Nutrition when working out. What should you eat, how much, and how often? Before we get down to these details, let’s talk about the fitness industry and the mentality in our society.
Common fitness and nutrition practices today.
- Exercise and proper nutrition is commonly used to build muscle, lose weight, and maintain weight. Not to mention heart health, boost energy, and have stable moods. Endorphin rushes, better sleep, and all the good things you can imagine. Nutrition is used to fuel the body with the right amount of calories and nutrients to enhance our body’s movement, and promote all of the positive benefits of moving our body.
2. Unfortunately, even today it remains very common to prioritize excessive exercise, punishing our bodies, and barely providing enough calories and essential nutrients for proper functioning.
3. Then, there are people with the mentality that they are burning so many calories on whatever exercise they are doing at the time … that they can literally fill their bodies with whatever food they come in contact with.
As you can probably guess option #1 is exactly where we want to be. Nutrition is here for us to ENABLE our bodies to perform at peak levels of exercise. Nutrient dense food aids our body in recovery, repair, heart health, and muscle growth. When we do the opposite and instead fill it with processed foods, bad fats, and oils that our bodies cannot use. Therefore we are not working together with these gifts we have been given. Let’s dig a little deeper and find the most simple tool to use to help you out.
The human body is meant to move.
Our body is meant to move a lot!
Treat it like the gift it is. Don’t dread your workout, find a form of fitness you love, and be grateful for the strong capable body you have. Is every workout and day going to be easy? No, of course not. BUT if you stop thinking of exercise as a chore and instead have fun and see huge results, there is a very big difference.
Eat like your body depends on it.
Because it actually does! The human body depends on food for energy! As well as ALL bodily functions depend on calories to run at a maintenance level. When you eat too little your body can’t function properly. When you eat too much or eat processed unnatural foods your body has to work WAY harder to digest the food. This can heavily impact your energy and recovery.
Just like fueling your body with food is necessary, so is sleep. Especially when you are exercising! Your body has to rest, restore, repair, and grow ALL during your sleep. Not to mention if you don’t sleep well you most likely will not have the energy to exercise, you have a 60% higher chance of getting sick, and a very high chance of getting injured.
Nutrition when working out. What do I eat?
Foremost you should be fueling your body with nutrient dense foods. Think food that grows or lives outside:
- Animal protein
All of these foods provide you with the 3 macros the human body needs; fat, protein, carbohydrates.
Carbs are not processed foods!!! Fruit, nuts, and vegetables give you all the carbs you need!! This gets so misconstrued among our society that if you are training hard you must eat processed breads, bars, and snacks to “carb load”. This is NOT true. All the things the good lord provided for us nourish the body.
What foods to stay away from.
2. The “bad oil” list- grapeseed, canola, sunflower, soybean (and many more)
3. Processed foods
All of these things increase inflammation in the human body; arthritis, tendonitis, aches and pains, and gut issues. They also lack micronutrients that we need.
The OK list:
Dairy(depending on the person)
Dark chocolate (80% or more)
Still a ton of delicious options that will not inflame the body and also are minimally processed and contain lots of micronutrients and important minerals to fuel the body. Quick note: As I said above next to “Dairy”, depending on the person. Some healthy things work for people and won’t work for others. Even if it is considered “healthy”, if your unique body doesn’t agree with it, it can cause inflammation. Never compare your body and nutrition to someone else’s. Listen to your body and what makes it feel good.
The ultimate tool for nutrition when working out.
We are blessed in this day and age with every calorie and macro tracking app you can imagine. These tools are great, and always a nice starting point, however the ultimate tool to use when finding your nutrition and workout balance is YOUR BODY. Tracking in an app is still very useful and gives you a ton of information of what you are putting into your body, and how much, BUT you must listen to your body’s cues to truly know when to eat.
(These examples are all assuming you consume nutrient dense unprocessed food).
Your app is telling you that you ate your calories for the day but at 4pm your body is telling you that you’re hungry. Do you listen to a phone, or do you listen to the most intuitive tool you have, yourself?
Your app is telling you that you still need to consume 300 calories to meet your standard goal for the day but you don’t feel hungry at all. Do you ignore your body and eat anyway?
Technology will never ever be more intuitive than the incredible human body.
- Take your time learning about your body and its cues for hunger and fullness.
2. Notice your energy. Macros sometimes need to be adjusted depending on activity level and time of year. Our bodies are always changing, be open to change with it.
3. You will never out exercise a bad diet. Plain and simple. Even if you are thin and healthy now, you will not have longevity for the future. Think joints, heart health, stress on the body, and immune function.
Indulgences and exceptions.
I’m sure you are saying: I don’t want to cut out my favorite junk food. I get it! Treats are fine occasionally. If you notice you are eating processed food everyday, that is no longer a treat … that is your diet. The most common way for people to indulge is the weekends, but if you think about it the weekend is two of the seven days of the week. That compounds really quickly!
Exceptions for endurance athletes could be gels, powders, and chews that are full of processed sugar and ingredients. I have yet to find one that is “natural”. These are the exceptions for the human body to be able to survive extreme exercise.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing nutrition.
First of all slow down and listen to your body (step 1-3 above). When deciding on a food to eat ask yourself these questions:
Will this enhance the work that I put in today?
What will build and tone my muscles?
How will this boost my energy for the rest of the day?
What will help me recover and get optimal rest tonight?
How much of this will satisfy me or over satisfy me?
What did I learn yesterday that I can use and make changes today?
Print these questions or write them down. Practice them everyday. If you are working towards a health goal, I love to think of food as the healing my body needs to perform. It’s been said to treat your body like the temple it is, and when you fuel it correctly the growth that comes will blow your mind!! The human body is capable of incredible things, let’s find our true potential today.