Let's face it, it’s a topic that we have all struggled with over the years which is not really surprising given the number of conflicting ideas available in the busy fitness market we work and play in today!
I’ve spent at least 5 years jumping from FAD to FAD diet, seeing improvements, taking my foot off the gas and going back to where I started, if not worse. I never performed to anywhere near my highest potential, and spent a small portion of the year in good shape.
You want to know the secret? Keeping it Simple...
“If you have ever heard me talking recently you surely would have heard me using the expression you cannot outwork a bad diet, but a bad diet can surely leave you outworked.“
I don’t want to add fuel to the fire, I simply want to explain the basic relationship between food and exercise, performance and recovery.
Firstly, what does food do for us?
Gives us energy.
Just as a car requires petrol or diesel to power its engine and generate energy, we need fuel – in the form of food – to power our continued existence, thoughts, recovery from illness, fuel our workouts and help us recover from training. The foods we eat provide us with a range of nutrients: carbohydrates, fat, protein, water vitamins and minerals and fibre.
How does that help with training?
Carbohydrates are converted into energy the quickest and the human body relies heavily on the stored carbohydrates (glycogen) as its main energy source. These are stored in the liver and muscle tissues, most of us can store around 1200-1500 kcals in the body if eating effectively.
For workouts of higher intensity or for less than 40 minutes, performance will generally drop if there’s nothing in these stores, you may feel lethargic as your body searches for fats or proteins to use up.
Another great energy source that we have is fat, stored as internal fat and the very visible and annoying external fats. In foods they are also great for keeping us fuller for longer. With fat calories, the body typically likes using these during low-intensity, prolonged exercise.
For example if running a 10km, half marathon or marathon your body will begin to work its way through the carb stores mentioned above. When they are running low it will begin to take energy from our fat stores. If you choose to take a sugary drink or gel along the way, your body will simply go back and use up the kcals from the sugar in those and then transition back to using fats.
If you are an endurance athlete, fats should be at least 30%+ of your diet, as this is a really important source of energy for longer aerobic based sessions.
This guy gets more hype than a Taylor Swift track. Why is it important? Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. It is also a pretty good energy source as a back up. Your muscle tissues are made up completely of protein so when you train you are asking them to grow to cope with the new demands on the muscles. Eating more protein will help speed up that process. Simple.
No need to go mad on it, somewhere in the range of 1 – 1.5 grams per kg of your bodyweight should facilitate growth.
If your protein intake isn't high enough, you won’t recover as quickly. In the fitness game recovery is key, it allows to you to apply your best self every workout. Underperformance = Lack of development.
Lack of water causes dehydration in the joints ligaments and muscles, and the body won’t work without it. Secondly, the body will be fatigued and its systems will slow down. Thirdly, it actually causes water retention (feeling bloated & wobbly). If you aren’t running to the toilet at least 6/7 times a day, start guzzling more water!
VITAMINS & MINERALS
We get different types from different food groups, some of them are essential for energy production, recovery, sleep and keeping your immune system high. Eating a well balanced diet is the best way to sure you aren’t skipping any. Although I wouldn’t say they are performance enhancers, if you’re low on them you will not be at 100%. (Eat Right)
It is the broom of our internals, constantly cleaning our digestive tract. Fibre carries away the waste products of muscle production. If waste builds up in the body it can lead to an increase in fat mass and poor overall health.
So how does that all fit together and apply to your day of training? Once again this is a very simplified version.
In my opinion no food groups are your enemy, however the timing and quantity of those foods is of upmost importance. Have a look at this example of my daily food plan below, it usually has me sitting on somewhere between 10-12% body fat year round.
Interested in finding out more about what you should be eating and why you should be eating it? Would you like to push your performance to the next level with your diet? Maybe you need some more examples of types of foods?
I would love to hear from you with any questions you have I understand it has been a bit of a whistlestop!
Yours in fitness,
About the author
Ryan is a very goal orientated strength and conditioning coach has come from a nutrition background.
Ryan uses a holistic approach to his clients' health and fitness ensuring they have a firm understanding of diet , lifestyle and exercise. Using this 360 degree format it makes him a great Body Transformation Coach whether you want to simply tone up or pack on some lean tissue.