Whether you’re an athlete, a gym enthusiast, or just starting your fitness journey, it’s important to pay attention to your diet. Many people on a mission to get fit or lose weight place the bulk of their energy on exercising. They may join gyms, enrol in fitness classes or buy pricey gym equipment to work out at home, and while this is helpful, it should not be the main focus.
People may choose to focus on the physical aspect more as they are reluctant to give up their unhealthy eating habits. They may be under the impression that heavy exercise will negate their unhealthy meal choices. Unfortunately, exercise and nutrition go hand in hand, and the best way to see results is to ensure that you’re getting the proper nutrition by following a healthy eating plan.
Why Nutrition Matters
The foods you eat before and after exercise will influence your performance. Proper nutrition gives your body the fuel to power through a workout and provides the nutrients it requires to recover after your workout. When your body recovers quickly, you can exercise consistently, and when you exercise consistently, you are more likely to see results. Conversely, you may not have the energy to exercise without the correct nutrition and will likely feel fatigued and sluggish.
Creating a Meal Plan to Enhance Fitness
Before cutting out everything you think is ‘bad,’ vowing never to eat a sugary treat again, a better option is to take a step back and adjust how you think about food. There are no bad foods, some are simply less nutritious than others, but there should be room for everything in your diet.
In most cases, adopting an all-or-nothing approach is likely to set you up for failure. When you deprive yourself of something you enjoy, you will probably crave it, and at some point, there’s a good chance you’ll give in to your cravings and binge. This not only sets you back physically, but mentally as well. Binge eating can leave you feeling bad about yourself and your choices. If you allow yourself the less healthy foods you enjoy in moderation, you’re less likely to crave and binge.
When working on a meal plan, a more positive approach is to focus on all the foods you can and should eat rather than the ones you should eat less of. It’s also helpful to keep macronutrients and micronutrients in mind. Macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fats. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Both macronutrients and micronutrients are essential, but you need them in varying amounts. Typically, your body requires smaller amounts of micronutrients to function optimally.
Macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fats. Your body requires these nutrients in large quantities as a source of energy and to maintain the body’s structure.
Besides keeping you full so that you’re less likely to snack unnecessarily and consume more calories than your body needs, protein has many other roles and benefits. Some of these include helping you to build muscle, boosting your metabolism, and aiding in recovery if you’re injured.
Good sources of protein include:
- Lean meats
If you follow a plant-based diet, you can incorporate the following plant-based protein in your diet:
A lot of people also rely on protein supplements to hit their protein macro. Protein shakes are convenient as they’re easy to prepare and you can enjoy them on the go, which is perfect for people who live busy, active lifestyles and are trying to eat healthier.
When it comes to choosing your protein powder, there are several options. Common protein powders include soy, whey, brown rice, hemp, egg, casein, and pea. Each type has its benefits, and since everyone is different and has different needs, what works for others may not work for you. Before buying your protein powder, it’s a good idea to learn about the different types. For example, if you’re keen on trying casein protein powder, look for casein reviews to ensure it meets your requirements and is in line with your dietary needs.
Carbs give the body the energy to function daily and get the most out of a workout. The best type of carbs are complex carbs, which can be found in the following:
- Whole grains
Simple carbohydrates are not healthy and should be eaten in moderation. Candy, baked goods, and sugary drinks are some examples of simple carbs. Simple carbohydrates are typically high in calories and digest quickly, which causes a spike in your blood sugar.
Fats are a source of energy and help the body to absorb essential nutrients. They also aid in cell growth and regeneration and protect the bones and joints. Good sources of healthy fats include olive oil, avocados, eggs, and nuts.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. While you need them in lower quantities than macronutrients, they are just as important. An excellent way to include micronutrients in your diet is to have a wide range of foods in your meal plan. When shopping, especially for produce, select fruits and veggies in different colors, as they each contain different vitamins and minerals. Taking supplements is also advisable as it isn’t always possible to meet all your nutritional needs with foods.
The foods you eat contribute to your overall well-being and can help you reach your fitness goals. So, fitness does indeed begin in the kitchen! When working out a meal plan, make sure that your diet is balanced and includes all macro and micronutrients. You may also want to take supplements so that you aren’t missing out on essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients which you don’t get through food sources alone.
- Healthline: Eating the Right Foods for Exercise
- WebMD: Best Foods for Fitness
- Healthline: Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout
- Getsmarter: What are macronutrients and micronutrients
- MSU: Using macronutrients to achieve fitness and health goals
- Verywellfit: Nutrition’s Role in Physical Fitness: Why You Need to Consider Both
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