We often think that improving our fitness simply means spending more time on the treadmill or the stationary bike. But the fact is, your diet can (and does!) play a major role in your fitness.
Here are eight expert tips to help you tailor your diet for maximum fitness improvement.
1. Up your protein intake…
To get fitter, you have to build more lean muscle. And to do this, you have to increase your protein intake, especially after training. Include more lean proteins (think chicken and fish) in your meals. And consider using a protein supplement, like whey protein, after your workouts. Not only will this improve your muscle tone, it’ll also help with recovery.
Remember, carbohydrates provide your body with a very valuable source of energy. If you want to get fitter, you’ll be increasing your activity levels. And to do this successfully, you’ll have to increase your carb intake. Of course, not all carbs are created equal. Aim for high quality complex carbs, such as whole grains with lots of fibre.
3. Clean it up
It’s a fact: You won’t get the best of your workouts (or your body) unless you’re eating clean. And clean food is nutrient-dense; it doesn’t contain additives or excessive fat or sugar. It’s definitely not processed.
Green veggies are more fibrous than their colourful counterparts, which means they keep you fuller for longer. As an added bonus, they are the ideal fat loss food, since your body actually expends more energy burning these fibrous veggies than it derives from the food itself. What’s more, these veggies regulate blood glucose and insulin – two substances that play a role in fat storage – because they come from the leaves of plants, which are lower in carbohydrate than root veggies such as potatoes or carrots. Leaves are also nutrient-dense, which means you get more nutrition per bite than other food stuffs.
5. Go natural
Modern food preparation techniques, including processing and the addition of additives and preservatives reduces the nutritional value of food while simultaneously increasing the calorie content. Obviously, these foods are bad for your health (nevermind your waistline!). Eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible to ensure that you get all the nutritional value out of these foodstuffs. In fact, science has shown us that people who eat a diet rich in natural and raw foods enjoy increased longevity and vitality, because they eat substantially fewer calories (but very nutrient-dense foods.) Many raw foodists consume only about 1000 calories a day, but due to the nutrient-density of these foods they are fit, healthy and can sustain an active lifestyle.
When you’re very active, you lose a lot of water through sweat. It’s important to replace this lost water, by drinking between two and three litres of water each day. If you’re exercising outdoors, in a warm environment or at high intensities you may even require more. Remember that water is also an essential constituent in a number of biological processes. Even mild dehydration can affect your performance, concentration levels and make you lethargic during the day.
7. Take the time to eat well
Your meals are essential, since they give your hard-working body and growing muscles the nutrients they need to grow and recover. So give your meals the attention and enjoyment they deserve. Rather than multi-tasking your way through each bite (watching TV while you eat, or answering emails), enjoy it. Chew properly and get the best out of your food. It’s also wise to rotate your food choices so that you don’t eat the exact same thing day after day. This keeps mealtimes interesting and ensures you don’t skip meals (or get takeaways) due to boredom.
Eating smaller meals more often means that you’re feeding your body with a steady supply of nutrients throughout the day. This offers you sustained energy and reduces the chances that you will store excess calories as fat. Eating more often also boosts your metabolism as your body burns energy when digesting these meals. This offers further assistance with your weight loss efforts.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Co-Publisher at Maverick Media and until recently, Fitness Magazine editor. Tanja now manages multiple digital platforms, consults and create exciting campaigns and opportunities in the fitness industry. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.