(Article written for City Fitness - October's national newsletter).
Ask 100 people what is right for your nutritional needs and you'll probably get close to 100 answers. The below approaches work for me, and the biggest point to remember is that we are all unique, and (within reason) there is no 'right' or 'wrong'…as long as the food you are eating is assisting you towards your goals. Do what works for you, and chat to people who can assist.
A few pointers...
Snack and Graze
There is a reason why many sumo wrestlers eat only two meals per day. The approach is to slow down their metabolic rate. Lets do the opposite - eat a well portioned breakfast, with (healthy!) snacks of fruit between lunch and dinner. This sees you essentially snacking all day, and your focus is to limit dinner to be around the same size as lunch. Dinner needn't be the largest meal of the day. Breakfast is very important - never skip this meal. (Breakfast happens to also be the meal skipped by Sumo wrestlers).
- Carbs are the food that provide you a lot of your energy. Simple carbohydrates are your sugars (eg. lollies and chocolate). Complex carbohydrates are your longer burning fuels (eg. potatoes and baked beans). Try to consume foods that provide longer burning fuel - this will give you more bang for your buck in terms of the same number of calories fuelling your body for longer.
I personally think that 'fats' get a bit of stick unnecessarily. For example, I have no problem adding butter to bread - the butter becomes a problem if you are grabbing six slices of bread to go with your meal. Moderation is key. (As is keeping in mind that good fats are essential for our bodies, and exist in the form of for example avocados, nuts, and seeds).
Just hearing the word "Protein" puts me in my happy place. Protein is excellent for recovery, as it assists in the repair of muscles. Some people are big on protein powders, with others preferring to eat additional meat, fish, and diary products. I think this really boils down to convenience, personal preference, and costs.
'Good' foods versus 'Bad' foods
Shifting away from a 'Good' / 'Bad' mindset of food will assist you greatly. A slice of chocolate cake is not 'Bad' - it is giving you additional calories and also additional enjoyment to your day. Positive and negative labels often overly simplify the situations we encounter. Take a step back and assess what you are eating and how this matches your goals. (Writing down everything you eat for a week can be interesting!)
A few tips...
- Focus on a balanced diet and sensible exercise (as pposed to your "weight"). This will lead to a happier life.
- If you feel sick during training, then assess what you have eaten. (This is something you can easily avoid with sensible eating based around training).
- Never skip meals or avoid food during extended (multi hour) training sessions. I know of cyclists who do this to "lose weight". This is not sustainable.
A final thought - people often eat 'treats' and wish they hadn't, or conversely avoid 'treats' and possibly wish they had enjoyed them. Try this - eat what you want and occasionally assess, examine, and contemplate your GOALS.
Food is not the problem. Problems arise if the way in which you approach your goals is not aligned with the actual goals you have set for yourself. You have the ability to succeed.
Link to City Fitness article located here...