Nutrition for Fitness Training: The Facts You Need to Know
Making the commitment to exercise regularly is a terrific start to getting fit. However, without sound nutritional guidance, achieving your goals may be impossible. Tough workouts demand the right kind of fuel — and that fuel comes from the foods and beverages you consume.
In a recent study of 90,000 people, researchers found that approximately 57.9% of participants’ daily calories came from heavily refined and processed foods. These are the so-called “convenience foods” that populate the shelves of the local
supermarket: canned soups, frozen meals, boxed side dishes, soda and snack foods, and so on.
Only of about 29.6% of the study’s participants ate what nutritionists call “minimally” processed foods. These are foods that our ancestors would recognize as food: fruit from the tree, vegetables pulled from the plant or ground, real meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
If you’re serious about personal weight training and fitness, you must get serious about your diet, too. Your body is built from both the workouts you complete and the foods you eat. The foods you eat provide the macro nutrients — protein, carbohydrates and fats — that give you energy to sustain you through your workout and build stronger muscles. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber found within real, wholesome foods nourishes every cell in your body, providing the best fuel for your workouts.
Think of your body like a car. You could pour the cheapest gasoline into a fancy sports car and it would still run, but over time, the engine might seize from the impurities or the car could wear out faster. By pouring only the highest-quality food into your body, you’re building a body as beautiful as the sleekest sports car. It can run faster and longer, lift heavier weights and dominate the competition.
Proper fitness nutrition begins with understanding what you need to eat, when to eat, and how to maintain your eating habits for the long haul.
Proper Fitness Nutrition
Aside from injury, nothing derails a workout plan faster than poor dietary habits. If you’re serious about becoming your strongest and fittest self, eating nutritionally dense foods is essential to your workout plan. The right nutrition guidance will ensure you provide your body with the clean energy you need to perform your best.
Nutrition Advice and Tips
1. Keep a food diary: A food diary can help you track not just what you eat, but also how much, when and where you ate it. Spend just one day writing down what and how much you eat, and how you feel after. No cheating! Add up the calorie total the next day. You may be surprised by how many calories you consumed.
Many free online trackers and apps tally protein, carbohydrate and fat intake, as well as how well you meet the RDA for many important vitamins and minerals. It’s important to track not just your food, but when you ate it, as well. Some people also track their mood and who they were with to see if emotional eating patterns are spurring them to eat more calories than they should.
2. Calculate calories: Most diet plans focus on how many calories to eat each day, such as 1,500 or 2,000 calories for moderately active people. There are many free apps and sites that calculate how many calories you should eat for your activity level, how much to eat to maintain weight and how many to eat to lose weight.
Calculator.net, for example, provides you with BMI calculators, calorie calculators and more. You can use this to find your basic nutrition and calorie needs. Comparing your food diary response to the calculator response can be an eye-opener.
Another great resource for keeping track of your caloric intake is MyfitnessPal. This free app can be downloaded onto your smartphone or tablet, giving you access to the world’s largest nutrition and calorie database that includes over 5 million different foods. It provides a simple and quick way to track the calories in the food you eat on the go!
3. Weigh and measure your food: Measuring is a pain at first, but you’ll get used to it fast. It will also make you keenly aware of what foods fill you up and what foods just aren’t worth the calories. Knowing this will help you make better dietary choices. Consider investing in a food scale — a small scale that measures ounces and grams of food.
A simple set of measuring cups and spoons can also help you keep track of food portions. One easy way to set your portions is to use a measuring cup to measure a set portion into your favorite cup or bowl. You’ll be able to see exactly how much fits into your favorite bowl, and know what one cup, a half cup and so on actually looks like.
4. Eat the right food: What are the right foods? Minimally processed foods are the best for sports and weight lifting nutrition. Lean protein, complex carbs and fiber are your best friends, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Your body needs lean protein such as turkey, nonfat Greek yogurt, fish and egg whites to build muscle and stay full. Complex carbs, such as green leafy vegetables, give you energy to burn and fiber fills you up and keeps your digestive system and hormones in alignment.Fats should be healthy, mono-saturated fats, such as olive oil, or from plant-based sources rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, flaxseeds and similar oils, nuts and seeds provide healthy fats.
5. Don’t eat the wrong foods: Remember what 57.9% of what Americans eat? Those are the wrong foods. Avoid foods that come in boxes and bags, but read the label if you must. Processed foods usually contain tons of sugar, salt and preservatives. Start comparing labels and ignore the advertising on the front of the package. Words such as “natural” and “healthy” often hide how bad certain foods are for your waistline and heart.A good rule of thumb: the ingredients list on product packaging lists ingredients of the highest quantity first. Look for “real food” names near the top of the list and unpronounceable chemical names near the bottom of the list if you must indulge in packaged foods. Better still, save processed foods as a rare treat or time saver when needed.
6. Limit your drinking: Alcohol has a ton of calories. It’s easy to add 400 or 500 calories to your daily total with booze, and even more if you like liquor combined with sugary mixes. Some nutritionists believe the calories consumed from alcohol are particularly bad for you because when the body receives alcohol, it burns alcohol for fuel first, then burns other fuel.
If you’re drinking and eating, the calories from what you are eating may be converted to fat much faster. Alcohol isn’t worth consuming for the serious athlete. It has more drawbacks than benefits.
