Diet and exercise always work well together. Whether you are trying to build muscle, lose weight, or optimize performance, one without the other compromises results. When an athlete follows a structured exercise routine and fails to eat properly, optimum performance cannot exist. In competition, this is a tragedy. All the time and sweat invested in training wasted because the plate was deprioritized. Investing in your diet is crucial, and hopefully with these tips, it will be much easier to prioritize!
Sometimes it seems we forget the actual purpose of food is to provide us with the energy and nutrients we need to function. Once you starting eating to fuel your body based on what it needs, you have the opportunity to find a new level of performance. Optimizing your diet to accomplish this does not sacrifice taste, and is definitely not restricting. Instead, it encourages a variety of foods as sources of the many nutrients your body needs, in moderate portions that translate to a balanced diet on the plate.
As someone who relies on physical performance, you owe it to yourself to eat well. Find your physical goal and pair your training with nutrition to accomplish it. On your plate look for a balance of all three macronutrients and the many micronutrients using a variety-packed meal plan. If you are overwhelmed by the dietary approaches to exercise, schedule a consultation with a Sports Dietitian!
Carbohydrates: Short-term physical energy. The more active you are in a day, the more you need for energy to perform and recover.
Sources: Fruits, Grains (Bread, Rice, Pasta etc.), Dairy, Starchy Vegetables (Potatoes, Turnips, Parsnips), Sweet Vegetables (Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions)
Protein: Nutrient required for optimum recovery and maintenance of body processes (Growth, development, Tissue Maintenance, Hormone Production)
Sources: Meats, Eggs, Dairy, Soy, Nuts, Seeds, Beans, and Grains
Fat: Energy source your body uses most at lower activity levels. Also needed for the body to maintain skin, hair, hormone function, and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins! Always remember fat does not make you fat. It adds up in calories quickly, but is a necessary part of the daily diet to stay healthy and promote fitness!
Sources: Nuts, Seeds, Vegetable Oils, Avocado, Eggs, Dairy, and Meat
Remember: Performing and feeling your best requires all 3 nutrients above, from a variety of sources everyday! Balance, Moderation and Variety is the key to fitness.
As a fitness enthusiast, you need all nutrients. The recent excitement over low-carb dieting is a guaranteed way to suppress performance, especially in endurance sports. While some new research suggests a high-fat diet can provide sustained energy for elite performance, the evidence is not quite there. While dietary advice, driven mainly by the media, has taken a stance against carbohydrate in recent years, the fact remains that they are the most valuable macronutrient for an athlete’s performance. Without carbohydrate, muscles fatigue faster and cannot perform at peak levels. To ensure you are performing at your best, make sure carbohydrates are in your diet. It should be different types of carbohydrates, from a variety of sources. They should be in the meals proceeding and following exercise to maximize short-term energy stores and encourage recovery after.
Protein and fat are also important, but are less affected by exercise. Your protein needs will increase slightly based on training goals, and fat generally only changes when total calories change. Even though they do not change as frequently based on duration and level of activity, they are both critical to sustain performance in the long-term. Without appropriate amounts of fat and protein your muscles will suffer, and they won’t be the only organ system to get upset. Make sure you are getting protein at each meal, with a larger portion in the evenings. Fats can be eaten anytime, but should come from a variety of sources, mostly plant-based. Keep an eye on the serving size of your fat sources, they add up quickly.
In addition to your macronutrients you have the often-overshadowed micronutrients. Without vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidants, your body won’t be able to use any of your macronutrients for the thousands of processes that are happening every second in your body as you’re reading this. Make sure you are getting vitamins and minerals from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and the animal products. If you don’t eat one or more of these categories, you are likely missing some critical nutrients, and should consider talking to a Dietitian to figure out how to compensate!
