I see so many people come to the gym every day and they work super duper hard. They push their limits in class. They stay in the gym for hours every day and leave soaked in sweat. (Sounds like a great time to me). But when people leave the gym they tend to sabotage their workout with their diet.
I hear it all the time. “I deserve to eat this (insert fast food chain menu item) because I burned so many calories in the gym”. My friends and family will say to me, “just eat this piece of cake, you will burn it off anyway”. All of this thinking is a LIE! This post so not about balance. Although Balance is important. This post is about how to properly fuel the body.
If you frequent gyms, fitness centers, and are generally interested in fitness then you may have heard you need to properly fuel your body. What the heck does that mean? You need to eat the right amount of foods DAILY to give your body energy. These foods, when processed in the body, turn into amino acids (building blocks for muscle), calcium, fat (yes we need fat – your brain will thank you), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The food eaten once in the stomach is broken down into these essential chemicals, and these chemicals are dispersed through the body to keep the body working. These foods will go,through your blood, your heart, your liver, your kidneys, and will eventually be processed to neurochemicals (consider this brain food) in the brain.
So I like to think of it like this, that Fast Food Chain Value Meal WILL be turned into blood and other chemicals that will go to your heart, lungs, muscles, and brain. You will have fat build up and grease brain. But eating a chicken breast cooked at home will give the body the minerals, nutrients, and vitamins to grow muscle, keep the heart pumping clean blood, and keep the brain clear and sharp!
Instead of hitting up the closest restaurant before and after your workout try adding these foods to your daily diet to see that 6 pack!
1. CARBS – *gasp* I said it! You need carbs! Carbs are turned into glucose in the body and glucose gives you energy. Glucose can be stored as fat so do not go bread happy. Eat whole grain instead. Examples of this include, whole wheat, oatmeal, sweet potato, vegetables, and brown rice.
See choosemyplate.gov for charts about how much carbs are required daily.
2. Lean protein. Foods like chicken, eggs, turkey,and fish are turned into amino acids. Amino acids make MUSCLE! If you want to be a lean mean machine eat like a beast!
3. Calcium – calcium keeps bones strong and keeps muscles moving properly. Now I am not going to get into the cow milk issue here but bottom line milk can be a great source of protein and a great after workout treat! Greens like spinach and kale and whole grains will give you calcium too.
4. FATS – don’t let low fat, no fat labels and weight loss tools fool you. Your cells, you know the things that you are made of, are made out of fat. So eat fat. You need it. But try these fats if weight loss and body building are your thing. Olive oil, nut butters, coconut oil, nut oils, and omega-3s are your fat friends. Omega-3 is found in fish. Grill up a salmon for a meal and you get your protein and your fat!
5. Fruits and vegetables – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, oranges, apples, and bananas offer so much body friendly goodness. They are natural carbs to give you energy. Vegetables like asparagus, brocolli, eggplant, and squash also contain chemicals to fight infection. They help decrease inflammation and help the body restore. Fruits and veggies contain your antioxidants to keep you well.
While each food group will give you something special you need all the groups together to get the proper amounts. Try to create a rainbow on your plate each meal that includes a carb, a fat, and a protein. I have included a sample menu. This is by no means the Bible, just an example. It does not include portion sizes because each body is different and each person has different goals. A great app that is easy to use and very helpful is MyFitnessPal. This app has most foods pre-recorded and you can choose your meals and this will track your calories and nutrients.
You are what you’re eat, literally. I prefer to be a lean, mean, thinking machine so I will eat that way. What do you want to be? Eating will help you get that way!