Focusing on fitness while neglecting nutrition is a formula for lackluster results and a painstaking road to success.
This rings true whether you are training for a marathon, looking to hit a deadlift PR or maintaining a consistent workout routine.
Fitness is a stressor on the body. While physical activity is typically good for you, if it is not balanced appropriately, it can lead to more stress. Stress decreases vital nutrients your body needs to perform at its best. If you are striving toward a specific goal, you must replenish your body with appropriate nutrition for muscle growth and restoration.
Nutrition can be defined as the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses them and the relationship between diet, health and disease.
There are numerous schools of thought regarding the best way to pair fitness with nutrition. How to find the one that is the best for you: listen to your body’s cues and reactions.
Before you double down on fitness, take a quick body assessment. If you are feeling:
-Experience abnormal bowel movements
-Having irregular periods/PMS
-Not seeing the results you want
Then it’s time to turn your attention toward the nutrition component. These symptoms are all indicative of an imbalance in the body that would benefit from nutritional support.
Look at your daily intake. How much food are you consuming, what types of food, and how is it making you feel throughout the day.
You should be eating enough to fuel your daily activity. Go to the TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator and see what your ideal maintenance calories should be, and make sure you’re eating enough sustenance for muscle rebuild and repair.
A further breakdown into macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) balances your diet appropriately. A general rule of thumb is 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight for proteins, 30 percent fats and 40 percent carbohydrates for your daily caloric intake — then adjusting from there depending on your goals.
How to calculate your macros into grams:
Take your daily calories and multiply by the percentage, divide by nine for fats (because fats are 9 calories/gram) and four for carbohydrates (carbs and proteins are 4 calories/gram).
Tracking macros will bring awareness to appropriate nutritional balancing.
Hitting your body’s specific macronutrients is vital for optimal function.
-Proteins help your body rebuild and repair.
-Healthy fats are imperative for hormonal synthesis, nerve and brain function, makeup of your cell membranes and many others.
-Carbohydrates provide the body with easy fuel in their simplest form and fiber in their complex state. Fiber feeds your healthy gut bacteria and aids digestion — you want at least 25-30 grams per day.
Aside from balancing your diet for optimal function, it is imperative to look at what you are consuming. Often, people make the mistake of eating whatever they want as long as it fits into their macros. This mentality can lead to increased consumption of processed foods, higher sugar and artificial fats that wreak havoc on the body.
Focusing on real, whole foods allows for better digestion, increased intake of necessary vitamins and minerals, decreased stress on the body and improvement of overall function.
When constructing a meal, focus on quality protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. You want to have as many colors on your plate as possible. Different colors mean you are providing your body with a variety of necessary nutrients.
Something to remember when it comes to nutrition: every body has a unique formula. Female athletes require different nutritional protocols than men. Your friends’ needs may look different than your own — and that’s normal! Find what works for your specific body and boosts your energy, and start seeing tremendous results.
Shannon Dolan is a functional nutritional therapy practitioner and owner of Health With Shannon, as well as a personal trainer at Castle Hill Fitness.