When people start thinking about losing weight or getting fit, they often fail to dedicate an equal amount of attention to their diet. Unfortunately for all of us with a sweet tooth, tweaking your munchies can make a world of difference in how efficiently you hustle through those workouts, and what results you manage to achieve.
No matter if you’re looking to shed those pesky muffin-tops, or boost your cardiovascular health, there are several essential steps you should go through in your eating plan in order to be successful. Let’s take a look at the five pillars of nutrition that aim to get powerful workout sessions every time you step into the gym!
1. Mind your macros
We all have different goals in mind, and when you take that into account, it’s impossible for all of us to stick to the same cookie-cutter diet plan. Perhaps your friend has told you that they feel and look their best with a low-carb approach and focus on healthy fats and proteins, while there are others whose carb intake is off the charts, but still in the healthy ranges.
You can look for a calorie calculator to decide on the right amount for your daily needs depending on your goals (staying in shape, losing fat, building muscle, training for a marathon, etc.). Although you need a caloric deficit to lose weight, for instance, you also need to make sure that this deficit doesn’t lead to macro and micronutrient deficiencies that can jeopardise your health. That’s why you should create a meal plan to account for the right protein, carb, and fat intake every day and fuel your workouts properly.
Consider using an app such as MyFitnessPal or something similar designed to help you keep track of your macros and calories every day. With a set meal plan and this tracking system, you can focus on the next aspects of your munchies to maximize your training potential.
2. Hydrate properly
If you give everything you’ve got during your workouts, you’re bound to sweat profusely and lose much more water and electrolytes than with your regular day of couch potatoing. However, it’s not good enough to gulp a tremendous amount of water just before your workout and sip it, but you need to keep your body well-hydrated all day long.
Water is the key ingredient for all metabolic processes in your body – from enabling proper digestion, regulating your blood pressure and body temperature, nutrient absorption, all the way to muscle protein synthesis. Plus, when you don’t hydrate properly, your body cannot exert the same amount of effort during your training. On the other hand, with enough water as your backup, your muscles can fire properly, you won’t feel sluggish, dizzy, or lightheaded during your workouts.
3. Timing is everything
Now that you have your meal plan and your mighty water bottle by your side, you should also consider the schedule of your daily eats to boost your workout success. There’s a reason why you cannot perform brilliantly right after you’ve enjoyed your hefty breakfast, or why your sleep will be hindered by a heavy meal right before bedtime. You need to feed your body based on when you work out, how hard you train, and what results you’re after.
A pre-workout meal should be eaten at least several hours before your session starts so that you don’t feel heavy or bloated. Then again, if you’ve had a light meal, you can take a light snack before your routine, so that you can ensure optimal energy levels. As for your post-workout smoothie, make sure you pack it with protein as well as resistant starch foods loaded with minerals and gut-friendly fiber that will prevent catabolism and keep you full until your next meal. Food is your fuel not only for the actual workout but also for ensuring proper recovery after training.
Depending on when you exercise during the day, always make sure that you don’t walk into the gym with your belly full. Some people do enjoy training on an empty stomach, but if you find yourself feeling dizzy, keep a healthy snack to pick you up, and restructure your plan to have a decent meal in the hours prior to and after your workout.
4. Smart snacks
It’s common for people who are new to the fitness world to feel hungry more often. If you recognise yourself in this description, you should also keep some healthy snacks close by and factor them into your meal plan. Pro tip: clear all unhealthy treats out of the kitchen until you are sure you have the discipline to control your sweets intake! Unless it threatens your health, there’s no need to kick all your indulgences, but keeping them to a minimum will ensure nutritional balance in your diet.
So, before you reach for that glazed donut or chocolate bar (I know, yum!), find a substitute that will not overburden your body with unneeded calories or refined carbs which are the key culprits of weight gain, sudden energy drops, and various chronic illnesses such as type two diabetes. Instead, what about a handful of almonds or peanuts? Sometimes you can even take those covered in dark chocolate, but be careful and take care of their caloric value. With clever snacks at your disposal, you can fuel your workouts with ease and without feeling sluggish or heavy.
5. Cheat and treat yourself!
Until we wake up in a parallel universe where sweets lead to weight loss and muscle gains, we need to stay on the safe side of our cravings. Removing them entirely from your diet is the best option for those among you whose health cannot tolerate them, but if you treat yourself to an occasional piece of cake or a chocolate muffin, there’s no need to fear your results will suffer.
Bodybuilders and professional athletes all over the globe have cheat meals and still manage to stay strong and sexy, so why should your own diet be any different? Do grab that slice of pizza, or that pastry with chocolate – but only if you have the willpower to refrain yourself from going on an absolute binge afterward. This, however, doesn’t mean you get to eat your favorite ice-cream every day, but once a week can’t hurt if the rest of your days are in accordance with your meal plan and exercise regime!