It is normal for many to have three regular meals throughout the day, but for those training hard it might be advisable to look at trying to increase the number of smaller meals and/or ensure sufficient snacks are consumed. To keep muscle growth fuelled with amino acids from protein and to keep energy levels up with carbohydrates, you should aim to eat a smaller than normal meal every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day. In essence, you’re dividing the traditional three meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner into 6 or 7 smaller meals, some of which could include protein bars and shakes.
When planning your diet, the emphasis must be on complete proteins and complex carbohydrates. A complete protein includes all 8 Essential Amino Acids. Since your body can’t produce them, they must be consumed through diet. Red meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products are good sources.
Cutting back on carbohydrates has become a popular strategy to lose fat, but taken to the extreme, can leave you lacking energy to workout. Carbs are your body’s preferred power source and are essential for fuelling both physical and mental effort. The trick is to choose complex carbohydrates packed with nutrients and dietary fibre. Complex carbohydrates digest slowly to provide sustained energy. Examples include sweet potatoes, asparagus, oatmeal, nuts and whole grain bread.
Classically, lots of information refers to a specific percentage of carbohydrate, fat and protein that is required in the diet. This is hard to do, and more current guidelines prefer to suggest amounts of carbohydrate and protein based on individual body weight e.g. 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Unfortunately, these guidelines are not easily transferred into practical meals, so for many, it is much easier to emphasise that they should be consuming carbohydrate and protein within all meals. Low glycaemic index carbohydrates are better consumed during main meals, whilst high glycaemic carbohydrates are consumed in the immediate periods before, during and after training.
Hydration is another area that requires focus. The amount that any individual will sweat is highly individual and dependent on several factors. Dehydration is known to reduce training intensity, so maintaining a regular fluid intake throughout the day is essential. Urine colour is the simplest way to monitor hydration status, with urine that is yellow/colourful suggesting a dehydrated state.
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