Habits for fitness nutrition
John M. Berardi, PhD, CSCS
What you eat and when you eat it can affect your fitness performance. Learn the top habits of workout nutrition and how to create an exercise meal plan.
If you’re a regular gym-goer, you know that what you eat and when you eat it can affect your performance when exercising. To set you on the fast track to optimal nutrition, here are the 10 most important habits of fitness nutrition to help you get the most out of your workout.
Habit 1. Eat Regularly
It’s tough to eat a complete, healthy diet when you’re only eating two to three meals each day. Limiting yourself to just a few meals can zap energy levels and lead to loss of muscle and increased body fat. Eat every three hours or so to boost your metabolism and control your appetite.
Habit 2. Emphasize Proteins
Lean protein in the diet is critical for controlling appetite and blood sugar levels and for ensuring that you maintain lean muscle as you age. Unfortunately, most people eat too little protein. To remedy this situation, women should have one serving of protein every few hours and men should get two servings. One serving equals the size of the palm of your hand, or about 3 or 4 ounces (90 to 115 grams).
Habit 3. Include Vegetables and Fruits With Each Meal
Just as you’ll be getting protein every three hours or so, you should also be getting fruits and veggies each time you eat. Most people thrive when eating eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, so shoot for two servings with each meal and snack. One serving equals a one-half cup (125 mL) of chopped fruits and veggies or one cup (250 mL) of leafy green vegetables.
Habit 4. Enjoy Starchy Carbohydrates Only After Exercise
During the first two to three hours after physical activity, enjoy higher carbohydrate foods such as whole grains and starchy vegetables. Limit their intake during the rest of the day, sticking with fruits, veggies, nuts, and legumes instead, and you’ll likely lose fat while gaining lean muscle. One serving of higher carbohydrate foods equals the size of your palm; women can have one serving while men can have two.
Habit 5. Mix in Healthy Fats
Balance your intake of healthy fats and you will balance your health and your hormonal profile. A balanced intake includes healthy fats–flax seeds and flax oil, fish and fish oil, hemp and hemp oil, olive oil, canola oil, perilla seed oil, and walnuts–with each meal. Just a few grams go a long way. Typically one tablespoon (15 mL) of oil or two tablespoons (30 mL) of seeds and nuts will do the trick.
Habit 6. Keep Beverage Selections Simple
Tea and water are excellent choices for promoting hydration. They’re calorie-free so you don’t run the risk–as you would with juice and soda pop–of overloading on empty, high-sugar calories. Tea and water don’t introduce the host of chemical additives that diet beverages do.
Habit 7. Focus on Whole, Unprocessed Foods
Often, the closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is for you. Try to avoid boxed, processed, packaged, or canned foods. Instead, shop for foods that are as close as possible to the natural state in which they were raised or grown.
Habit 8. Keep It Varied
Often when people try to eat healthy, they limit their food intake and choose bland, plain selections. But there’s never a reason for healthy nutrition to be bland and boring. By learning new strategies for healthy food prep and varying your intake, boredom can become a thing of the past.
Habit 9. Don’t Try to Be Perfect
Trying to follow a nutrition plan perfectly is an unreasonable expectation. There’s no need to be perfect. Instead, shooting for the goal of following good eating habits on 9 out of every 10 meals gives you the freedom to make healthy eating something you can do for the rest of your life.
Habit 10. Get Organized
Imagine if every time you were ready to eat, you had a good tasting, healthy meal in front of you. Wouldn’t that make healthy eating foolproof? By shopping regularly and doing some weekly prep (on Sunday perhaps) and daily prep (first thing in the morning), eating healthy can be easy.
There you have it: 10 simple nutritional habits that you can adopt today. Give them a try, and watch as you begin to look better, feel better, and perform at your best.