Each individual is different and has different nutritional needs. With this being said, there are a few basics almost all health-conscious individuals adhere to when it comes to eating well.
While you don’t need to religiously stick to strict guidelines, there are some ‘eating methodologies’ which can really help how you feel before, during and after your workout (let’s avoid the term ‘diet’ as it implies a short-term solution rather than a lifestyle change, although the greek root for ‘diet’ is “way of life.” We have obviously lost the meaning in the 21st Century society).
Check out some examples of good eating plans which can boost your training results:
Food Habit: Clean Food (Micro-nutrient viewpoint)
Health-conscious individuals tend to steer clear of processed foods, leaning towards whole foods and fresh produce.
Eating ‘clean’ means staying away from foods with high sugar content. These can cause inflammation, not something conducive to getting great results from your workout.
The Clean Food regime also means avoiding ’junk food’; packaged foods and food with a lot of preservatives or salt. To start eating this way, buy fresh as much as possible. You may find it easier to do meal prepping on the weekend so you always have something healthy to hand. Staying on the outside of grocery stores is key here. Most items “on the aisles” are processed in one form or another.
Those on the Clean Food mission don’t spend too much time counting calories but rely instead on intuition. As long as the food is not overly processed, you’re on the right track. Just try to make sure you include carbs, protein and fats in every meal. Enjoy loads of fresh vegetables and a small amount of fruit to keep your nutrient levels up.
Food Habit: Macro-nutrient viewpoint
A term you will see and hear almost constantly in the fitness environment is Macros. ‘Macros’ are macronutrients and are vital to keep you feeling strong and powerful.
The Macro way of eating includes protein, carbohydrates and fats.
–Protein helps to build your body and your muscles.
–Carbohydrates are a quick fuel source. Stick with low GI carbs (brown bread, quinoa, brown rice etc) instead of processed white bread, fries or cereals.
-Finally, fats, (the good ones) help you to absorb vitamins and minerals, and are a sustainable fuel source for the body.
Food Habit: Zone
Probably the second most popular way of eating among the health-conscious is known as the Zone Diet. This works by separating food into ‘blocks’.
The simplest system is 30% protein, 40% carbs and 30% monounsaturated (good) fats. Many will take this to the next level and carefully block out each meal into portions for each specific food type.
Your approach may vary, depending on the type of workouts you do and your end goals. What’s ideal for some may leave someone else struggling to feel on top of things.
Time to go Paleo?
If you are interested in Paleo, the theory is that you eat only the foods available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means no grains or dairy products.
Lean meats and plenty of vegetables are the best way to eat Paleo. Watch out though: this diet has been criticized for being potentially high in fats and lacking the benefits of dairy and grains. Paleo has been found to lack a good scientific foundation and many are turning away from it now in favor of more rounded diets.
Moderation is key
Fitness is about having fun, making friends and being healthy, not necessarily being uber-lean and slim (although this can be a fortunate side effect).
With this in mind, look for healthy foods and choose to eat what makes you feel best, but don’t put pressure on yourself to be the perfect eater. Yes, even health-conscious individuals love a burrito and some ice cream from time to time! The trick is to keep treats to just that — a treat.
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