As triathletes many of us workout to eat more. I sometimes see people who train a lot gorging on unhealthy food after a long workout. Lets face it I have fallen victim to this on occasion. I don't think it's going to kill you once in a while to reward yourself with something tasty but if that once in a while becomes a daily occurrence you might have a problem. It is important to remember the better you eat, the better your performance will be, and the better your recovery will be. Fueling your body right, can be the difference between an ok season of racing and a great season of racing!
Fueling right requires very little work! People don't eat healthy because they are lazy. They will spend a lot of time working out but not save a few minutes to prepare something healthy. Here are some key components to improving your nutrition choices:
- Incorporate healthy carbohydrates in your diet from non-processes sources. Carbs like oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa will provide you with much needed energy for your longer workouts. Carbs from fruits will give you quick energy for shorter workouts and provide you with nutrients that will help with recovery.
- Fuel with protein and carbohydrates after your workout. If you exercise on a regular basis you need more protein then the average person. A good rule of thumb is to eat close to your ideal body weight in grams of protein. If your ideal body weight is 120lbs then I would shoot for 100-120 gram of protein each day.
- Incorporate 3-5 servings of vegetables in your diet each day. Vegetables are rich in nutrients especially antioxidants that will be beneficial in recovery.
- Eat 2-3 servings of fresh fruit each day. Stick to fruits such as berries, apples, cherries, and nectarines. These have valuable nutrients for recovery. Cherries are known for reducing inflammation. The others I listed are lower on the glycemic index than most other fruits.
- Limit or eliminate processed foods. Most processed foods will contain ingredients that are not good for you. Most processed foods contain ingredients you probably can't even pronounce let alone know what it is. Many processed foods have hydrogenated oils that will increase inflammation in your body.
- Plan your meals around your training and always have healthy options readily available. I always try to keep grilled chicken in my fridge that is ready to eat. I can make a quick meal at almost anytime. Think about your training and plan what you will eat before and after your workouts. This becomes especially important for people with multiple workouts in each day.
- Juicing and smoothies can be good but be careful! Smoothies are a great way to get protein and carbohydrates in a quick healthy drink. Be careful not to add too many ingredients to your smoothie. Before you know it you could have a 600 calorie drink. You can use ice instead of milk and limit the amount of fruit that you put in your smoothie. Juicing can be very healthy and you can get lots of nutrients but do it in moderation to avoid getting too much sugar in your diet.
- Always eat a healthy breakfast. Don't skip the most important meal of the day. You should always have something to eat before and after your morning workout. Skip the processed breakfasts like cereal and muffins. Opt for things like oatmeal, egg whites, strawberries or a healthy smoothie.
- Drink plenty of water. I know you have been told this many times but seriously drink plenty of water. I drink 1 -1.5 gallons a day. If I train more I drink more. I drink a combination of regular water and carbonated water. I like carbonated water and tend to drink more if I use that in addition to regular water.
- You have heard it before but here it is again ......eat 5-6 times a day. Small meals keep your energy levels up and it will keep your metabolism working. A great rule is to never eat until your full and don't wait until your hungry to eat.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Alcohol will have a negative impact on your training. It will dehydrate you leaving you in sub par state for training. If you are trying to lose weight alcohol can be your enemy. If you drink alcohol you may be burning it first for energy rather than your fat cells plus you are getting extra calories that don't have any nutritional value.
Making small changes in your diet could be the difference between first and second place in a race! Get your nutrition in line and you may be faster than you thought you were!
Here are two pictures of my favorite healthy meals to eat after a workout. The one on the left is egg whites, brown rice, spinach, tomatoes, with a little feta cheese on top. The other picture is chicken skewers and a pesto pizza on a whole wheat tortilla with basil on top. Basil is great for after your workout because it will help with inflammation!