We all know that we need to eat more when training but do we know we need to eat less when not training. How many of us continue to eat the same amount of food per day even on a recovery day and wonder why we aren’t losing any weight or losing body fat. It’s not rocket science but many of us have no real idea what we should be eating to fuel our bodies during exercise and afterwards.
The body needs certain foods to provide the muscles with enough energy to be able to function properly and that’s why we need a variety of good fats, protein and carbohydrates. You may think that fats are bad for the body and some are, such as trans-fat found in processed foods. We should avoid these if at all possible and opt for the more healthy fats such as polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are a great energy source, also providing Omega 3, an essential fatty acid which can be found in salmon and mackerel. Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory and will reduce the risk of injuries and chronic disease. Good Fats also provide essential vitamins A,D,E, and K which are absorbed by the body. They also regulate the blood sugar levels by prompting the pancreas to produce insulin allowing the nutrients to get to your muscles much quicker. By eating the good fats your body feels fuller for longer so you are less likely to snack. Good fats are essential as it protects all your organs, nerves and tissues and assists with the growth of new healthy cells. It produces hormones and maintains healthy skin, hair and nails.
Foods such as eggs, fish, chicken, beef, tofu or quorn are a good source of proteins which are required by the body as they maintain the strength of cells and tissues. Proteins help to regulate metabolism and produce the necessary hormones. Proteins also repair muscles tissue and will strengthen your immune system. Protein is essential for maintaining a healthy body.
Many people will take whey protein as a supplement or hemp and pea as the vegan choice as it reaches the muscles quickly to repair and rebuild muscle fibres after training. Whey protein can be added to smoothies and used as a pre or post workout meal and taken within an hour of exercising will help with the recovery process and also stop you from eating whatever you can find in the fridge or cupboard. Remember this is a supplement, it is not a substitute for protein rich foods.
Carbohydrates can be found in pasta, bread and rice. These types of food are a great energy source for the muscles during exercise. However, carbohydrates are energy rich and must be balanced with your level of activity. It is a bit of a myth that not eating carbohydrates after 6pm will help you lose weight. After 6pm maybe the time you do your exercise, exactly when your body needs the carbohydrates to fuel itself. However, by eating the right amount to the amount of energy used is a more sensible approach to losing fat. Eating over and above our bodies’ demands is what makes us store excess energy as fat. Carbohydrates also contain fibre which is good for digestion and help maintain the nervous system, kidneys and muscles and maintain healthy brain functions.
Much of our excess carbohydrate comes from eating and drinking high energy foods and drinks. These are generally sweet processed foods and high sugar or alcoholic drinks. It is unrealistic to avoid all these products but try to avoid too many treats during any one week and try only treating yourself after you have worked out.
Most of us like to have a drink or two but alcohol is high in calories and will help you to put weight on. If you drink less you will be leaner and will reduce your stored fat overall. I’m not saying don’t have any at all but in small quantities if you are serious about your training becoming leaner to become faster.
It is really important to keep hydrated by drinking at least 2-4 litres of water per day. Carry a water bottle with you daily so you can easily keep it topped up as this will help to regulate your body’s core temperature and will lubricate all your joints. It will also assist with fat loss as it gets rid of the waste products from your body. If you are like me I hate drinking plain water, so add some sliced lemon or lime to it to add some much needed flavour. On many occasions when you feel hungry you are actually thirsty and that drink of water will make you feel better than consuming a bar of chocolate or a bag of crisps.
We all lead very busy lives so being prepared is going to be key to losing weight. It always helps to plan your workouts for one particular period and then plan your meals around those workouts. You will need to have lots of essential ingredients in your store cupboard so a shopping trip maybe required. Having some storage containers will allow you to cook your meals in advance and then store in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for longer. It will require you cooking these meals at the weekend but you can then take them out as and when required. You will be less likely to snack or grab a take away. When making your meals, be accurate in weighing the ingredients and try to control your portion sizes so as not to over or under eat.
There is no fast way to lose weight, it’s a steady process over a period of weeks or months and requires a change of lifestyle and a desire to change.