Incorporating a Healthy Diet into Your Fitness Goals
Your body is a complex machine, and the fuel you take in affects its performance.
Fairly obvious, right? And yet, other than elite athletes, it seems that many of us don’t always strive for optimum nutrition. Then we wonder why we can’t lose weight, run faster (or at all!), hoist heavier weights, or even get to the gym.
Diet and physical performance, including fitness, are inextricably linked. Food and water are essential to sustain life, and nutrients feed the body’s cells, muscles, and brain for proper functioning. Fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods is like putting premium gasoline in your car. It just runs better.
Even if you don’t aspire to be an Olympic champion, eating nutritiously pays big dividends in terms of overall health, motivation and energy level, immunity, weight management, stress and anxiety management, and more. So if you want to feel better, look better, get fit, get more fit, or achieve whatever specific fitness goal you’re aiming for, a healthy diet plays a critical role.
Healthy Eating for Better Workout Performance
It’s not difficult to agree with these nutritional facts. What’s more challenging is to actually put this into practice consistently. But it is possible. Follow these recommendations on incorporating a healthy diet into your fitness goals.
- Emphasize fruits and vegetables. These are nutritional powerhouses, with many full of fiber and low in calories. Choose fresh seasonal options, look for some new recipes, and aim to include fruits and veggies in every meal.
- Choose lean meats and whole grains. If you eat meat, it’s healthier to opt for chicken, turkey, and fish over fattier red meats. For other protein sources, eat beans, legumes, eggs, and nuts. Skip white bread and white rice, and instead select whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and seeds.
- Incorporate low-fat dairy. Bypass whole milk, high-fat cheeses, and ice cream and substitute low-fat versions. Or if you can’t tolerate low-fat cheese (we get it!), limit your consumption of the regular kind.
- Hydrate wisely. That means taking in lots of water during the day, not just when you exercise. Favor water over coffee, juice, soda, and alcohol. If you’re bored with plain water, add fresh lemon, lime, or fruit slices, or try seltzer water.
- Reduce processed foods. While crackers, chips, baked goods, cereals, macaroni and cheese, and more taste good, many are nutritional landmines in terms of fat, sugar, and sodium content. Look for a healthier option before grabbing these.
- Eat regular meals. Don’t skip meals, which lowers your blood sugar (and energy), slows your metabolism, and can lead to overeating or poor food choices later. Plan your meals, carry snacks with you, and try to stick to reasonably consistent meal times. Healthy, low-calorie snacks are fine if you need them.
- Be flexible. Food is one of the pleasures of life, and it’s all about balance. Don’t be so rigid that you’re unsatisfied. Follow the 80/20 rule, where you eat healthy 80% of the time but allow yourself some indulgences (with reasonable portion sizes) the other 20% of the time.
Pursue a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet and a consistent fitness regimen. It’s definitely worth the effort! As always, don’t hesitate to speak to your physician if you have specific questions about your diet and nutritional needs.
For more than 25 years, Julie King has been a certified group exercise instructor and personal trainer, holding certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, the Aquatic Exercise Association and Schwinn/Mad Dogg Athletics. She also has extensive continuing education and instruction experience in PiYo, YogaFit and mat Pilates.
Over her career, Julie has led virtually every class format at commercial health clubs, corporate fitness centers, wellness centers, schools and online. A contributing editor for Club Business International magazine, she has been published in Club Industry, Fitness Management, Club Solutions, National Fitness Trade Journal and Gear Trends/SNEWS.
With a M.S. in Kinesiology and a B.S. in Journalism, Julie is passionate about helping others to cultivate a love and habit of exercise.