Many of us have been here. You’ve committed yourself to going to the gym on a consistent basis, but you aren’t seeing the results you want. The next step is to take control of your relationship with food – an essential part of your fitness journey. If you think of fitness as a math equation, you must add physical activity and nutrition together to get the final sum = the body you want. Like two peas in a pod, exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand, and it is essential that you develop a customized nutrition plan, tailored to your specific needs, in order to successfully reach your goals.
Often, we justify binge eating or poor food choices after a good workout, however, the fact that you burned calories at the gym does NOT mean that you can eat whatever you are craving! This approach results in your exercise efforts being wasted.
You may have heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” – which is absolutely correct.
Fitness goals come in many shapes and sizes including body re-composition, fat loss, muscle gain, increased energy and improved performance. No matter your fitness goals, your approach to nutrition will have significant impact on your end results.
Now, the word “diet” is often misunderstood and is commonly thought to be boring, hard to follow, strict, or only meant for those who want to achieve weight loss. However, with the right guidance, diet can be thought of as:
- An investment towards long-term health and longevity
Diet should be treated as a strategy to achieve your fitness goals, including feeling great every single day! In the end, your determination and dedication outside of the gym will dictate your results.
There are many reasons to pay attention to what you eat. I’ve outlined 4 key points below to assist you in developing your customized nutrition plan.
Key Success Factors for Following a Nutrition Plan:
- Not All Calories are Made Equal
Different foods with the same number of calories cannot be treated the same as they have different characteristics that will impact your body in different ways. In the end, your choice or caloric intake will impact the effectiveness of your workouts. For example, 100 cal from a vegetable (i.e. broccoli) is very different than 100 cal from a processed food (i.e. bread) and will interact with your body in different ways.
My recommendation: eat whole foods, high in dietary fiber and nutrients instead of processed foods which are low in fiber and nutrients. Examples: vegetables, healthy fats, high-quality animal protein
|Whole Foods||Processed Foods|
|Leafy green vegetables||Wheat/grains|
|Low glycemic fruits||High glycemic fruits|
|Starchy roots (cassava, taro, yams)||Cured meats|
- Quality Food = Quality Results
In addition to making strategic choices on the type of calories you ingest, the quality of the foods you choose are just as important. Large-scale agriculture and associate farming methods result in many proteins and vegetables that lack important macro- and micronutrients. A clear example is farmed salmon or corn-fed cattle which have skewed nutritional profiles which lack important vitamins and fatty acids. Not having these important vitamins and fatty acids in your diet can lead to life-long issues such as chronic inflammation.
My recommendation: choose pastured animal products and bi products. Examples: wild fish, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, etc.
- Food Choices Impact your Hormones
After your body digests and absorbs the food you eat, different hormonal reactions and processes occur. For example, carbohydrates and sugar result in an immediate insulin spike which tells your body to absorb glucose for energy metabolism. On the opposite end of the spectrum, healthy fats and proteins trigger leptin, glucagon, and growth hormones, most commonly felt as feeling satisfied and alert.
My recommendation: be conscious of the quality of your foods by picking the best source of carbohydrates (low glycemic index) and high-quality proteins and fats
- Calorie Tracking
We all know that it is far too easy to overeat high-calorie foods. I always encourage anyone who is looking to improve their fitness journey to use an electronic scale and phone app to track your daily caloric intake. Think of each bite of food as having an impact on your end results, where high-calorie foods with low nutritional value negatively impact your ability to each your goals. Meal prepping can make your ability to stay on track that much easier. It simply becomes a habit or routine which you will quickly get used to. It is also important to remember that consistency is key.
There are many different types of diets that people choose to incorporate into their daily routine, however, not all these diets are valuable or match the solution you require. Your body and needs are unique to you.
My recommendation: as a general guideline, diets such as paleo, the zone, and keto are the most effective. Explore various dietary choices and strategies to see what works best for you. After implementing a diet change see how your body feels both at rest and when your body is performing under stress.