Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates! Restricting carbohydrates too much can reduce energy levels and negate the benefits of any fitness program. They are pretty much direct fuel for muscles, the sugar turning into glucose, which is stored in muscles as glycogen and used as needed for energy. Just make sure to eat the healthiest ones for maximum energy and other nutritional benefits – whole grain breads, cereals, pastas, vegetables and fruits, rather than sugar-rich cakes and biscuits.
You should also look to be eating plenty of quality protein too – nuts, lean meats, fish, eggs, milk (a great recovery drink!) and skinless poultry. A good mix of balanced protein and carbohydrates will keep the body fuelled and recovery enhanced.
Lean meats like skinless chicken or turkey help fight fatigue and contain lots of iron, B-vitamins and protein that are perfect for endurance and those seeking weight loss. Meanwhile, for seafood lovers, salmon is packed with essential fatty acids that can help to ease inflammation so stiffness won’t slow you down.
Nuts and dried fruit are the perfect combination of healthy fats, fiber and protein, with healthy fats helping to provide long-lasting energy. Rather than shop bought trail mixes (which can contain excess sugars and oils) just make your own from a mix of seeds and nuts. The fibre-filled seed mix will keep you fuller for longer, steady your blood sugar (so you aren't hungry again in an hour) and give you plenty of lovely nutrients to boot. Keep it to 2 heaped tablespoons a serving.
Egg yolks are rich in B-vitamins and vitamin D, so they’re perfect for energy and strong bones and make an ideal protein-rich breakfast. If you’re concerned about your weight, then mix whole eggs with eggs whites to keep your morning meal as lean as possible.
Grains and Greens
Quinoa is a great source of protein, as well as bone-boosting minerals like iron, magnesium and copper. You can use it for boosting healthy salads to give an energy hit when you’re working out or to help build muscle after an exercise session. This gluten-free grain packs more protein than any other and is an ideal replacement for refined carbohydrates.
Dark leafy greens are packed with calcium, fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C – all of which are important for energy levels and contain depression-fighting folate - so stock up on nutrient rich kale, rocket, chard or spinach for a vitamin boost that will keep your spirits high.
Any kind of fruit will be packed full of nutrients that will give your body the energy it needs for a work out. Bananas in particular are a great option – they’re packed full of potassium which is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function.
Blueberries are another effective performance-enhancing fruit, offering appetite-curbing fibre and plenty of vitamin C to keep your immune system revved. They also help to destroy free radicals in the body before they can damage healthy cells and the dye that makes them blue has also been shown to improve balance and coordination. Add them to whole grain cereals for an energy-boosting breakfast or mix them up with other nutrient rich fruits for a vitality enhancing smoothie.
Not to be overlooked, water is one of the most vital ingredients for keeping your body cool, as dehydration can seriously limit your abilities physically and mentally. Water transports nutrients in the blood that are used for energy and helps to flush out waste build-up. You’ll be amazed at how energised you feel when you continually rehydrate all day, especially before and during work outs.
Most athletes will need to replenish on the carbs, water and minerals for events or training sessions lasting 90 minutes or longer. See a sports nutritionist or qualified personal trainer for individual advice.
Do you find these tips helpful? Here is another suggestion for a diet - The Low carb, High fat diet. Have you tried some of these methods?