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Eat to Win

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Eat to Win

Last year Tom decided he was going to take his fitness to the next level. Over a period of two years he had lost an astonishing 95 pounds, transforming himself from an office-party Santa to a stand-in for Vin Diesel.

Last year Tom decided he was going to take his fitness to the next level. Over a period of two years he had lost an astonishing 95 pounds, transforming himself from an office-party Santa to a stand-in for Vin Diesel.

To celebrate reaching his weight-loss goal, Tom trained for his first triathlon. Unfortunately, as training progressed and intensified, Tom stopped seeing improvements and started seeing his energy level steadily decline. On race day, Tom was only able to make it halfway through the cycling stage before he had to call it quits, as he hit the proverbial “wall.” The diagnosis: inadequate nutritional fuel. You see, Tom had greatly improved his food habits to facilitate his weight loss, but when it came to training harder, he was ill-prepared for the nutritional requirements.

Since meeting with a sports nutritionist, Tom has gained a greater appreciation for the importance of proper nutrition in fuelling exercise. To maximize gym time and to finish his next race, Tom needed to focus on several key areas.

Carbohydrates

Like many others, Tom followed a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. But what he failed to realize was that in order to exercise regularly at higher intensities, the body requires adequate carbohydrate stores. During exercise, the working muscles use up these stores as a source of immediate energy.

A diet too low in carbohydrates, combined with increased daily activity, will put a huge strain on these reserves. You can only drive a car so far without refuelling. People are the same–fail to give your body the fuel needed to perform and you will be stalled on the side of the road as others pass by. As part of his training diet, Tom now adds more high-quality, carbohydrate-dense foods such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, and lentils.

Post-Workout Nutrition

We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, for those who exercise hard, the post-workout meal is just as essential. After hitting the weights or pounding away on the treadmill, the muscles are begging for nutrients to help replace the glycogen that was used up and the protein necessary for muscular repair and growth. Research consistently shows that proper nutrition following exercise can greatly improve one’s recovery.

Tom now knows that the granola bar that he used to devour after his spinning class was not adequate. A better way to fuel his muscles would be a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Now, instead of the granola bar, Tom enjoys a protein shake followed shortly by a healthy, well-balanced dinner. Tom credits this single nutritional change with his improved bench press, increased energy, and new-found abdominal muscles.

Pumping Iron

Tom will admit that his original diet was somewhat restrictive and meant that he was likely not getting all the vitamins and minerals he needed during the added stresses of increased physical training. Without enough iron, for instance, the body won’t produce sufficient hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to working muscles.

A diet consisting of a large variety of whole foods is one way to ensure that your working body gets essential nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and calcium. Tom’s sports nutritionist has also convinced him to take a high-quality multi-vitamin as a safety net, allowing him to be at his best on the gym floor and the pavement.

Pass the Sugar

While consuming calories during the average gym workout is rarely necessary, longer bouts of physical activity, such as a day of mountain biking or a triathlon, require you to supply your muscles with a source of fuel to keep them working. During Tom’s first race attempt, his food of choice was water and, hence, his difficulties. It is best to consume a source of quick-digesting carbohydrates such as a sports drink, dried fruit, or a banana during exercise lasting longer than one hour. Just think: it’s one of those rare moments when sugar is your friend.

Using all of these principles has allowed Tom to train harder and finish his next triathlon with energy to spare. You too can experience Tom’s new-found energy. So get out there and tackle that mountain, but don’t forget the fuel.

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