7. Drink water: Water is nature’s perfect thirst quencher. Drink plenty of fresh, pure water daily, including with meals. Drink about 16 fluid ounces, or two cups of water, about two hours before a workout. Sip water throughout your workout. If you’re working out in hot weather, be sure to drink more water than you think you need. Thirst is a sign that your body is slightly
dehydrated. Drink to stay ahead of your thirst.
8. Avoid sugar: Sugar can be found in many foods naturally, such as fructose in fruits and sweeteners like maple syrup and honey. Refined, white sugar provides fuel and not much else for your body’s needs. It causes tooth decay and can lead to obesity. Get your sugar from natural treats such as a piece of fruit eaten for dessert, and avoid adding sugar to your diet.
Weight Lifting Nutrition
Weight lifting nutrition focuses on different things than nutrition for sports that demand endurance, such as long-distance running or speed skating. Instead, strength training nutrition focuses on enhancing protein intake to build stronger muscles.
The amino acids found in protein are the building blocks of muscles. Protein is used not just to build muscles, but also
to repair tears. When you lift weights, your strained muscles must be rebuilt after a workout. The body draws upon its protein reserves and any protein you eat to rebuild those muscles so they get bigger and stronger.
Your body can make some amino acids, but not all. That’s why you should eat a wide range of foods. Amino acids are found in both plant and animal foods.
Proper nutrition for any level of weight training includes knowing the biological value (BV) of protein sources. Biological value refers to a unit of measurement that assesses how quickly protein is absorbed by the body. The higher the BV, the faster the protein is absorbed and the faster it can be used to build muscles after a workout.
Some of the best sources of protein for weight training nutrition include:
- Egg protein: In olden days, weight lifters and body builders cracked raw eggs into a glass of milk for a protein shake. Today that’s not recommended due to fears of salmonella contamination from raw eggs. You can eat cooked eggs. Egg whites contain plenty of protein power without the fat and cholesterol of the yolks, the yellow part in the center. Egg protein has a BV of 100.
- Meat: Beef, pork and poultry are all good sources of protein and have a BV of 80. Although they can be high in fat, leaner cuts — baked instead of fried — all provide a good source of protein in the diet. Fish can also add protein.
- Plants: There are indeed some vegetarian weight lifters who are strong and fit and consume only plant protein. Plants do contain protein, but in much lower concentrations than animal food. Beans combined with whole grains, such as rice or quinoa, provide plenty of protein. Nuts and seeds are also high in protein, although they are also high in fat. Unprocessed nuts and seeds are best for healthy eating so that you avoid excess salt and fat added during roasting.
Meal Frequency and Timing
To keep your body in peak condition, eating small meals frequently is considered best for athletes in training. Eating every two or three hours seems to be helpful for keeping energy levels high and providing maximum nutrients for bodybuilding.
Avoid eating carbohydrates alone. Pair them with a protein or a fat to blunt the insulin surge associated with a high-carbohydrate meal. The crash afterwards can make you feel hungrier than before you ate. Protein should be your go-to snack of choice.
Post-workout, protein will help your body rebuild tissue the fastest. Drink plenty of water before a workout.
Putting All the Pieces Together: An Action Plan for You
Nutrition with personal training is perhaps the best way to get into shape. Understanding what you need to eat and how much to eat is a great start to reach your goals. From there, balancing your nutrition with the right intake of protein, fat and carbohydrates will help you reach for Excellence In Fitness.
Your action plan may include:
- Writing down what you eat, how much you ate and when you ate it in a food diary or using an online tracker or app.
- Figuring out how many calories you need to eat to maintain, gain or lose weight.
- Weighing and measuring your food to adjust portion sizes and ensure you’re not eating too much at meal times.
- Switching from refined foods to unrefined foods.
- Drinking more water instead of sugary juices, sodas (even diet sodas) and alcoholic drinks.
- After weight training workouts, to boost muscle recovery and build muscles faster take in protein rich foods such as lean meats or eggs.
- Seeing how you feel after you make dietary changes. After all, these are changes for a lifetime — not just to train for an event. You won’t stick with them if they don’t feel good.
- Assessing your progress over time. Are the changes working? If not, what can you change in your diet to achieve your goal?
Protein is the go-to resource for weightlifting and serious athletes of all sports. Remember that what you put into your body builds your body. If you eat heavily processed foods, you won’t be able to build that lean, muscular look you’re going for.
Instead, eat the best-quality foods you can afford, supplement with protein and drink plenty of fresh water. Avoid salt, refined sugar and alcohol. Get plenty of sleep and fresh air, and you’ll support your body as it transforms into your desired fitness level.
Schedule a Free Consultation and Workout Demo at Excellence In Fitness
At Excellence In Fitness Personal Training Studios, we can help you reach your fitness goals through a combination of nutrition and personal training. Eating right and creating a tailored, targeted and personalized fitness program is the best way to get in shape.
Train with the best! EIF is the nine-time Best Personal Trainer winner in the Millersville and Severna Park region. Isn’t it time you discovered why? Call EIF for your free consultation and workout demo today. With our help, you can achieve the healthy and balanced lifestyle you deserve. Call 1-410-266-6688 today.