5 Tips To Go About Putting a Nutrition Plan Together With Your Fitness Plan
Knowing how to pair food with exercise so they both compliment one another is a skill that is underestimated, but one that will reward you in multiple areas of your life.
Our cells rely upon vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates to function correctly, thus if the right building blocks are coming into our body in adequate quantities, the cells, tissue, organs and therefore YOU as the training individual can function optimally.
The following statement may sound obvious, but I’m going to mention it anyway as it’s often not taken into account with the clients I work with.
With increased exercise, nutrient demands on our body increase – this should be taken into account when it comes to our nutrition intake.
The right nutrition will create the foundation for your body’s ability to make energy and to recover from and adapt to your training and environment. It’ll allow you to push yourself in your workout, reach PB’s whatever that might look like in your spot – running quicker, fatiguing later, squatting deeper, lifting heavier, but also (and most importantly for your overall happiness and sustainability) it’ll allow you to ENJOY your training more.
Most people, whether they’re an athlete or newbie in the gym, will want to progressively scale their workout so over time they’re making it more challenging and creating the opportunity for your body to adapt and get stronger, but your training and results can only be as good as your recovery. Poor or inadequate recovery will lead to a gradual reduction or a plateau in your results, leaving you feeling frustrated.
Correct eating, lifestyle habits and nutrient timing will allow you to support your recovery phase between training to enable you to train at your full potential.
A lot of people whether they’re embarking on a new fitness regime or ramping their training up a gear, suffer from immune insufficiencies that will ultimately lead to missing training sessions or poor performance during training. By supporting the body with the correct nutrition, we are better able to support the immune system and take the stress off the body, allowing for more consistent training and thus the progression of results. This means more time exercising and feeling great, and less time spent in bed or feeling run down.
4 reasons why the right nutrition will support your fitness regime
- Reduced time required for recovery in terms of muscle soreness and fatigue.
- Ability to train harder and more frequently which leads to a definite progression in results.
- Reduced chance of injury and burn out which results in more consistent training and less time in bed and more time feeling great.
- Optimised overall health from a stronger immune system, greater productivity and healthier body composition through to stronger hair, skin, nails and cellular health.
Here are five tips which you can incorporate into your nutrition plan, together with your particular fitness regime.
Ask yourself the following questions before a workout.
How are my energy levels before a workout?
What time of day do I typically workout and when was my last meal?
Do I feel like I’m flagging in energy during my workout?
If I ate ______ (fill in the blank) would I be able to push myself harder during my workout?
The answers to these questions will determine whether you need to boost your meals that particular day to compliment your workout or whether you’re getting all the nourishment from your meals and snacks alone.
It’ll be individual and vary depending on the time you train, the type of training you’re doing, and the intensity that you’re training at, for example, your pre-yoga nutrition is going to look very different to a 3-hour intense cycle ride.
Also consider how active you’ve been that day when determining the type and quantity of pre-workout fuel you enjoy as if you’ve had a fairly low day on the energy expenditure front, your meals might see you through to your workout.
Carbohydrates mainly + a bit of protein are best before a workout, keep the fat to a minimum as this takes longer to digest. Any of the following would be great examples:
Dried fruit (dates, figs, raisins, apple or banana)
Fresh fruit (apple, banana, grapes, orange, berries etc.)
Oats or quinoa
Crackers or oatcakes
Rice cakes, brown/wild rice
2). POST WORKOUT CONSIDERATIONS
Recovery happens anywhere from 2-24 hours after your workout. For the majority of us, when just being generally healthy is our goal, nutrient timing doesn’t need to be strict. Focus on your overall intake of nutrients throughout the day and don’t worry about the pre and post nutrition – your body doesn’t have a nutrient stopcock like the media likes to portray – it is far more efficient!
You want to be aiming for a balance of carbs (for glycogen replenishing) and protein (for muscle repair) post workout, keeping the fats moderately low. Ideally, aim for a 3:1 carb to protein ratio. Sweet and spicy beetroot crunch has a 2:1 carb to protein ratio so this would be a great post-workout addition or even a quick pre-workout snack.
