Any effective fitness regime involves a degree of dietary improvement. Fueling up for your workout with the right balance of nutrients is vitally important, not only for smashing your goals but for overall physical and mental well-being. Every intrepid athlete understands the importance of healthy eating; however, there may be additional methods of maximising your athletic performance by reconsidering your intake.
Whether you want to up your lean protein intake or pinpoint helpful ways of staying hydrated, consider the following nutritional recommendations for gym goers.
Food is fuel, and calories equal energy. Even if your fitness goals involve consuming fewer calories to achieve weight loss, giving your body everything it needs to thrive is still vitally important. The average adult requires around 2,000 - 2,500 calories per day, although this will vary depending on your body type, fitness goals and the amount of physical activity you do. It may be worth consulting a professional dietician so you can tailor your intake to improve performance and maximise muscle recovery.
It is advisable to avoid eating large meals less than an hour prior to a workout, as this may cause gastrointestinal issues, such as heartburn. However, you can consume small snacks and energy boosters to supply your body with everything it needs for peak performance. The best pre-workout snacks consist of healthy carbohydrates, lean protein and hydration. For example, you could grab a banana - packed with carbohydrates and potassium to support muscle and nerve function. Alternatively, you could make energy balls out of oats, peanut butter, dark chocolate chips and chia seeds.
Many sports nutritionists advise eating around 30 minutes after completing a workout. Like your pre-workout snacks, your post-workout meals should be packed with protein and carbohydrates - this is because protein is made up of amino acids necessary for muscle growth, repair and recovery.
You can optimise your post-workout routine by consuming protein-rich foods like eggs, lean white meat and beef jerky. Despite what some gymgoers might believe, you can get ample amounts of protein from plant-based sources such as tofu, edamame beans and lentils. That said, arguably, the best way to get a quick fix of post-workout protein is to prepare a protein shake specifically formulated to promote muscle gain and speed up the recovery period.
While you may choose to limit your carb intake if you’re trying to achieve weight loss, carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. When consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into sugars (glucose, fructose, and galactose), fuelling your brain and muscles, which is vital for physical activity.
Insufficient consumption of carbohydrates can cause your body to break down muscle and convert it to energy due to a lack of glycogen reserves. You can prevent glycogen depletion by consuming energy gels during your workouts alongside a balanced diet with healthy carbohydrate-rich foods like quinoa, buckwheat and sweet potatoes.
Hydration is vital for everyday well-being - both physical and mental. Consuming the recommended 6-8 glasses of fluids per day helps to regulate temperature, lubricate joints and alleviate the pressure on your kidneys and liver by flushing out waste products. Dehydration can cause significant reductions in memory and brain performance; hence, staying hydrated is vital for focus and concentration.
Regardless of your fitness goals, hydration is absolutely essential during workouts to replace the fluids you lose when you sweat. While water is typically the best method of staying hydrated, you may prefer to fill your reusable water bottle with your favourite sports drink to replenish glucose, fluids, and electrolytes.
We’re often told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, which is true in every respect. Skipping breakfast and grabbing a snack on the go once in a while may be necessary when you’re in a rush, but regularly missing out on this crucial meal could result in headaches, blood sugar dips and poor concentration. Breakfast provides you with the vital sustenance you need throughout the day, keeping you energised and alert. Furthermore, a balanced breakfast is an excellent opportunity to fuel your daily workouts with plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Consider a fresh smoothie bowl enriched with protein powder and chia seeds or smashed avocado on wholemeal toast, topped with a poached egg.