Example Meal Plan for Male: 2360 kcal Meal Plan (1900kcal on Off Days)
80g Fat 160g Protein 250g Carbohydrate
Meal 1: (65g CHO, 45g Protein, 20g Fat)
1 scoop Protein Powder (24g Protein, 4g CHO, 1.5g Fat)
½ cup Oats (27g CHO, 5g Protein, 3g Fat)
8oz Milk (1g Fat, 12g CHO, 8g Protein)
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter (16g Fat, 7g CHO, 7g Protein)
1 Banana or 1 cup Berries (15g CHO)
½ cup Egg Whites w/ ¼ cup cheese, spinach, onions, peppers
½ cup Oats with 6oz Milk (36g CHO, 14g Protein, 3g Fat)
1 cup Fruit (Berries, Peaches etc) w/ 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
Meal 2: (60g CHO, 45g Protein, 20g Fat)
5oz Chicken Breast OR other Meat (35g Protein, 3g Fat) (Palm Sized)
1 cup Brown Rice/Potato/Pasta (42g CHO, 6g Protein, 3g Fat)
2 slices Bread/Pita/Wrap
1-cup cooked Non-Starchy Vegetables (8g CHO)
¾ cup Avocado (16g Fat, 9g CHO, 2g Protein) OR 1.5 Tbsp Mayo
*Easy Chipotle Salad if you need to go out to lunch
Meal 3: (50g CHO, 25g Protein, 18g Fat) (75-90minutes Pre)
6oz Flavored Greek Yogurt (14g Protein, 21g CHO) ***Can have at lunch
1 English Muffin OR Bagel Thin (23g CHO, 3g Protein, 1.5g Fat)
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter (16g Fat, 8g CHO, 8g Protein)
Meal 4: (75g CHO, 45g Protein, 22g Fat)
5oz Chicken/Pork/Beef/Fish (35g Protein, 1-7g Fat) (Palm Size)
*On evenings with more fatty meat add less oil or other fat source
1.5 cup Sweet Potato/Pasta/Rice (63g CHO, 6g Protein) (Fist Sized)
1.5 cup Vegetables (12g CHO) (Fist Sized)
Use 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil to Prepare food (14g Fat)
*On Off Days, Remove Snack from the day.
Example Meal Plan for Female: 1565 kcal Meal Plan
65g Fat 90g Protein 155g Carbohydrate
Meal 1: (30g CHO, 20g Protein, 12g Fat)
½ scoop Protein Powder (12g Protein, 2g CHO, 1g Fat)
8oz of Almond Milk (2.5g Fat, 1g CHO, 1g Protein)
1 Tbsp Peanut Butter (8g Fat, 4g CHO, 4g Protein)
¼ cup Oats (13g CHO, 3g Protein, 2g Fat)
½ cup Berries (8g CHO)
1 bunch of Spinach
*Blend as smoothie
Meal 2: (35g CHO, 18g Protein, 15g Fat)
2oz Chicken or Turkey Breast (12g Protein, 1g Fat)
½ cup Potato/Pasta/Rice (21g CHO, 3g Protein, 1.5g Fat)
Wrap/Flatbread/Pita/Whole Wheat Bread
1-cup Non-Starchy Vegetables (Raw or Cooked) (15g CHO)
*Look at steam fresh bags with blend of Veg and Grain/Potato for convenience
½ cup Avocado (11g Fat, 4g CHO, 2g Protein) OR 1/3 cup Hummus OR 1 Tbsp Mayo
Meal 3: (20g CHO, 5g Protein, 10g Fat)(Great Pre-workout Meal)
1 Tbsp Peanut Butter OR 1/8 cup Nuts (9g Fat, 4g CHO, 4g Protein)
1 Piece of Fruit OR 1 cup Berries (15g CHO)
Meal 4: (35g CHO, 25g Protein, 17g Fat)
3oz Chicken, Beef, Fish (Seared, Grilled, Broiled) (21g Protein, 1g Fat) (Palm Size)
½ cup Potato/Rice/Quinoa (21g Cho, 3g Protein)
1-cup Vegetable (carrots, peppers, broccoli, asparagus, spinach etc) (15g CHO)
Use 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil to Prepare food (14g Fat) (Less if Fatty Meat)
Meal 5: (35g CHO, 22g Protein, 10g Fat)
1 Light & Fit Greek Yogurt (OR Plain GY with 2 Tsp Honey)(11g CHO, 12g Protein)
¼ cup Bear Naked 10g Protein Granola (13g CHO, 10g Protein, 5g Fat)
2 tsp Dark Chocolate Chips (9g CHO, 5g Fat)
*On Non exercise Days skip chocolate and granola in yogurt (OR remove 20g CHO elsewhere in plan)
Recommendations provided by Andrew M. Wade, RDN, LDN. Andrew is a Registered Dietitian, and owner of Case Specific Nutrition in Pittsburgh, PA. Nutrition counseling for sports performance, weight loss, and healthy lifestyle available for individuals, families and groups. As a part of the CityFit initiative, employees are eligible to meet with Andrew for free.
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