eating healthy

Healthy Eating for a Physically Active Lifestyle

If you live a physically active lifestyle, your diet should reflect that. You need to be consuming foods that fuel energy and speed recovery. Eating the right foods will help you to feel your best so that you can continue to push yourself to the limit during a workout or a game, and fully recover in between.

Your diet should consist of a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. People who engage in high-intensity exercise or sports should consult with a dietitian who will make a personalized menu plan based on their exercise schedule.

What role do carbohydrates play in exercise?

If you’re physically active, you have likely heard that you should be consuming carbs before a workout. Here’s why.

Once carbohydrates enter the body, they go to the muscles and liver and are stored in the form of glycogen. During physical activity, glycogen particles are broken down into glucose — the muscles’ main source of fuel. When the glycogen stores begin to dwindle during a workout, we become fatigued, and our muscles begin to feel like they’re going to give out. Increasing your carbohydrate intake before a workout will increase your glycogen stores, giving you more energy and a longer workout period.

Why role do proteins play in exercise?

Proteins are important for both performance during exercise and for recovery after exercise.

When you consider that your muscles are protein, it makes a lot of sense that your body should require more protein in order to increase muscle synthesis, recovery, and growth. Eating protein before a workout has been shown to improve performance and speed recovery.

If you are physically active, you should be consuming 20-40 grams of quality protein every 3-4 hours on workout days. Taking shortcuts with protein powders and bars? It is recommended that you get your protein from whole foods instead, such as eggs, fish, chicken, beans, lentils, soy, and quinoa.

What should my daily diet consist of?

If you exercise regularly, you should be consuming nutrient-dense whole foods and complete proteins. Eat plenty of vegetables of every color, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fatty fish. With a healthy and varied diet, you ensure that you are getting the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs for optimal performance and recovery.

Sample menu:

Breakfast: 2 slices of whole-grain bread + 2 eggs + sliced vegetables + cheese (headed straight for a workout? Add in a date for extra fuel)

Snack: 1 fruit + a handful of almonds

Lunch: Chicken breast/turkey/fish + whole-grain pasta + roasted vegetables

Dinner: Quinoa + sweet potato + avocado + leafy green salad

In addition, every few days before going to sleep, you should consume casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk. Casein has been shown to increase muscle synthesis and improve recovery time. Eat a serving of yogurt, cottage cheese, or sour cream to get casein.

If you’re dedicated to eating a healthy diet, the majority of your meals should come from home. Skip the takeout and focus instead on nutrient-dense foods. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the time and effort it takes to make healthy meals every day, consider doing a once-a-week meal prep instead.