How to Fuel Your Body Like an Athlete
If you're thinking this article isn't for me because you think you're not an athlete, you're wrong!
If you work out on a regular basis, you ARE an athlete. Simply making that mental shift, will boost your fitness to the next level because you'll start taking care of your body in a more mindful way.
When athletes look to build strength, endurance, speed or overall fitness, they pay just as much attention to their nutrition as they do to their workouts. Like any engine, the human body needs the right fuel to maintain performance.
This is the key: Eat whole, healthful foods - in the right amounts - at the right time.
Here's what we mean:
Eat a combination of protein, carbohydrate & fat at every meal & snack.
Benefits: keeps your brain & body fueled between meals.
Eat as many whole foods as possible: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, legumes, lean protein.
Benefits: Helps your body get the nutrients it needs to exercise, recover from workouts, and stay healthy.
Listen to your body's hunger & satiety cues and eat only until you are 80% full. (This takes practice!)
Benefits: Prevents you from overeating so that you can reach & maintain a healthy weight.
Eat every 2-3 hours throughout the day. In the AAY! system, a typical day's meal plan consists of: breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner.
It's important to fuel your body before & after you exercise. Depending on when you work out, you can adjust your meals. For example, you can eat half of your morning snack before your workout, eat breakfast after the workout, and then eat the rest of your morning snack a couple hours later.
Benefits: Keeps your energy levels high, your blood sugar balanced, and your appetite in check.
Timing is perhaps the most important and least understood of these components. With the recent popularity of "intermittent fasting," many people are forcing themselves to go longer & longer between meals in an effort to lose weight.
But the truth is, skipping meals leads to decreased energy levels and a drop in blood sugar. This can cause headaches & fatigue while robbing your body of the nutrients it needs for muscle growth and repair.
Why feel miserable, when you can reach your goals eating healthy food in the right amounts throughout the day?
If nothing else, remember this: inadequate nutrition will lead to impaired athletic performance and increased risk of injury and illness.
Want an example of a simple one-week meal plan that puts all of these elements together? We invite you to try our One Week Menu with one-stop shopping at Trader Joe's.