Our most recent coaches corner podcast discussed “getting your diet back on track” as the intro topic.
I did my best to give you some practical tips, sensible questions to ask yourself, and actionable advice for bringing your diet back inline with your training goals.
This topic is something very relevant to those athletes in the midst of their race preparation season; where the race is still a little while off, and motivation for diet dictatorship has slipped, resulting in a (slight) deviation from the clean eating you started off with.
None of us are perfect; and perfection isn’t something that I recommend as it is linked with obsessive eating and exercise tendencies and these are a product of unhappiness to be honest. When the balance goes obsessive tendencies start to appear. there is only so long that you can hold yourself to dogmatic diet practices; something gives.
What you are striving for is eating to nourish your body, to maintain optimum health, and to reap the full benefits of your kick ass training. It does benefit us to shoot for a nutrient dense diet, appropriately timed for training sessions while also being affordable, flexible and enjoyable. These last points are key; what we eat must be enjoyable and flexible enough to accomodate life and family. A lot of time in my day-to-day coaching athletes with diet is about just this; the how to and problem solving pieces.
If you need would like to evaluate your diet and explore practical ways to improve your diet while maintaining ownership of the process and empowering yourself with skills, please contact me; this is what I do!
Here is the podcast and a quick note summary below.
Where is your diet off track?
This may seem like a very obvious question and it is a crucial one to ask yourself, for the answers lie here! Take a look at your:
- Meal content – WHAT IS ON YOUR PLATE?
- Are you eating too much or too little?
- Has PROCESSED food snuck in more than just on the odd occasion?
- Over-reliance on PRODUCTS such as bars, sweets/ candies, protein drinks, ETC. in place of food. We have a daily nutrient requirement to meet in addition to just calories. Food quality matters.
- Meal TIMING – are you eating for when you most need the fuel and nourishment?
- WHERE are you eating? Have you slipped back into eating food from the store, the cafe, the restaurant? Are you eating on the sofa in front of the TV, or on the hop, from your children’s plates, at your office desk or glued to your phone?
- How much TIME are you giving to planning, shopping, prepping food and eating?
- Explore your PRIORITIES and decision-making: every meal is a choice.
What must change?
- Less processed food.
- Less volume and portion size or different proportion of macros.
Yes; this IS too much!
- Meal skipping.
- Missing breakfast or black coffee only for breakfast.
- Missing an evening pre-training snack due to rushing straight from work to training.
- Too many fasted training sessions.
- Poor “peri-training” nutrition.
- Switching back to 90%+ as real food; home-cooked foods and raw ingredients as the diet base.
- Limiting calorie dense coffees such as sweetened milky coffees, “designer coffees”, soda/ fizzy drinks, or alcoholic beverages.
- Night time snacking.
- In the car snacking.
- Eating the kids food.
- Where you purchase foods – do you need to get back to the stores that sell fresh produce with better options?
- etc….. where are your weak spots?
Goals – remind yourself of your goals!
- Performance goals.
- Health goals.
- Lifestyle, family, relationship goals (after all this must fit in with your life).
- Weight loss/ gain goals (i.e. body weight)
- Body composition goals (i.e. body fat %, lean mass %)
Remember to keep your goals realistic, your expectations tough but achievable, and your time-line possible.
For example a weight loss of 1-2 lbs/ 0.5 to 1 kg per week is manageable when training volume and intensity is high; less is perhaps counter-productive to performance.
The same applies to weight gain; you cannot just stuff yourself and expect muscle mass gains in the absence of unwanted fat mass gains; especially if you do not add strength work to your routine (NB, strength work can be done on the bike and in your endurance training).
Be mindful of an ALL or NOTHING approach. So many athletes are guilty of ramping UP the training and clamping DOWN on calories at the same time and the result is potential burn out, muscle loss, injury and worse. Be SMART; slow and steady, consistent and focused wins this race.
Remember that in order to reap what you sow you need your body to be in an optimal place of health. Sub-optimal health impacts training quality, training response, and worse still may end you up sick, tired, or injured.
The more common problems that I see in the clinic that I highly recommend addressing with a professional (yep I can help you) should they be an issue for you are:
- SLEEP ISSUES
- POOR RECOVERY
- OVER-TRAINING/ LACK OF STRUCTURE
- GASTROINTESTINAL ISSUES (don’t ignore these as they can progress to deeper issues)
- STRESS and non-stop all-go lifestyle
- MIND-BODY “MANAGEMENT”; attitude and mindset are key.
- REPEATED ILLNESS, INFECTION, INJURY
- PAIN, INFLAMMATION
- NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES; notably iron, B12, protein and essential amino acids, essential fats, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin A, fibre, probiotic and prebiotic foods, antioxidants.
- SPECIAL DIETS such as vegan, vegetarian and ketogenic diet can pose a risk to energy management and nutritional status of the athlete with high training demands.
So now that you have had a look at the weak spots explore what will create the biggest positive impact and start there; write your goals down each week and use a journal or your training peaks as a motivator
- Time management
- Prioritise time for planning, shopping and food prepping.
- Batch cook meals, soups, health bars, protein.
- Bring lunch and snacks to work.
- Eat in a silent low-stress time out environment. The world can wait!
- Bulk buy training nutrition and storage cupboard items.
- Bulk cook snacks such as rice bars, polenta bars and high protein recovery bars; freeze and use during the week or when travelling.
- Stock up on healthy foods and TRASH the food distractions.
- Plan the day ahead before you go to bed. This saves the morning frenzy.
- Simple changes on your plate: increase vegetable portions, vegetables from the colour spectrum, better quality carbohydrates and quality protein in an appropriate and not too large portion.
- For some eating more protein spread out across the day may be key. Be prepared; buy in bulk (e.g. canned fish, meat and fish for the freezer, canned beans and lentils for the cupboard, a nice stock of eggs for the week etc.)
- Portion control.
- Ditch unhealthy fats and include the healthy ones from oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, extra virgin olive oil etc. Unnecessary fats add needless calories to the diet.
Remember that basic changes can be powerful when done consistently
Ok reality check; it is consistency that is key; not being strict and then falling off the wagon cycles.
Strive to make choices that you can maintain; keep it simple. Be mindful of what you CHOOSE to eat, how and why. Do you eat in front of the sofa? Eating at the table will assist mindful presence and awareness of what you eat. Do you eat while working or on your smart phone? Are you in a habit of having a glass of wine every evening or a few pints at the weekend? Is this interfering with your goals? Do you eat out often or have to attend corporate events? Can you make a plan?
My job is to help you with this plan, reduce the overwhelm and give you key nuggets of advice and skills to implement the necessary changes to achieve your goals. If you like we can also keep track of weight and body comp goals by way of a monthly bodystat body composition assessment. For some this can add helpful accountability and monitoring of progress.
Things can get boring if we don’t continually challenge ourselves. Consider the following:
- Weekly goals for the addition of new foods.
- Learning new and simple cooking techniques; for example how to make home-made soup, making slow cooked meals, learning to oven roast vegetables or make a tasty stir-fry.
- Exploring new carbohydrate food options such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet, bean pastas, polenta etc.
- What about making yourself home-made energy and recovery bars? I have a lot of recipes to share!
- Do you have spare cash to invest in a handy kitchen gadget like a Nutri-bullet or slow cooker, some better pans, baking equipment, or a griddle pan?
- What about shopping in new stores? Have you explored local ethnic food shops, or eastern European retailers or the local market, butcher or fish mongers?
So you see, lots of ways to bring things back on track!