How to eat your way to fitness
Playing sport at an elite level is sure to teach you a thing or five about fitness and what the ideal diet is to fuel any type of training - whether it's strength, cardio or just generally getting fit for life. So we asked fitness expert Dan (he's just signed on as ambassador for sports nutrition co. Body Science) to take us through the 'fittest' way to eat whether the goal is to get leaner via cardio, build bigger muscles via strength or even just kick start an exercise program from scratch.
Here Dan matches foods to training type for optimal slimline or muscled-up results:
Should we eat differently depending on what training we do?
Yes... you use more energy and different muscle groups depending on what training you're doing.
For example, if you work on your legs/ lower body, you're using bigger muscle groups than when you train your upper body. This means you should eat more on a 'leg' day to help your muscles repair.
If, however you do a heavy lifting session, you should eat more that day (if you worked hard) than if you do a yoga session. If you run a half marathon (21kms) versus doing a 45-minute barre class, you should eat more after running.
When it comes to health and fitness, one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt... is listen to your body, some days we're hungrier than others, and some days we're more tired than others so learn to tune in and pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.
As a rule of thumb, I would increase my protein, supplement and healthy carb intake on a day that I am working the bigger muscle groups.
What specifically should we eat for each training type, eg cardio, strength etc?
Cardio: When you do a cardio session, the goal is generally to improve your cardiovascular endurance or to help assist with weight loss. I prefer to complete my cardio sessions earlier in the day on an empty stomach as it helps me tap into my fat stores (great in the lead up to summer).
If your cardio goal is to drop kilos try a diet high in good fats and low in carbohydrates - when the body doesn't have enough glucose for energy it burns stored fats. Examples include chicken breast, avocado, healthy nuts such as walnuts, lots of bright coloured fruit and vegetables and occasionally sweet potato or pumpkin.
Your body uses large amounts of energy during cardio, which can often leave you feeling ravenous post-workout. It's important not to gorge on foods that may be high GI or processed which are essentially empty calories.
Strength (like squats and lifting weights): These types of exercises require nearly every muscle in your body. Adding weights increases the intensity of the exercise so you need more energy to fuel that. When you do this type of workout eat a little more fat and protein, you could also add a lean protein supplement like Body Science HydroxyBurn Lean 5 which contains a complete amino acid profile to help build and maintain lean muscle as well as aid recovery.
Light exercise: Whether you take a gentle yoga class or go for a light walk, restorative exercises are great to keep the body moving, but you won't need as much to refuel, replenish and recover. On these days, eat less and super clean, i.e. nothing refined, nothing processed and nothing high GI. It's okay to have these days as they're really important for the body to recover. The more we push ourselves the more stress and inflammation we create in the body.
Final food-for-fuel advice?
Remember that glycogen is the body's storage of energy, so if you train on an empty stomach, your body will access stored glycogen for energy expenditure (which is why I like to train in the morning).
Within that energy 'store' are carbohydrates, lipids and protein, which are essential for physical activity and each play a role in performance. Carbohydrates for example are a great source of quick energy for short bursts of expenditure such as sprinting, high intensity interval training etc. Lipids and proteins are useful for endurance exercise which are used for energy. Protein is also especially important post-exercise as it helps to repair and replenish muscles.
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