It goes without saying that food plays an important role in our lives. For many, it’s something which very little consideration goes into, whilst for others, careful deliberation goes into every bite.
That said, neither too much nor too little thought is likely to create healthy and sustainable eating habits. Rather, food needs to be viewed with a new outlook.
Ultimately, food is fuel. What we eat, enables or hinders our bodies and its many capabilities which, put simply, means you really are what you eat.
So, whether you’re just starting your fitness journey or are a trained athlete looking to push yourself to new limits, nutrition will play a pivotal role in performance. And not only will effects be felt physically, but they will also impact mental health, strength and ability too.
After all, it’s mind, body and fuel. They all go hand in hand and work together to help you reach the best version of you.
But when you delve into the science of food and performance, it’s easy to get lost in the many opinions, recommendations and claims which can affect your perception of nutrition and, in turn, your training and physical health.
So instead, we’ve devised a list of simple golden rules to help you create small, sustainable changes to your eating habits. From this basic foundation, you can then begin to build tailored meal plans depending on your personal health goals or follow our series of delicious yet healthy recipes.
By now, we are probably all familiar with the effects of fizzy drinks on health. The issue lies in their acidity levels and sugar contents which cause damage to the teeth, increase body fat and have even been linked to type 2 diabetes. They are also typically high in calories and provide very little additional benefit in terms of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
But when you have become so accustomed to drinking fizzy drinks, it can be hard to wean yourself off them. In this case, soda water and slimline tonic have been found to be great alternatives. Those with fruit flavours can be used to avoid consuming refined sugars which brings us to rule number two.
This includes things like sweets, chocolate milk and cakes. Similar to fizzy drinks, foods and beverages containing refined sugar are linked to a number of health issues, including high blood pressure, inflammation and weight gain to name but a few. Of course, all of these are likely to impact your ability to train and achieve noticeable results.
Many of the items that fall under this category are those we like to enjoy as a treat which can still be the case on occasion. It’s all about finding a balance.
Or try swapping them for healthier alternatives. For example, dark chocolate is a great substitute, particularly if it has a cocoa content of 80% or above. In this form, two small squares can be consumed daily as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Water intake is one of the most important factors of healthy bodily function. In sport and training, remaining hydrated before, during and after a workout is vital for maintaining blood pressure to prevent the heart having to overwork, keeping joints lubricated to reduce risk of injury and improving blood flow and circulation to deliver oxygen and nutrients to working muscles.
Fundamentally, hydration is key for enhanced performance. Whilst every body type and size varies, so does the exact amount of recommended water intake. However, four pints a day is the general rule of thumb for adults.
Rather than ready meals, fast-food and other highly processed items, opt for nutrients that are as close to their roots as possible. This can include organic alternatives, especially for thin-skinned fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, apples, peppers and leafy green vegetables etc. It is recommended that you have at least three types of vegetables per day.
It’s also best to make fresh, homemade meals as often as possible which is where meal plans come in handy. With a set menu for the week, you can plan ahead, save time and ensure all the ingredients you will need are included on the weekly shopping list.
Alcoholic beverages are typically packed with calories and have negative impacts on the body and mind, including hydration and lethargy, which can, in turn, affect training. By restricting consumption to weekends or even simply special occasions, you can reduce these negative effects and enjoy enhanced performance.
When you do consume alcohol, opt for good quality. Avoid lagers, beers, ciders and cheaper wines as these are usually high in sugar.
Caffeine also has its effects on physical and mental health. Pre-made drinks and those from coffee shops can be high in sugar which, as explained in rule two, can be harmful. The issue with caffeine specifically, though, is its impact on sleep.
Of course, the reason many of us consume caffeine is to feel more awake and alert. However, too much can result in sleep issues which is frustrating for anyone. But, for those in training, in particular, good quality sleep is vital for muscle recovery to avoid injury and burnout. Therefore, it is recommended that caffeine intake is restricted to three cups of coffee a day, all consumed before 4 pm.
You may even also find that with a more balanced diet that contains all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need, you’ll feel more energised, which can reduce your dependency on caffeine.
So, there you have it, our golden rules of nutrition. Implementing these small changes to your daily life can have huge benefits on your performance and overall physical health and mental wellbeing.
Looking to live a healthier, more balanced lifestyle? Download our app today and get access to hundreds of tasty recipes and bloody pumping workout videos.
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