Part 1: Big ticket nutrition
Whether your aim is to reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, increase speed and/or endurance, or simply to get fit, feel and look good, you could be undoing all of your hard work in the gym by following the wrong meal pattern.
In many cases, what you eat before and after training, combined with your usual daily meal pattern, is just as important in achieving your goals as the training itself. There’s a tonne of conflicting nutrition information out there on the interweb, in magazines, television commercials, and across social media. People are confused, as evidenced by the large audience at my last F45 Q & A nutrition session.
In this three part series, I will discuss what to eat and when, including which supplements are credible and how they can enhance your training.
So what should you eat during the day?
Work on the big ticket items first. You could have the most evidenced-based pre and post training nutrition regime, but this is just the tip of the ice-berg. There’s so much more to gain from getting your main meals sorted first. That is, three balanced meals that include foods rich in good quality and nutritious:
Carbohydrates - veggies, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, beans, dairy (e.g. milk, yoghurt, cheese);
Fats - avocado, nuts & seeds, olives, oily fish, good quality oils (e.g. extra virgin olive oil), dairy; and
Proteins - lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, or plant based alternatives (e.g. legumes and beans).
If you’re eating healthy snacks between these main meals (such as nuts & seeds, fruit, tuna & crackers, veggies sticks & dip, yoghurt & fruit), you are most likely ‘killing two birds with one stone’. That is, you are feeding your body all the nutrients it needs to function properly across the day, combined with the added benefit of adequately fuelling your training and recovery.
Small changes vs sweeping changes
For many of us, simply tweaking our existing eating patterns and associated habits that we have developed over the course of a lifetime, will ultimately provide our body with the nutrients it needs to perform over the journey. With this approach, only a little willpower is required so there is less risk of falling back into our old ways.
You are potentially setting yourself up to fail if you completely overhaul you’re eating pattern all at once. Anyone can follow a prescriptive eating pattern for a while, and depending on the extreme nature of these changes, you could achieve some rapid results…for a while. However, once the willpower finally runs out, and it almost always does, we fall back into our old eating patterns because we never addressed the underlying habits that dictate what we eat. End result, a whole bunch of time and energy spent thrashing it out in the gym to reach square one when biology catches up with you.
So it is important to adopt a sustainable approach to your daily eating patterns to achieve your goals over the long-term.
Fuelling specifically for training
What you eat and drink before training all depends on your eating pattern across the day, combined with the timing of your training. Below are some different scenarios that most of us are familiar with.
Scenario 1 – the early riser
You haven’t eaten anything since last night and you are training before work/first thing in the morning.
Should you eat something? The answer is YES. You have been in a fasted state overnight, so some carbohydrate will give your muscles the spike in energy they need to train harder for longer. However, the carbohydrate you choose should depend on the timing of consumption. See below examples:
If you’re eating more than 60 - 120 minutes before your training session you could afford to eat some more substantial carbohydrates (e.g. porridge, muesli, yoghurt with fruit)
If you are eating less than 60 minutes before training, go for carbohydrate which is easier to digest (e.g. piece of fruit, small fruit juice/smoothie).
It’s ok to train fasted, however, you may find that you can go harder if you implement the above.
Scenario 2 – the afternoon fast
You haven’t eaten anything since lunchtime and you are training after work/late afternoon.
Should you eat something? The answer is yes. Similar to Scenario 1 above, you haven’t eaten anything for at least 4 hours, therefore a carbohydrate snack before training will give you a pep in your step. Make sure you eat some easily digestible carbohydrate (e.g. fruit, starchy veggies, 100% fruit or veggie juice) within 60 minutes of training.
Scenario 3 – the nutrition guru
You are training after work/late afternoon and you have eaten a balanced breakfast and lunch with healthy carbohydrate containing snacks in between.
Should you eat something? The answer is no. You have been adequately fuelling your body across the day, and have therefore topped-up your muscle energy stores to hit training at full pace.
Contact Nutrition Nation for more personalised support and advice so that you can reach your goals sooner.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog where I discuss fuelling for training and why recovery is so important in achieving your goals.