A whole food meal would be ideal, so, for example, a baked sweet potato, a protein of your choice (e.g. tuna or eggs) with some salad and a few slices of avocado on the side.
Potatoes (sweet or regular), rice (white, brown, wild, basmati), crackers, fruit or dried fruit, pasta, oats, quinoa
Eggs, fish, meat, beans, spirulina, lentils, tofu
Other example post-workout meals might look like this:
Oatcake with tahini and honey
Toast with hard-boiled eggs
A banana protein shake
Protein is essential and we know that without an adequate protein intake health challenges and ill-health can occur, from dips in our mental and physical performance right the way through to more chronic health issues.
On the flip side, adequate protein is well established in supporting metabolism, helping with weight management goals, satisfying hunger, improving energy, enhancing recovery and immune function.
The following signs and symptoms can be signs of early stage insufficiency, individually and collectively they can have a knock-on impact on fitness:
Reduced health of hair, skin and nails
Inadequate training recovery
Reduced immune function
Ongoing muscle soreness
Interestingly, the more you train, the higher your body ranks preserving muscle tissue; as a result, the body will prioritise holding muscle tissue and sacrifice tissue elsewhere often to the detriment of one’s health. Interesting.
How much should you be aiming for? This will vary depending on the amount of exercise you do; more exercise will result in increased demands.
Those involved in moderate levels of training (a few training sessions a week), may only need to increase their protein intake to 1.2-1.6g per kg of body weight or goal body weight.
So for a 60 kg female that equates to around 85 grams per day and for an 80 kg male around 110 grams per day (based upon bodyweight in kg x 1.4).
Very Active individuals & Fat Loss
If you’re training multiple times a week and perhaps even multiple daily sessions then you will naturally require slightly higher levels of protein. A protein goal of around 1.6-2.2g per kg of body weight has been shown to be beneficial in more highly trained individuals.
On a side note, for anyone looking to lose weight, this protein range (irrespective of training volume and frequency) is a great place to start. Keeping your protein intake high whilst keeping your other macronutrients (carbs and fats) lower can help assist with muscle preservation and support metabolism which is exactly what you should be aiming for in order to achieve sustainable, long-lasting weight loss results.
For a 60kg female that equates to around 115 grams per day and for an 80 kg male around 170 grams per day (based upon body weight in kg x 1.9). Once you have your protein goal you can then look at brainstorming how to reach that goal based on your eating preferences.
Based on the above calculations, calculate your own protein goals. Once you have that number you can then explore the following tip which is going to look at which foods to focus on to reach your protein goal and some of the myths surrounding protein.
4). KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Vegetables are often said to be an excellent sources of protein, and while some have a high percentage level of protein, what is often not shared in these marketing callouts is the volume of that plant-based food you would need to eat in order to consume the protein target.
Take the below example, broccoli which is the highest protein-containing vegetable. Broccoli ontains precisely 10 x less actual protein per typical portion size when compared to lean turkey which is one of the highest protein sources.
To re-phrase this to make my point even more clear, you would need to eat 10 portions of broccoli to consume the same level of protein as supplied by 1 portion of lean turkey.
Average portion (85g) contains 3.7g protein (100g contains 4.3g protein)
Average portion (150g) contains 37g protein (100g contains 24.4g protein)
I’m not saying you can’t hit adequate protein levels on a plant-based diet, I believe you absolutely can with a bit of planning and supplementation but you need to know your numbers.
When food companies make protein source comparisons per 100g or highlighting the percentage of protein supplied by a certain foods it isn’t always the most useful of ways to have this information presented to us and consequently it can be misleading, resulting in many people thinking they are eating much more protein than perhaps what they are.
5). KEEP A TRAINING/FOOD DIARY
I get all my clients that come to see me for sports nutrition support to fill out an exercise/symptom tracker, alongside a food diary. We review this weekly and it’s hands down the best tool in my toolkit.
No generic guide or broad eating principles will ever come close to being more correct than what you already know to be true about your body.
Becoming more mindful in terms of what dietary and drinking patterns make you feel the best, and equally which habits don’t support you will go a long, long way.
Tracking things like sleep, alcohol and other aspects of your lifestyle is all of these aspects play a part in your body’s performance.