diet that supports athletic performance and overall health is one based on minimally processed foods. It needs to provide complex carbs, protein, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. The first three – protein, carbs, and fats, are known as macronutrients because your body needs them in large amounts to produce energy, build new tissues, and heal itself. Protein and carbohydrates have four calories per gram. Fat boasts nine calories per gram. Micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals, are only required in small amounts. They play a key role in growth, development, energy metabolism, and physical well-being.
When planning your meals, make sure you get the most nutritional bang for your buck. Don’t waste your calories on sugary treats, pretzels, cookies, and heavily processed foods. To lose weight, increase your protein intake and cut back on carbs. The rest of your daily calories should come from fats. To build muscle and strength, consume more carbs and protein on a daily basis. However, you still need to eat clean when bulking up. After all, the whole point is to gain lean muscle with minimum fat.
Be aware that calories are not everything. The macros in your diet have the biggest impact on how you look and feel. For instance, you could lose weight on an 800-calorie diet consisting of fries and pizza, but your health will suffer. 500 calories worth of steak and sweet potatoes are not the same as 500 calories worth of cheesecake or bagels. Your daily calories should come from whole, natural foods.
Another important aspect is nutrient timing. Eating the right foods at the right time can make all the difference. Your pre-workout meal should be high in protein and slow digesting carbs to provide the energy needed for intense training. You also want to keep your blood sugar levels stable over the next couple of hours. After exercise, your body requires protein and fast digesting carbs to repair damaged tissues and replenish its glycogen stores. Unless you’re a hardgainer or bulking up, eat carbs around your workouts, and stick to protein later in the day. Whenever you’re in doubt, turn to protein.
It may seem complicated, but it’s really simple. Set goals, determine your calorie intake, and then try to figure out how much protein, carbs, and fats you should be eating. Plan your meals around your macros. Ditch the junk from your diet and eat real food. If you afford, switch to organic produce. Grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, and organic fruits and veggies pack more nutrients than their conventional counterparts. Feel free to have a weekly cheat meal to satisfy your cravings and boost your metabolism.
Lifter’s Grocery List
What you eat accounts for over 80 percent of your results in the gym. Eat the wrong foods and your progress will stall. Good nutrition can speed up your progress and help you build a perfect physique. So, what foods should you eat for optimum performance? Here are some ideas to consider:
Fish and seafood (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, oysters, clams, cod, etc. )
Lean meat (chicken, turkey, beef, lean pork)
Quinoa (protein and carbs)
Legumes (protein and carbs)
Nuts and seeds (protein and fats)
Vegetables (zucchini, spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, etc.)
Whole grains (oats, whole wheat, amaranth, quinoa, etc.)
Fruit (bananas, berries, apples, coconut, mango, etc. )
Extra virgin olive oil
Organic or natural peanut butter
Dark chocolate (at least 80 percent cocoa)
Nuts and seeds
If your favorite recipes call for sugar, white flour, margarine, and other unhealthy foods, seek better alternatives. Stevia is a good substitute for sugar. Mayo, margarine, cheese spreads, and salad dressings can be replaced with Greek yogurt or mashed avocado. Dark chocolate and raw cocoa are excellent alternatives to milk chocolate. Flax meal, coconut flour, almond flour, rye flour, and whole wheat flour can replace white flour in most recipes. Be creative in the kitchen and experiment with new ingredients. Use spices and herbs to cut back on sodium.