A common issue among new fitness enthusiasts is their lack of understanding of proper nutrition – what it is, what it does and what it has to do with training. Most either start out by believing that more strength and more muscle means more food, so they eat more of anything and everything, without paying attention to their timing or menu.
The same goes for people wanting to lose weight, as they cut their portions in half, depriving their bodies of not just calories, but nutrients as well, believing that losing fat boils down to less food. And while we can all benefit from some basic nutrition guidelines, remembering that everyone has specific fitness goals, diverse potential and physiological needs is crucial. So, how do you adapt your diet to complement, and not hinder your performance?
Define Your Goals
Generalization rarely works. In fact, statements such as “low carb is healthy” means one thing for a first-timer at the gym who is trying to get rid of love handles, and a completely different thing for a decade-long weightlifter who is also an ectomorph by nature.
A balance among your macro nutrients is necessary, so if you are a healthy, active adult, you need your meals to contain up to 40% of healthy, unprocessed carbs (meaning fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds), and up to 30% proteins and healthy fats.
This basic principle is tailored for our imaginary ideal mesomorph, so it will vary depending on what your goal is, to lose fat or gain more muscle, and on your body type. Typically, it’s beneficial for muscle-gaining ectomorphs to increase the amount of carbs, while the weight-losing endomorph will need to lower their carb intake and increase the amount of proteins and fats.
Rest and Hydrate
Minding your food without plenty of regular hydration and quality rest will do absolutely no good for your health or your performance. Your body and your mind cannot operate well without these two ingredients, even if we leave strenuous activities that will further drain you out of the equation. Headaches, nausea, chronic fatigue and longer recovery are just some of the things on the long list of consequences that occur when your body lacks water and proper rest.
To boost your body’s ability to heal and recuperate, it’s common practice among athletes to stimulate recovery with healthy cannabis edibles and concentrates, which can reduce muscle soreness due to intense training and can improve your recovery rate. An occasional deep-tissue massage can also serve as one of the best methods to help your body heal, decrease pain and rid you of toxins that will boost your performance. Find your own plan and stick with it to ensure years of proper lifting.
Find Your Rhythm
This is a complex issue involving your sleeping patterns, working schedule, daily hydration needs, physiological needs and your overall health. Having a basic food allergy or a skin condition can alter your diet significantly, so the greatest advice you can get is to listen to your body.
This means that if your daily rhythm is out of whack and you’re sleeping until 2pm and having a single meal every day, you’ll need to make some changes if you are serious about your gains, because there’s no way your performance is top-notch in this state. Then again, even a slight turbulence in a serious athlete’s diet can make a difference in their gym performance on that day.
That’s why you need to plan your meals according to your training loads, sleeping patterns and work schedule, so that neither interrupts or messes up the other. Be careful with your cheat meals, steer clear of junk food, and make sure that your food is serving its purpose, which is supplying you with long-lasting, healthy energy levels.
An imbalanced diet can cause numerous issues, from chronic or autoimmune conditions, lowered immune response, lack of energy, all the way to slower recovery rates, thus affecting your glorious performance at the gym. Instead of just randomly and hastily deciding on your food gains-plan, take a more tactical approach and unlock your lifting potential with the help of a well-balanced diet.
Samantha Olivier has a B.S. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Ripped.me, or in a tea shop.