To get the best out of your body, you have to think about your diet. Training will sharpen your skills and execution of your game. However, if you neglect diet, your body might not have access to sufficient energy to function at its best. What’s worse is that it may result in higher chances for injuries in the long run. For this reason, any athlete should be conscious of what they eat and how much.
Although the word “diet” might make you immediately think of weight loss or fat loss programs, a diet is simply the sum of the food you consume. A person’s diet determines the nutrients that they get and these nutrients can be mainly classified into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you get from your food. Micronutrients are the different vitamins and minerals you get from them. Both are equally important for your body’s functions as the macronutrients provide the energy while micronutrients play crucial roles in various body processes as well as in the repair, protection, and growth of your body.
Workout Meals and Nutrition
If you have felt sluggish in the middle of a training or workout session, this is probably because your body is running low on fuel. And when your body is lacking energy reserves, you won’t be able to perform at your best.
To make sure that you last and perform at your best all throughout a workout or training session, you would need to properly feed your body before to get the energy it needs. But, make sure to watch not to eat more than you need to avoid unnecessary fat gain.
Pre-workout meals should consist of mainly carbohydrates as they are easily digested – this is the fastest way to get the energy to fuel intense workouts. You don’t have to worry about whether the carbs you’re eating are high or low in the glycemic index (GI) as research has shown that there is no difference in end performance.
For protein, it is advisable to incorporate an easily absorbed source into your meal. Tests in various research studies have shown that pre-workout intake of whey protein powder leads to increased physical performance during workouts.
Other than carbohydrates and protein in your pre-workout meal, keep it low on fats and oils as they take a long time to digest. Add to this fact that they also make you feel full, they might make your workouts uncomfortable.
However, if you follow the ketogenic diet (high fat, more on this later in the article) or any other more fat-adapted diet such as low carb, it is recommended you consume fats prior to workouts since they will be providing you with your energy (without slowing you down since you are adapted to them). By far the best high-fat pre-workout fuel is a fat-infused coffee. Basically, you use butter and MCT oil instead of cream/milk in your coffee. We also recommend a low carb coffee creamer which are readily available on the market.
Ideally, pre-workout meals are to be taken two hours before training. Examples of good meals before a workout are a protein shake or bar, a serving of low-fat yogurt with banana, or a half cup of oatmeal with berries.
Post Workout Meals
After working out, your nutritional focus should be for your body’s rest and recovery. A post-workout meal should provide plenty of nutrients to replenish depleted stores of muscle glycogen and to promote muscle repair and growth. This meal should have balanced amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat or else muscle growth might be hampered. This meal should ideally be taken within 30 minutes after your workout.
Your carbohydrates should be rich in fibre, which are also known as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates do not raise your blood sugar dramatically as they are absorbed slowly into your bloodstream. The rapid rise of blood sugar will trigger your body to release insulin, which will store the excess glucose in your fat cells instead of muscles.
For protein in your post-workout meal, it is important that you choose the right kind. Protein is the macronutrient responsible for building and repairing muscles, and these processes are at their peak after a workout.
Whey is the best source as it is quickly and easily absorbed by the body. Other than that, whey increases the production of your body’s growth hormone IGF-1, which boosts muscle growth and prevents inflammation. It also has leucine, a kind of amino acid which is excellent for building and repairing skeletal muscle tissue. Recommended intake is 0.5-1 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight. If you want more animo acids before going into your workout, you could get the best bcaa supplement.
For fats, food rich in omega-3 fatty acids can prevent inflammation, which would otherwise promote soreness post-workout. Examples of foods high in omega-3 are chia seeds, flaxseed oil, spinach, walnut, and oily fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
Different Diets for Different Goals
If you’re an endurance athlete or simply aiming for fat loss, a high fat and low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet is ideal. This diet takes advantage of your body’s capability to process body fat for energy. With a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in fat, the body adapts to using fat from your diet and body to meet all its energy needs, this is called a state of ketosis.
When your body gets used to using fat for energy, it uses the energy stored in your fat more readily whenever your blood sugar runs low, instead of making you hungry and craving for a carbohydrate-rich meal. This results in a more efficient way of losing unwanted body fat.
For high endurance athletes, this type of diet is recommended as it primes their bodies into getting used to utilizing body fat for fuel. However, a regimen of targeted ketogenic diet, wherein a high meal of carbohydrates is consumed before periods of increased physical activity every 3 days, is recommended for high performance or building muscle. Also, remember that the total daily carbohydrate intake for an athlete is higher than that of a person gearing for fat loss.
On the other hand, athletes who engage in high-intensity activities should make sure that they eat enough carbohydrates to keep performance up in competitions. Activities like sprinting and power-lifting need more readily available energy, which only glucose can provide. Moreover, not having enough carbohydrates could be detrimental to performance as the body will seek glucose from breaking down muscle, which could decrease muscle mass and strength.
Aside from providing easily accessible fuel for your body, carbohydrates are beneficial for an athlete’s rest and recovery. Carbohydrates cause your body to release insulin, which reduces the stress hormone cortisol for faster recovery. It also stimulates the production of serotonin, which is then converted during sleep to melatonin, the hormone that promotes deep sleep.
Our body contains many different kinds of hormones. Aside from the commonly known testosterone and estrogen, our body utilizes different hormones to tell our body what to do and when to do it. Our feeling of hunger and the feeling of being sated from a meal are both induced by our hormones. In addition, the development of our body is also managed by our hormones. Any imbalances to the system can cause your body to function inefficiently, which would negatively show in your athletic performance.
For this reason, maintaining a healthy hormonal balance is crucial. To protect this natural balance in your body, the key is to wisely choose the right macronutrients and avoiding the wrong ones.
For example, you might want to avoid GMO produce and those with artificial growth hormones, as they may disrupt the function of your endocrine gland, which is in charge of hormonal balance. That’s also why following a healthy and organic diet is ideal. Moreover, following a lifestyle that avoids exposure to chemicals and plastics that disrupt your hormones will go a long way.
One doesn’t have to be an athlete to feel the effects of a well-planned-out healthy diet for the physical demands your body goes through. Even in training, a proper diet goes a long way as it ensures that you get used to being on top of your game and continuously surpassing it, again and again. So long as you listen to your body and eat what you’re designed to eat, your body will reward you with its optimal performance.
Guest Post by Alex Eriksson
Alex Eriksson is the founder of the testosterone blog Anabolic Health, dedicated to providing honest and research-backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.