Know More About Nutrition
What you eat is almost more complex than training. Usually with training and sport, there is a coach or leader to look to for guidance about the sport. With nutrition, there is not one person or organization to look to for good, solid nutrition advice. Anyone with a blog or social media can broadcast their opinion about diet and nutrition to the masses. And often it’s just that….an opinion. To optimize your nutrition I recommend taking a step back and thinking about it less. Yes, think about it less. Although that sounds counterintuitive, as a society we think WAY too much nutrients, superfoods, and diet fads. Eat this, avoid that and you will be healthy. However, it doesn’t work like that. Real food is so good for us and our bodies need a variety of foods to function. Any diet or nutrition plan that requires you to restrict a certain food or food group is not healthy or sustainable.
Eat Real Food. This is my first rule of nutrition. It’s the golden rule. Eat. Real. Food. What does this mean? Well, it means consuming foods that are in their natural state, such as an apple. Not foods that have been broken down, processed, and engineered into something totally different. The easiest way to do this is limit the amount of food that comes out of a package. Anything that is found in the state it grows in nature is a better choice. Of course, I believe that all things in moderation is part of a healthy diet. Emphasize real foods for the majority of your meals and add in other options to fill the gaps.
Don’t follow fad diets. This is the best way to throw your body out of whack and create a head case. Fad diets promise a quick fix and often operate on the premise of restricting or emphasizing certain foods or food groups for health or performance. That is your first clue. Healthy eating does not mean you should only eat a list of approved foods. The foods you choose to eat is your diet, not vice versa. Any diet with strict rules is not sustainable or healthy in the long run. Eating should be an enjoyable experience not a mathematical equation with limited food choices.
Listen to your body cues. Our bodies are really good and telling us what we need…if we listen to it, that is. There are SO many internal signals within the body to drive appetite and fullness and to help us determine when and how much to eat. But so often we ignore or override these signals. The best way to listen to your body is to pay attention: really think about how you feel before you eat, when you eat, after you eat. How hungry are you? How full are you? How do you feel after eating a certain food? Once you start to understand your body’s cues it’s much easier to match energy intake to energy expenditure. Keep in mind that your body is not a checkbook. Energy in ≠ energy out. Our bodies are so much more complex than that. If you “eat 500 calories” it doesn’t mean you can exercise to “burn 500 calories”. Our bodies are not even close to being that simple. Think less about numbers and pay more attention to feeling and hunger levels. That’s the best way to get in tune with what your body needs.
Aim to be a B+. You don’t have to perfect your diet every single day. There is room for some good days and not so good days. Just because you had an off day doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. The more accepting you are of that, the more healthy and sustainable for the long term. I like to think that I eat well most of the time with a few indulgences here and there. And I don’t obsess about it. If you eat ice cream for breakfast…Meh. Just don’t let that be every day. Focus on a good quality lunch rather than dwelling on the past.
Learn about specific nutrition strategies for your sport. Each sport has specific fueling strategies that will also help you to optimize your performance. Whether it’s running, strength training, cycling, climbing, yoga, hiking, soccer, etc., there are different ways to optimally fuel during training and competition to enhance performance. Again, there is a lot of information out there, most of in incorrect, so I’d recommend connecting with a professional in sports nutrition