Being healthy and in good shape is not about how you look or the number on the scale. What matters is that you feel good about yourself and learn to appreciate your body. Regular exercise with endurance and strength training combined with a balanced diet will help you develop a healthy body and self image (that includes your mental health) and get in shape. In this article we’ll take a closer look at what fitness nutrition is and it can help you reach your goals.
Carbohydrates should be your main source of energy (approx. 55% of your caloric intake per day), especially if you exercise regularly, because they keep your motor running. These foods are high in carbohydrates:
- Grain flakes
If possible, choose whole grains. They keep you full longer, provide more vitamins and minerals, and keep your blood sugar stable.
The choice of carbohydrates and and regular, balanced meals are important for preventing your blood sugar from fluctuating. High blood sugar levels cause your body to release more of the hormone insulin. Insulin stores sugar and fat in your body cells while at the same time preventing fat loss. After an intense training session, however, it is a good idea to eat a snack containing carbohydrates and protein.
Be careful to limit your intake food and drinks containing sugar (sugar in hidden forms, like pre-packaged muesli). They contain empty calories and are low in nutrients.
Fruit and vegetables
The World Health Organization recommends the “5 a day” rule: Every day, you should eat two portions (one portion is a handful) of fruit and at least three portions of vegetables – the more colorful and varied the better.
An easy way to do this is to just add more fruit and vegetables into your daily meals. Make your meals as colorful as possible. Cut up an apple in your cereal, dip carrot sticks in hummus for a quick snack, eat a colorful salad for lunch, blend up a smoothie in the afternoon, or add chopped tomato and onion to your scrambled eggs. Get creative with food. Always think about what you can add to a meal instead of what you should take away (such as to cut calories).
No Crash Diets
Do you want to get in shape and lose weight? Don’t bother with crash diets. You’ll end up facing the yo-yo effect. Your goal should be to lose body fat long term. By reducing your weight slowly – 0.5 to 1 kg per week – you’ll be able to keep it off.
Every meal should include a source of protein because the macronutrient protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle. It’s up to you whether you prefer to combine animal and plant protein or get your protein from vegan sources.
Sources of plant-based protein:
- Soy and soy products
- Grain products
Sources of animal protein:
- Meat and meat products
- Milk and dairy products
Make sure to get enough protein, but don’t overdo it: A daily protein intake of 1 to 1.5 g per kg of body weight is optimal if you want to get in shape and you exercise regularly.
Calculate how much protein you need:
Fat is the last of the three macronutrients in our fitness nutrition guide. 1g of fat contains more than twice as many calories as 1g of carbohydrates or protein, which is why it should be consumed in small amounts. Fat is important for the body to be able to build cells, produce hormones, and absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Fat also intensifies flavors of food.
Get your healthy unsaturated fatty acids from high-quality vegetable oils (flaxseed oil, safflower oil, and olive oil), nuts, seeds, fatty fish and avocados. If you want to get in shape and stay healthy, limit your daily fat consumption to 1g per kg of body weight.
An important part of fitness nutrition is making sure you’re properly hydrated – and that doesn’t only apply to athletes. Quench your thirst with non-carbonated water, mineral water, and unsweetened fruit or herbal tea. Spice up your water with a fresh sprig of mint or a slice of lemon or orange.
The daily recommended fluid intake is 35-40ml per kg of body weight, although of course you can drink more when temperatures are high. You also have to consume 1.5 times more fluid to replenish the fluids lost due to sweating during your workout.
Do alcohol and exercise mix?
Caution: alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation and dehydrates you. Small amounts of beer, wine, and spirits usually don’t have a significant impact on your performance. However, drinking too much can be seriously detrimental to your fitness progress.
The most important thing you need to get in shape is patience. Long term success doesn’t happen overnight. A balanced, intuitive diet and regular exercise that’s fun will make you feel good about yourself, which will help you stick with it.