Today is the first part of an ongoing series about how to maximize your training, and there is no better or more important topic to talk about then nutrition.
Without a proper food plan, all of your hard work can and will go to waste. Think of yourself as a car. Your engine is your stomach and digestive system. What happens when you stop fueling your car? Plain and simple it no longer runs. This is how our body works, we must fuel our body in order for it to run. Relating gas to food you can go with high grade in which you will get better performance out of your car or low-grade and your car will perform at less then its ability. So in this instance it's not just fuel that we need but it’s the right types of fuel we need in order to optimize our bodies performance.
Typically we look at three Macronutrients when it comes to nutrition. Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats. It is typically recommended that your macronutrient intake be broken down as listed below.
Protein: these should be lean and varied and should consist of about 30% of your caloric intake.
Carbohydrates: these should be low-glycemic and account for 40% of your caloric intake.
Fats: should be mostly mono-saturated and account for 30% of your caloric intake.
You can take a look at the USDA website and plug your numbers in and get an idea of where you are grams wise for each of these macronutrients at http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/fnic/interactiveDRI/.
There are two popular food plans I will talk about today. The first one is the Paleo Diet and the second is the Zone Diet. Both of these have been shown to have positive benefits on our athletes overall performance. Both these diets either neutralize or stunt spikes in insulin levels, which significantly decrease occurrences of hyperinsulism. Below we will take a quick look at both.
The Paleo diet is the easier of the two to follow because it doesn't necessarily lend itself to weighing and measuring your food intake. The basis of it is to eat lots of veggies, lean meats, some fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, minimum to no starches, and definitely no sugar or alcohol. The theory behind it is that this is the way our caveman ancestors ate and the human digestive system has never quite caught up with the way our food is processed in this day and age. Look up Paleolithic diet and you will find a plethora of positive info on this plan. This is a great meal plan that can help with weight loss or weight maintenance, and has many benefits to overall health. Another benefit is that it is relatively simple to follow.
http://authoritynutrition.com/paleo-diet-meal-plan-and-menu/ - a great article on Paleo nutrition plus sample shopping list and meal plan.
If overall performance is your primary goal then the Zone Diet is for you. Some top athletes adhere to Zone.. The Zone diet follows a "Block Prescription". Each block is 9g carbohydrates, 7g Protein, 1.5g fat (assuming that another 1.5g of fat comes from your protein). To determine how many blocks you should be taking in you multiply .10*lean body mass for the average athlete. If you are more active you may multiply .11*lean body mass. This type of diet is harder to adhere to though because your food must be weighed and measured. The Zone diet is tailored to keep insulin levels stable throughout the day. The Zone Diet does allow for things such as other starches, legumes, and dairy to be included. Here is an article from the Crossfit Journal on the Zone Diet, meal plans and block prescriptions are included. http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/cfjissue21_May04.pdf
Moving on from the talk of diets. You as the athlete have to play around and see what works for you. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong diet. Regardless of overall diet choice, journaling your food intake and noting the effects it has on your overall performance and well-being is the best way to ensure whatever diet choice is working for you.
Not all foods are alike. Stick to the outside aisles of the supermarket where the foods are perishable. Be weary of the aisles in the middle these foods usually have a long shelf life and contain GMOS (genetically modified organisms). Ideally you want to eat foods that are right from the farm. Many neighborhoods have their own food CO-OPs where you can get local-fresh produce and meats. Most Co-Ops ask you to donate a couple hours a month in trade for membership and benefits. If that is not an option, look for organic foods on the outside aisles of the supermarket. Another tip is to read the labels of your food and be educated about the contents.
Many of us know what we should be eating but not everyone knows how to properly time when and what they should eat.
So lets talk about timing now in relation to food. When we wake in the morning it is extremely important to eat your first meal of the day, BREAKFAST. Take that word and separate it into two parts and you have Break and Fast. That is actually what you are doing when you are wake up and eating something; you are breaking your fast that occurred while you were sleeping. What this does is it kick starts our metabolism and gets our engine fueled and running.
So how often should we be eating? When talking about performance you should try to plan your meals and times around the times you are working out. I’ll use myself as an example. I usually workout around 1pm. I also wake up real early and tend to eat my first meal at 530am.
Meal 1 5:30 am
Meal 2 8:30 am
Meal 3 11:30
Workout starts 1:00pm and ends around 2:30
Meal 4 3:15
Meal 5 5:45
Meal 6 8:15
This is what a typical day looks like for me. I try to eat every 2.5-3 hours. This keeps my energy levels stable throughout the day. This is a fairly standard structure for most athletes. The meal sizes will vary dependent on specific goals. Smaller more frequent meals also helps to control our appetite and prevents binge eating, which helps with weight control.
Pre & Post Workout
When eating for performance it's super important to plan your meals around your workouts. We call these pre and post workout meals. It's also important to know what our specific goals are in terms of nutrition. For most of our athletes our goal for eating is to increase stamina, mental focus, physical power as well assisting in recovery for muscle building, minimizing muscle breakdown, and decreasing body fat mass while increasing lean body mass. For a typical athlete this is what your nutrition may look like.
2-4 hours pre/post: balanced, full meal consisting of carbs and protein, 0.2-0.25 g/lb target bodyweight for both protein and carbs
During (for every hour of endurance activity): liquids or gels, 8-15 g protein, 30-60 g carb
30-60 minutes pre/post: liquid or semi-liquid carbs for easy digestion, 0.2-0.25 g/lb target bodyweight for both protein and carb
Caloric intake will vary depending on our individual goals. The most common goal is to lose weight or change body composition, this might require decreasing caloric intake. Another goal for some of our athletes is to build more muscle in order to reach desired performance, this will require increasing caloric intake. You can find what your daily caloric intake should be by going to this site http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html. This will give an estimate of how many calories you should be taking in daily based off your performance and fitness goals.
I am going to include water into our nutrition conversation because water is in fact one of the most important things for the human body. Drinking water helps maintain the fluid balance of the body. This helps with things such as digestion, body temperature regulation, circulation, and transporting nutrients just to name a few.
Water also helps energize your muscles. Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. When muscle cells don't have adequate fluids, they don't work as well and performance can suffer. This is why you should take in about 17 ounces of water 2 hours prior to workout. During work you should constantly be replenishing and drinking water to replace the fluids lost from sweating.
I hope this first installment on how to maximize your training helps you perform better as well as make overall healthier and better decisions about your eating. As I had said above earlier there are no magic diets or meals plans, you as an athlete have to see what works for you. Planning and optimizing your eating is in fact an important and intricate part of performance. Please comment on this blog post and let us know your thoughts on this topic.
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"