Working hard at the gym but not seeing results? Your diet may be the cause of this. Pay close attention to these eye-opening tips from F45 sports nutritionist Kim Bowman.
You’ve probably heard the age-old saying, “how you look is based on 30% exercise and 70% diet.” Despite working hard at the gym or fitness studio, you may wonder why you’re not achieving your fitness goals as quickly as you’d like. The truth is, kickstarting your gym routine is just one aspect of fitness. Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle building, or simply improving your overall health, we encourage you to prioritise nutrition before and after your daily sessions. From choosing quality foods to meal timing and adequate portion sizing, these healthy eating tips will help you achieve your fitness and health goals.
Nutrition 101: Top healthy eating tips from a sports nutritionist
Define your goals
The road to better fitness and overall health is a journey, not a destination. You need to ensure your goals are smart and sustainable. The first step in defining your goal? Make it specific, measurable and based on intrinsic motivation. Whether it’s to lose stubborn fat or build up lean muscle, your goal will determine your daily calorie target and optimal macronutrient ratio.
Avoid using vague terms such as “look slimmer” or “look bigger or bulkier”. Instead, make it one that can be tracked over time such as “lose 3% body fat” or “increase 5kg of total lean body mass”. Specific and measurable goals hold us accountable as we track our training progress. They can provide a great sense of achievement once accomplished! Creating unrealistic long-term goals without short-term measurable action steps may end up in disappointment and lead to motivation loss.
It’s only natural to want to see results as fast as possible. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same applies to your fitness journey. Be patient and honest with yourself while considering the hurdles you may face to get there. That will give you the motivation to persevere throughout the course of your fitness journey.
Lastly, a goal isn’t a goal if there’s no finish line. Give yourself a deadline and work towards it instead of procrastinating. Start by making small, sustainable changes to your eating routine. To determine your goal-specific daily calorie intake, we recommend using a calorie calculator, which you can find in a fitness app.
If your fitness goal is fat loss
We often hear about entering “calorie deficit” but what exactly does it refer to? It means that the calories consumed in a day are lower than the calories expended or burned – with or without working out. It’s typically done through “traditional dieting”, which focuses solely on the amount of energy burned. But, that means quality food intake gets overlooked. For example, eating the same amount of calories in junk food will give you a completely different result when compared to quality food like lean protein, healthy fats and unprocessed complex carbohydrates.
A common nutrition misconception? Carbohydrates should be completely excluded from your diet to achieve weight loss. Quality carbs are a key macronutrient when it comes to high-intensity training. But, it’s important to select the right kind. We suggest avoiding processed carbs including white bread, white rice and store-bought baked goods made with refined sugar.
When carbs are processed, essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals are removed. They’re replaced by processed ingredients with refined sugars like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. These offer little to no nutritional value. They also tend to stimulate cravings, making it difficult to stick to a healthy, balanced eating routine.
On the other hand, complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, beans and whole grains contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. They act as a quality post-workout fuel source for weight loss. They’re rich in fibre, which is great for optimal digestion along with regulating blood sugar and curbing cravings.
If your goal is to build muscle
Can you build muscle while on a calorie deficit? Yes, but it’s important to adjust your calorie intake to fit your training routine. Keeping your calorie deficit at approximately 2,000kJ (or 500 calories) is crucial for muscle growth. Carbs are the primary energy source for high-intensity training and building lean muscle mass. Consuming them before and after high-intensity resistance training allows you to maintain a high intensity of exercise and promotes sufficient recovery and positive training adaptations.
Protein is another important nutrient after a workout as it ensures efficient recovery. Protein provides essential amino acids, vitamin B and iron to encourage the growth of lean muscle. It’s best consumed within 20 to 30 minutes after a workout. You should aim for 1.4g to 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight throughout the day. Why? It helps you stay on track with your long-term goal, whether it’s fat loss, athletic performance, muscle building or overall health.
If your goal is to maintain good overall health
Though overused and underestimated, the key to this goal is all about developing a consistent, balanced eating routine of whole, unprocessed foods. This means avoiding processed carbs while incorporating more whole grains, beans, fruits and veggies. Stick to lean proteins and quality fat sources such as salmon, organic chicken, eggs and lentils. But say no to processed meats and non-fat foods.
Be sure to check nutrition labels for fibre and avoid excess added sugar to help you obtain all the necessary vitamins and minerals for optimal training progress.
It’s all about the balance
Functional nutrition is all about balance. It’s not like dieting, which eliminates entire food groups such as carbs. Dieting can be difficult to sustain long-term because it often leads to extreme cravings at the end of your diet. This is counterproductive, as you might end up feeling discouraged and give up your healthy eating routine entirely.
No matter your fitness goal, focus first on quality food consumption to reduce hunger cravings, regulate your portion sizes, and swap processed foods for whole foods. Keep your eye on the prize: long-term success.
Now that you’ve learnt some essential healthy eating and nutrition tips, are you ready to attain peak fitness?