What many people don’t know is that your fitness performance and what you eat are connected. Your diet can have a huge effect on your exercise. Professional athletes have dietitians who develop their menus during the season – every day is planned down to the last detail. Even though we mere mortals don’t have this option, if you follow our five effective nutrition tips, you’ll see how what you eat can help make you stronger.
1. Try not to skip meals
One of the worst mistakes you can make on the journey to achieving your fitness goals is to eat too little or even skip meals entirely. It’s the wrong approach for long term weight management and/or weight loss. Like a car, your body needs fuel to run. One approach to ensuring you have the energy you need and not encountering spikes or drops in blood sugar levels is to spread out your meals throughout the day and include nutrient-rich foods such as whole grains, healthy fats and oils, and lean protein.
2. Top off your tank before working out
Are you the type of person who jumps out of bed at the crack of dawn and goes running on an empty stomach? Then we applaud you on your motivation! Running before breakfast can really turbocharge your fat burning. But before you work out hard and lift weights, you should top off your energy stores. Without this, you cannot give your workout everything you’ve got and improve your performance. Low blood sugar can cause you to fatigue faster and experience lightheadedness. A high-carb snack (like a banana or an apple before your workout) is perfect for replenishing your glycogen stores (fuel for muscles that is stored in your body).
3. Maintain an adequate supply of electrolytes during exercise
Do you like short and sweet workouts? Then it’s probably enough if you drink plenty of water during your exercise routine. But if you work out longer than an hour at high intensity, you should also consume isotonic drinks (i.e. a drink that contains similar concentrations of salt and sugar as in the body). Isotonic drinks are digested quickly, and can provide rapid fuel for your body. Ideally, electrolyte drinks contain 60 to 80 g of carbohydrates and 400 to 1000 mg of sodium per liter. They may also contain other minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. In this way, they can help you quickly replace the electrolytes lost due to sweating.
4. Opt for protein post-workout
Protein is critical for repairing and building muscle after a workout. Protein-rich foods include eggs, tuna, lean meat, soy, dairy, nuts, grains, and beans. Incorporating these foods into your post-workout meals can have a positive effect on your muscle growth. You should also focus on distributing your protein intake evenly throughout the day for maximum muscle stimulus.
5. Drink plenty of fluids
Make sure to drink enough not only during your workout, but throughout the entire day. In the case of dehydration, your muscle cells can no longer be provided with an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients, which can be disastrous for athletes. But how much fluid does our body actually need? The basic rule of thumb is:
35 ml x kg body weight = ml fluid per day
If you engage in moderate or intense physical activity, you should consume an additional 0.5 to 1 liter of fluids. Drink before you feel thirsty. That way you have more energy throughout the day and can prevent fatigue and headaches before they occur.
As you can see, nutrition should play a big role in your fitness routine and goals. Set your calorie needs based off activity, and plan meals and snacks around the triumvirate of nutrition: carbs, fats, and protein. This way you will give your body the energy it needs to fuel you through your fitness routine and reach your fitness goals.
This article was written by Runtastic and reviewed by Megan Meyer, PhD.