7th November 2016.
When you climb into your car and turn the key in the ignition slot, what happens? A spark ignites the fuel and starts a powerful chain reaction that sustains the engine and allows you to move forward. As long as you have petrol in the tank, you'll have the ability to move. When the wrong kind of liquid gets into the fuel tank ? like water ? your performance can suffer, and the engine might seize altogether. OK, but what's the point of the car metaphor? The fact is, your body is a lot like the internal combustion engine ? it needs an immense amount of the right energy to function at peak performance. Never is that fact more relevant than when you're exercising and pursuing physical fitness.
We hear the phrase "diet and exercise" all of the time, but seldom do we focus in on how important a role food plays in successful exercise. Your diet can have a significant impact on developing and maintaining your performance. It's possible to get very precise about your nutrient intake, and it's also possible to take more of a "big picture" approach. Either way, focusing on developing solid dietary habits is just as important as remembering to hit the gym or go for a run every day. Let's take a more in-depth look at the impact diet has on your body, plus some tips for improving your workout through better eating.
How does diet help you improve performance?
It's one thing to understand that your body converts food into energy your muscles can use. However, it's another thing entirely to grasp how different sources of energy impact your body's performance. Every nutrient type brings with it benefits and sometimes drawbacks. For example, simple carbohydrates like
sugary drinks might provide you with a lot of energy right away, but you'll also experience a blood sugar crash
that can sap your energy. However, your body quickly breaks carbs down into the components cells need for energy. That's why they're often a good snack before a heavy workout.
When you're training hard and trying to make gains, the last thing you want to experience is a sudden slump in your ability mid-workout. That can happen when you haven't eaten properly before going to the gym. Structuring your diet carefully by paying attention to your macronutrient intake can help avoid this all too common problem. The right diet can also contribute to reducing fatigue, enabling you to enjoy improved recovery times after strenuous fitness days. In time, that means an expanded ability to get back to working out sooner ? which means improving capacity and fitness. What are macronutrients, though? Why are they so important?
What you need to know about macro-nutrients
To break it down to its most basic, macronutrients are the three major kinds of nutrients your body uses for energy production. You're already familiar with these macronutrients by their more common names: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. While we, of course, need a variety of minerals and vitamins in our diet to be healthy as well, these macronutrients ? or macros ? are the most important. Understanding the
role they play, and the impact they have on your fitness can help you to restructure your diet more thoughtfully.
There are a number of reasons
to start keeping a much closer eye on your macro consumption. First, it can be a good learning experience. By becoming more actively aware of your nutrition, you can better examine the impacts it has on your workout routine. This awareness creates opportunities for experimenting with your diet and finding the combination that works best for your body.
Next, consider that tracking your macros for a time will give you a better sense of portion control. This understanding alone is an immense help when it comes to refining your diet before exercise. Especially if your goal is to lose weight, knowing your macros can be quite helpful. Let's look at each one and think about how they affect your ability to exercise.
Choosing your carbs carefully
Carbs are one of the most abundant nutrients
? it's not hard to find them everywhere, from simple sugars to complex carbs like those found in starches and grains. From the body's point of view, carbs are the primary source of energy for all the body's functions, meaning that it's very easy to go overboard, however. Too many carbs can mean an excessive caloric intake, which can make you feel sluggish during workouts.
It also makes weight loss difficult.
Nonetheless, that doesn't mean you should switch to a carb-free diet
. Instead, it's important to focus on when and how much you eat each day. Consider the snack we mentioned earlier. Nibbling on some healthy carbs before a workout means your body will receive its energy just as you're beginning to tire. That means you'll perk back up and be able to keep on going.
Meanwhile, you'll want to maintain your energy levels throughout the day. Your body is continually in recovery after every workout; eating regular portions of carbs throughout the day fuels your body to keep on rebuilding and improving. Consider adding more berries, legumes, and even a little extra dairy to your diet as you begin to improve your healthy carb intake.
When is the best time to load up on protein?
Next, let's talk about proteins. Protein is perhaps one of the most difficult areas of fitness and diet to grasp, only because everyone seems to have a different answer. Think about just how many protein bars, powders, and other products you've seen on store shelves. Nonetheless, there's no better nutrient for
building muscle mass and improving performance than protein. Your body needs the complex amino acids contained within proteins; they're the building blocks for repairing and improving your muscles. Whether you're focusing on endurance or developing power, providing your body with the proper amount of protein at the right time is crucial.
First, consider consuming whey protein before your workout
to provide your body with an initial store of energy to consume. This store can help boost endurance, letting you push through more reps. However, the most important consumption comes after you leave the gym. Your muscles are in extreme need of the chemical materials protein provides after you've finished sweating for the day. You can choose whey or casein proteins here. Of course, you can also turn to lean proteins like chicken breast to provide your body with the necessary nutrients.
Figuring out the fats in your diet
Finally, we turn to the dreaded "F" word ? fats! Long demonised, the reality is that there are "good" fats, "bad" fats, and the simple fact that your body needs them for proper function. Their value is especially evident when you are training for endurance. By eating the right fats, your body can metabolise them
before you begin using the energy your body has available from carbs. In other words, proper fat
consumption can lead to better, longer workouts. Balancing the fats in your diet can be difficult, however. Step one is to wean yourself off of extra fatty fried foods. Switching to fish like tuna and salmon will provide an excellent source of dietary fat in addition to protein.
Fats should constitute just under a quarter of your total diet. To give yourself the energy you need from fat for consistent exercise, add more nuts to your diet. These are excellent for easy snacking throughout the day. Peanut butter is another good source of healthful fats. While there is much more to learn about fats, understanding its role is a good beginning. Focus on developing a stable balance between fats and your other macros, and you'll never have to worry about running on empty during a workout. Instead, you can fuel up with confidence in your ability to make gains.
Start eating right and push yourself harder
It's obvious that what you feed yourself as fuel matters. Once you make changes, seeing the effects of improving your diet shouldn't take long. Once you begin to eat more healthfully, you'll find it is much easier to maintain your current level of fitness. When you start to push yourself to go farther and harder, the right diet ? eaten at the right times ? will allow you to find the gains just beyond your current plateau. From understanding when carbs are best for you to fuelling with the proper proteins, there's a lot to consider. However, with practice and a little homework of your own, you can create a delicious diet that meets all your fitness needs.