Contributor: Luke Corey, BA(H), BScAHN, Registered Dietitian
Do you find it difficult to make serious gains in the gym; or, have you ever hit a plateau in your workout routine? If so, take a closer look at your nutrition! Eating practices are a key piece of the wellness puzzle and poor nutrition habits can become a major barrier – ultimately preventing you from achieving your fitness objectives.
Clean up your nutrition habits and experience the fitness results you are looking for!
Before you can make any changes, you need to identify the issues preventing you from making further progress. Just by writing things down, many people can be surprised to see the poor state of their eating habits. Try completing this weekly food journal – writing down the time of your meals, the foods consumed, and the amounts. Don’t forget to track your snacks and beverages too as many hidden calories, sugar, fat and salt lurk in between meal consumption.
Compare your current practices to the recommendations. Click here for some general recommendations and identify the areas giving you trouble. Pick a couple of the areas that could use some improvement and start making some changes. These improvements, alone, could have a direct impact on your performance! Often, it’s as simple as drinking more water, eating more often throughout the day, or making your meals more balanced.
Once you have achieved a solid foundation of basic eating practices, you can start to modify your habits around your activities. There are three key stages of performance nutrition: Preparation, Execution, and Recovery.
Preparation – This is everything you do before your activity. Your targets at this stage are optimal fluid and carbohydrate intakes. Click here for some meal ideas. This will help prevent dehydration, supply you with the energy needed to train and compete and help prevent hunger before and during exercise. The timing of your meals is also crucial. For a larger meal, give yourself 3 to 4 hours to digest the foods. A smaller meal can be consumed 2 to 3 hours before activity, and a small snack up to an hour before.
Execution – This is everything you do during your activity. Given the type of activity and the duration, the principles of this stage can vary. Your targets remain optimal fluid and carbohydrate intakes in order to prevent dehydration and excessive changes in electrolyte balance, and to ensure energy to continue training or competing at a high level. Your goal is to rehydrate every 15 minutes and during breaks in activity. For activities of longer duration, energy replenishment is crucial; hence, the use of sports drinks.
Recovery – This is everything you do after your activity. Your targets change somewhat during this stage. Once again, your aim is to rehydrate and replenish energy stores. Additionally, you want to initiate muscle repair. Therefore, optimal fluid, carbohydrate AND protein intakes are essential. Click here for some options. The recovery process should begin within 30 minutes of completion of your activity. Fluids and carbohydrate-rich foods should be consumed within this time period. This should be followed up with a protein and carbohydrate-rich meal two hours after activity.
If you can adopt consistent habits, both around your exercise and throughout your day, you will find that your performances will start to improve. Your body appreciates consistency and, if done in a healthy way, will reward you with the gains you are looking for!