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June 27

10 Essential Nutrition Tips for Fitness Success

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Reaching your fitness goals is not just about how often you go to the gym or how hard you work out once you’re there. Nutrition is just as, if not more, important for success on your fitness journey.

Good nutrition gives your body energy, helps you recover from your workouts, and plays an important role in achieving your fitness goals more effectively (not to mention faster).

Here’s my list of the ten essential nutrition tips for fitness success and the reasons they can propel forward to fitness success.

  1. Make Protein a Priority

Protein plays such an important role in muscle repair and growth that if the only change you make from reading this article is making protein and priority, I will have accomplished what I set out to do here.

Protein is what muscles are made of and without it you cannot grow or repair them. When you work out hard, the fibers in your muscles break down and need protein to build themselves back up stronger.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure that each meal includes a quality source of protein such as lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, or legumes (beans). A nutritionist can give you the exact amount of protein that you should be eating, but for general purposes aim for at least .50-.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

As an example, if you weigh 150 pounds and work out regularly, try to eat at least 75 grams of protein every day. Keep in mind that this number will change depending on your fitness goals and how active you are.

Examples of Protein Rich Meals:

  • Breakfast: Try some full fat greek yogurt (protein) with mixed berries (carbs) and an ounce or two of nuts (fat and protein) for a crunch protein boost.
  • Lunch: A bowl of grilled chicken breast (protein) with quinoa (a grain rich in protein) and roasted potatoes (surprisingly high protein).
  • Dinner: Fill your plate with baked salmon (protein) with a roasted sweet potato (carb) and a side salad (carb and fat). You can throw some nuts on your salad, or the salmon, for even more protein.

Good sources of protein chart

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It’s not just your muscles that benefit from good protein, it also helps you feel full longer, which can help you reduce the temptation to snack between meals. Plus, protein takes a lot of energy to break down in your system which means your body is burning calories just digesting the proteins you eat.

  1. Drink More Water

Water is vital for every bodily function we have as humans, especially when it comes to muscle repair and energy production. Not to mention the intense side effects of dehydration. Not drinking enough water can make you feel sluggish and can lead to poor performance during workouts.

Your daily hydration needs will vary greatly depending on a lot of different factors including your biology, your activity level, and even the climate you live in. A basic benchmark is to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily.

Personally, I like adding electrolytes to my water. It not only helps me stay hydrated, especially when I’m working out during the summer months, but it makes the water taste better, which makes it easier to stay hydrated.

Tips:

  • Always take a water bottle wherever you go. I like the Owala water bottle a lot. One of the best bottles I’ve found.
  • Add flavor to your water. You can do this with fruits or herbs, or even a sugar free drink mix. You’re a lot more likely to drink the water if you find it delicious.
  • Train yourself to drink a glass of water before and after meals. Not only is it a great way to aid your digestion, but linking the habit to something that you already do is a great way to make it stick.

The benefits of proper hydration like joint lubrication, temperature regulation, and nutrient transport, are too numerous to list here but you can safely assume that if it has something to do with your body hydration is crucial to it. Not to mention that you’ll feel and move better.

The color of your urine is an easy check for hydration; it should be light yellow. Look out for dark yellow or amber-colored urine. This is a sign that you’re dehydrated.

Urine Color Explaination Chart

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  1. Balance Your Diet

It’s cliché to say that you are what you eat. But that doesn’t make it untrue. Your body needs a mix of all of the macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbohydrates have been villainized in recent years, but this macronutrient provides your body with energy. Your body uses proteins to build and repair muscle tissues. Your body makes the hormones you need to function our of fats. Fats are also important for nutrient absorption.  Shoot for a little of all of the macronutrients in every meal.

Some Examples of a Balanced Meal:

  • Breakfast: Steel-cut oatmeal (carb) topped with chia seeds (protein), banana slices (carb), and sugar free almond butter (fat).
  • Lunch: Eat a whole grain wrap (carb) with turkey (protein), avocado (fat), lettuce, and tomato (both carbs).
  • Dinner: Enjoy a stir fry bowl with brown rice (carb) with stir-fried tofu (protein), broccoli, and bell peppers (carbs) and olive oil (fat).

