Getting fit can take a lot of hard work and training but getting your diet right can make it so much easier. Unfortunately, fitting in good nutrition around training, work and life can be a struggle and it is one pf the places that people often miss out. We look at the top five quick and easy things you can do to maximise your training and balance your nutrition.
1. Eat regular meals and snacks. This might sound obvious but 27% of people miss meals regularly. You might think you catch up at the next meal but you really don’t. Skipping breakfast, lunch or dinner means you have lost all of the protein, iron, vitamins and fuel that that meal would have given you. Your body then has to use some of the precious muscle you have already built to get you through to your next meal. If you are really short of time try bringing good quality snacks with you that you can eat en route to work so you don’t miss out completely. Try fruit, nuts, yoghurt or high protein snacks like John West infusions that are easy to carry and eat on the go.
2. Eat protein. Although Irish men typically eat all of the protein they need, many Irish women miss out. Women are less likely to eat protein at breakfast and often skip it at lunch in favour of soup and bread. When you eat protein, it triggers your body to build a little more muscle – as long as you are exercising too. Do include some protein at every meal. You don’t need to eat huge amounts, it just has to be there. Try adding nuts or seeds to cereals at breakfast time. If you are a soup-lover then add beans or lentils to soup or add tuna to your bread. Add fish, lean meat, chicken, hummus or cheese to sandwiches or make use of leftovers from dinner the night before.
3. Watch your iron. 48% of Irish women do not eat enough iron and low iron means less oxygen getting to those muscles. You will also lose more iron as you sweat your way through training. And simply running can reduce your iron: as you hit the ground with each step, you destroy red blood cells and these need iron to be replaced. Iron rich foods include red meat, chickpeas and beans, spinach, kale, almonds, pumpkin seeds and mussels. Foods fortified with iron such as breakfast cereals also help. You need a high iron food at 2-3 meals per day. Add pumpkin or chia seeds to breakfast, snack on almonds, use spinach instead of lettuce in salads and include red meat, oil-rich fish, beans, lentils or eggs to dinner.
4. Add carbs. You run on carbs – it is the main fuel stored in your muscles and choosing low carb options can impact on how well you train as well as how your event goes. You don’t need huge amounts of carbs but they should make up about one quarter of your plate at lunch and dinner. You should also have a high carb snack within 30 minutes of finishing training to help refuel muscle for your next event.
5. Hydrate. This can’t be emphasised enough. Not drinking enough water will tire you out very quickly. Aim to have 500mls 30-60 minutes before you train and 500-1000mls after training. Don’t just hydrate on training days. Top up on rest days too so that you are always well hydrated. Aim to have 1.5 to 2 litres of water every day and then add the extra when you train. Check out our blog on hydration here - how is your hydration?
Sarah Keogh in association with John West
Consultant Nutritionist - MSc., BSc., MINDI
Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College and a Masters in European Food Regulation.
She runs a food and nutrition consultancy giving one-to-one advice on nutrition and diet as well as working with some of Ireland's leading food companies.