Stay Energized with Nutrition
Have you ever looked at world-class athletes, ultramarathon runners, or even a friend you know with awe as they seem to keep running at 100% each and every single day? People who seemingly have an unlimited supply of energy, always keeping them pushing to perform at the highest level. What is one of the primary factors behind this? Nutrition!
Although all food inherently provides energy in the form of calories, the specific foods and quality of those foods can have either a priceless or detrimental effect on the duration, level, and smoothness of that energy.
This blog will cover the importance of nutrition on energy and performance, how to optimize it and what to avoid.
All the foods you consume are composed of three main macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Due to this and the nature of each macronutrient, different foods will affect your energy and body composition in different ways. The macro our bodies have adapted to as a preferred source of energy is carbohydrates. However, there are two main kinds of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Within these two groups are many specific ones, such as sugars, fibers, or starches.
Due to their structure and use in our bodies, they should be consumed in different amounts and for different purposes. Simple sugars are small and easy to digest, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, which may provide a rapid increase in energy; however, this is followed by a rapid crash, causing what’s commonly known as a sugar crash. However, this doesn’t mean they’re something to avoid. In fact, there are certain times where they can be extremely beneficial, such as before strenuous exercise such as running, weightlifting, or biking, as they will provide you with some quick fuel and boost to your engine.
In contrast, complex carbohydrates (which also usually contain a high amount of fiber) take longer to digest, providing you with a steadier and longer increase in blood sugar levels and energy. These are the foods you should prioritize in your diet, as keeping blood levels stable throughout the day is much more beneficial to your body than going on a rollercoaster ride of rises and crashes.
You’ve all seen it: the trends for fasting, OMAD (one-meal-a-day), only-smoothie diets, and a bunch of other fads that seem to promise a million and one benefits, despite being overly-difficult, oftentimes expensive and simply unsustainable. However, as complicated as it may seem, embarking upon the journey to improve your quality of life through getting to a healthy weight, boosting your energy and keeping you feeling top notch isn’t all that complex.
Our bodies are machines that run 24/7, 365 days a year, and all of this requires plenty of fuel. Now, which sounds like it would be more optimal and sustainable? Providing it with that fuel once a day, with low quality or insufficiently produced fuel, or balanced, evenly distributed amounts throughout the day? If the answer was obvious, you’re on the right track.
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that saying wasn’t created without reason. Starting the day with a balanced meal full of nutrients, minerals and vitamins will help keep your appetite more stable throughout the day, can help you get a headstart on your daily protein goal and prevent those energy crashes as you go through your day.
As everyone’s appetite and schedule is different, the amount of meals in a day can vary greatly. A good guideline is consuming 3-5 meals with a relatively even amount of time between them in order to once again keep that stream of fuel steady and your body happy. For example, if you wake up at 7am and go to bed at 10pm, you could eat at 8am, 12pm, 4pm, and 8pm. Eating your last meal 1-2 hours before bed can also help you with sleep quality, digestion, and appetite the next morning.
What to look for?
Creating healthy, nutritious and effective meals is extremely simple as long as you follow some simple guidelines. Always base a meal around a protein (ex. meat, fish, poultry, dairy) in order to keep you satiated, energized, and of course build muscle.
The next part should be carbs, and as we mentioned previously, most of these should be complex carbohydrates (ex. oats, sweet potatoes, fruit, and vegetables). However, if you have trouble digesting these, consuming carbs such as rice, white potatoes, pasta, or starchy vegetables can be a good choice. All of these will be your main source of energy and fuel you throughout the day.
The last addition should be a healthy source of fat (ex. eggs, avocado, olive oil, nuts, fatty meat/fish). While these are incredibly calorie dense and shouldn’t be over-consumed, they also contain essential and incredibly beneficial omega-3s and a plethora of micronutrients, minerals and vitamins to keep your hormones in check. These will also slow down digestion, which will help prevent a blood-glucose crash, especially if you eat something like rice or other fast-digesting carbohydrates.
Although all foods provide energy through their caloric content, all foods are certainly not created equal. Basing your daily diet around whole foods rich in proteins, carbs and fats that keep your blood sugar balanced and provide you with the nutrients and vitamins to keep your organs functioning at the highest level is key to reducing fatigue and improving your life. However, don’t forget to pair this with exercise, hydration and plenty of sleep.
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