Variety is also important to make sure you get a broad range of nutrients. Eat the rainbow isn’t just a cute slogan, different colors of fruits and vegetables provide different phytonutrients and antioxidants. Both of those support your overall health and protect you against disease. Try to include a colorful array of fruits and vegetables into your nutrition plant.

  1. Time Your Eating Around Your Workouts

You can significantly impact your performance and recovery by timing your meals.

Try eating a meal with both carbohydrates and protein about 2-3 hours before your workout. The carbs can provide sustained energy, and the protein can help with muscle recovery.

Eat a protein-rich snack or meal about 30-60 minutes after your workout. This will help replenish glycogen stores, which is important for muscle recovery.

Ideas for a Pre-Workout Snack:

  • Try a banana (carb) with sugar-free peanut butter (protein and fat).
  • Eat a slice of whole grain toast (carb) with avocado (fat) and a poached egg (protein and fat). This one’s very California.
  • Enjoy a cup of full fat Greek yogurt (protein and fat) with berries (carb).

Ideas for a Post-Workout Snack:

  • Protein shake (protein) with almond milk (fat and carbs) and a scoop of protein powder (protein, obvs.)
  • Cottage cheese (protein) with pineapple (carbs).
  • Hummus (protein) with carrot sticks (carbs).

When you know how to make it work for you, meal timing can help with your energy and recovery. Eat carbohydrates before a workout to provide energy to perform your best. Eat protein after a workout to help your body repair and build muscle.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Include Healthy Fats

Fats got a bad reputation in the 90’s and most of the people I work with are still a little bit afraid of them. But healthy fats are really important for your health. Not only that, but they also help you work out by providing long-lasting energy.

And that’s just one of the benefits of these healthy fats. They also help to reduce inflammation, support brain function, and provide essential fatty acids that your body needs because it cannot produce them on its own.

Good sources of unsaturated fats are avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Add them all to your diet.

Sources of Healthy Fats:

  • A handful of almonds or walnuts.
  • Add chia seeds or flaxseeds (unless you’re a guy) to your smoothies.
  • Use olive oil or avocado oil for cooking. Also drizzle some on top of your cooked food to get some of the raw oil benefits.

You also need fats to absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E, and K. Plus fats play an important role in making hormones.

Some fats are particularly beneficial for reducing inflammation and promoting heart health. Fatty acids like Omega-3 can be found in fatty fish like salmon and flaxseeds.

  1. Start to Take Processed Foods and Sugars Out of Your Diet.

Sugar and processed foods are poison. It’s as simple as that. Every time you eat them you are damaging your body.

Aside from the cycle of  energy crashes and weight gain they can hinder your fitness progress. Which can make it hard to stick to your fitness program. That’s a vicious cycle that you’ll want to avoid if you can.

I know it’s not easy, and I’m not about to tell you not to eat what you want to eat but cutting out  foods that are high in empty calories and low in nutritional value is the fastest way to get back in shape.

When you’re ready to make the shift, start by adding whole, unprocessed foods into your diet where you can.

Healthy Alternatives:

  • Instead of Lucky Charms, try some Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and pistachios. You still get that sweet, creamy, crunchy combo without any added sugar or processed foods.
  • Replace soda with sparkling water. You still get that soda fizz and you can add lemon or lime for extra flavor.
  • Snack on a piece of fruit. It’s a perfectly portioned whole food snack. Keep a bowl of apples or oranges around for surprise cravings.

I’ll say it again; processed foods are poison. They often contain trans fats, high levels of sodium, and artificial additives that can have a negative impact on your health.

When you can reduce how much of these foods you eat, you will improve your energy levels, mood, health, and overall well-being.

  1. Maximize Your Micronutrients

So far, we’ve covered everything MACRO, but let’s not forget the importance of MICROnutrients. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals in the foods that we eat, and the vitamin/mineral supplements that we take.

They are essential for a healthy body. Again, you want variety to cover your micronutrient needs. Eat a spectrum of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, eggs, and dairy. The more variety the better.

If you can’t get enough micros from your diet, you might consider a multivitamin/multimineral supplement. Especially if you have a deficiencies.

Important micros for fitness include calcium for bone health, iron for oxygen transport, and magnesium for muscle function.

Here Are Some Micronutrient-Rich Foods:

  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale give you iron and magnesium.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruit, and bell peppers give you vitamin C.
  • Look to dairy products and fortified plant milks to get your calcium and vitamin D.

