So, you’re on a new fitness routine. You’re getting up a half hour earlier than normal so you can go running or circuit training or whatever before you shower in time for work, and you’ve decided diet life all about the salads. Whilst this sounds, and can be (when done correctly), a healthy lifestyle to live, it can get incredibly boring! Let’s face it, no one wants to eat a raspberry vinaigrette 5 days in a row. It’ll send you insane.
We all love to eat delicious food, but we think of a workout routine and delicious food as being mutually exclusive, and that we have to choose between the two. However, here’s a little known secret: you don’t! There’s plenty of ways to make your healthier food taste just as good as the old favourites you’re used to.
If you want to eat some delicious food and still continue to make progress with your health and fitness, this is the post for you!
The Most Debated Nutrient: The Carbohydrate
Everywhere you look it seems people are bashing carbs. ‘No carbs on rest days’ they shout, or ‘carbs will make you fat!’ they insist. Carbs aren’t bad for you, no matter what we read or hear out there! They’re the body’s main source of energy, and that means we shouldn’t avoid them. In fact, our brain struggles to function without sufficient carbs to keep it going. Yes, they can pack plenty of sugar and means you can pack on the pounds if you choose the wrong type too often, but you will notice more positive benefits than negative if you choose the right type. People may need them to function in different quantities, but we need them all the same.
Carbs can be a hit and miss with all kinds of people, as a reasonably low carb diet works for one person whilst it may be the worst possible thing for another person. With this amount of difference between people, trying something out yourself is the best way to find out what your body is going to respond to best. Consider using an app to track your carb intake if you want to know exactly how much you need to consume to feel your best. You can also track your other macronutrients this way, which will help you to eat a more balanced diet, get to grips with nutritional labels, and ensure you’re staying on track. As long as you don’t become too obsessed with being ‘perfect’, you shouldn’t have a problem. Consistency trumps perfection every time!
If you’re on an intense exercise routine, remember, you’re going to need more carbohydrates than the average person. There’s plenty of complex, otherwise known as ‘good’ carbs in vegetables, so chowing down on plenty of those with each meal will keep you fuller for longer and provide your body with nutrients it needs to thrive. Don’t have any carbs as ‘off limits’ as you’ll likely crave them more. Make smart choices most of the time, but everything in moderation. For example, sweet potato is often the ‘healthier’ choice over regular potato, but in the grand scheme of things, choosing a white potato won’t make that much difference.
Building Lean Muscle
Building your muscles takes a lot of time and energy, so whole plans must be dedicated here. A lot of people are interested in strength training, and for good reason. Muscle development gives us better stamina, and usually leaner, more defined bodies. It also means you need to consume more food to power your muscles! What a great excuse to eat more, right?
It turns out you don’t have to spend your time looking into legal steroids that work when everyone else has gone to bed because you feel your daily weight lifting just isn’t working for you. Food can do the same things for your body, providing you eat enough of it for the muscle to build and repair itself. You probably need to eat even more than you think you do, which is why using a macro calculator and an app to track is the best idea! Ensuring your protein intake is sufficient is particularly important, as this is the macronutrient that supports muscle repair and growth.
It’s recommended by experts to have about 20 grams of protein per meal, but providing you’re hitting your goal, getting too anal about how much you have with each meal isn’t important. Spreading it out throughout the day can be better, but probably won’t make that much difference to your progress. It’s about finding what works for you.
Should You Replace Treats With Fruit?
It’s recommended we now eat 10 portions of fruit and veg per day, rather than five. We’ve all heard of sailors getting scurvy when they spend too long at sea, and that’s because they don’t have the fresh fruit and veg that we landlubbers have. Considering we’ve already highlighted the universal healing power of vegetables, let’s focus on fruits for now.
The natural sugars you get in all fruits can be so much better than the processed kinds we get elsewhere. You can buy them fresh or frozen, in bulk or on their own, and all supermarkets have a healthy selection for you to choose from; take them up on this offer! You can make some great desserts with fruit and not much else, so you’ll feel like you’re having a treat when really you’re eating something delicious and nutritious. Banana fried in coconut oil and then drizzled with honey or maple syrup can be a a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Just bear in mind that although fruit is usually a better choice than sweets and chocolate, it still contains sugars and carbohydrates. If you eat too much of it, you could hinder your progress just like with anything else. If you’re gorging on fruit to stop your chocolate cravings, you’d probably be better off allowing yourself a bar of chocolate to get it out of your system, rather than over compensating with fruit. A treat here and there is not going to derail your progress, and can actually help to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Having a balanced mindset will serve you so much better than the ‘all or nothing’ approach that many people seem to have. Track your macros and think of yourself as a ‘flexible dieter’ rather than a strict dieter, and you’ll be so much happier with your lifestyle!