It’s important to maintain your micronutrient levels to  prevent deficiencies that can effect your health, performance, and recovery. For example, if you’re iron deficient it can lead to fatigue or if you’re deficient in magnesium you may experience muscle cramps and weakness.

  1. Eat the Most Important Meal of the Day: Breakfast

You’ve heard it a thousand times; breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But there’s a reason you hear that so often, because it’s true.

When you BREAK your nightly FAST (that’s where breakfast gets its name) you jumpstart your metabolism. You need that because your metabolism provides the energy you need for the day ahead.

We’ve already talked about this, but it bears repeating. Eat a balanced breakfast including protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Not only are you jumpstarting your metabolism you’re providing your body with all the macros and micros that we talked about earlier.  A good breakfast can also improve your workout performance and overall productivity.

Breakfast Ideas:

  • This is my favorite: A smoothie with spinach, frozen berries, protein powder, and pea milk. I have this every morning.
  • If you’ve got room in your calories for bread, then try a slice of whole grain toast topped with mashed avocado and a poached egg. I know I already used avocado toast as an example, but I am Californian.
  • Whole fat cottage cheese with sliced strawberries. If the strawberries are ripe, you almost get cheesecake from this one.

Breakfast is not just beneficial, skipping it can have a negative impact on your day. breakfast Not eating in the morning can affect your energy levels and how well your brain works. Eating a nutritious breakfast will stabilize your blood sugar and jumpstart your metabolism for energy all day long.

  1. Watch Your Portions

This is one of the most important tips in this article, especially if you want to lose weight. It’s no surprise that overeating leads to weight gain, but it also makes you sluggish, which can have a negative impact on your workouts.

Practicing portion control is not easy, especially when the food is delicious. , With a little practice, though, you can learn to pay attention to hunger cues.  Those often ignored cues let us know when we need to eat AND when we’ve had enough,

We often train ourselves to ignore those cues, but by tuning into what our bodies are trying to tell us you will eat only when you’re hungry and stop you’re full. In other words, less.

using smaller plates, measuring your food, and paying attention to hunger cues. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help keep your metabolism active and prevent overeating.

Portion Control Tips:

  • Try using smaller plates. They make it look like you have a lot of food.
  • Fill at least half your plate with vegetables.
  • Keep measuring cups in the containers of the foods you eat a lot of. That way you don’t have to dig out the measuring cups every time, it’s already in the bag.
  • Tune in to your body’s signals. It might take practice, but you can learn to stop eating when you feel satisfied, not full.
  • Take your time and savor your food.

Just being aware of your food choices and portion sizes is the win. We call it mindful eating and it can make it a lot easier to maintain a healthy weight.

  1. Keep on Truckin’

Consistency is the most important tip that you can take away from this article. Health and fitness are a moving target. The only way to get fit and stay fit is do your program consistently.

That doesn’t mean forcing yourself to adhere to a program that you despise. If this is something that you’ll be doing for the rest of your life, it’s going to have to be sustainable.

Enjoyability and sustainability are the same thing in my book. If you enjoy something, it it innately sustainable. The opposite is also true.

So, as you’re looking through the ten tips I’ve listed here and you’re putting together your program, start with this questions; What would this look like if I enjoyed it. Run everything you do through that filter and you’ll be on the right track.

Tips for Staying Consistent:

  • Enjoy your program.
  • Set short term, measurable, achievable goals and celebrate the small wins along the way.
  • Get some help. A trainer and a nutritionist are great for staying consistent.

Any time you find it hard to stick to your program, it’s a red flag that your program is too hard to stick to. Go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that includes maximum enjoyment. Now that we’re talking about it, do that for your whole life.

Until Next Time

Nutrition is one of the foundations of health, fitness, and wellness. That’s not to say that making changes is easy. If you include even one of these ten essential tips into your life I would call that a win.

Remember, it’s just about making small changes that add up over time, the smaller the better. It won’t always be easy but it’s so important it’s the difference between a good life and bad one.

Ask me how I know,

Tiger Ford
June 27, 2024

About the author

Tiger Ford is a Master Personal Trainer and nutrition coach with over 10,000 hours of experience helping people just like you develop a fitness habit to stay lean and strong for life.

For a one-on-one consultation with Tiger please call 800-428-3496.


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