Managing work, family, a social life and training? Sometimes what we eat can fall to the bottom of the priority list which means we’re not fuelling well enough to perform at our best. Instead, get your nutrition sorted with these simple steps.
Riding to potential on a diet of processed foods and last minute food decisions is near impossible. Healthy eating for training requires a good mix of healthy carbs for energy (think wholegrain bread, rice, pasta or starchy veggies), lean proteins for recovery (think lean meat, fish, eggs or dairy), healthy fats for energy (olive oil, avocado and nuts for example) and lots of vitamins and minerals to support your immune system and help with recovery (this is where your fresh fruit and veggies come in). If you are constantly reaching for the closest lunch or snack option or ordering takeaway foods to get you by, you’ll be eating more unhealthy fats, salt and sugar and compromising your performance. If this sounds like you, do not fear. A few simple steps can have your food organised no matter where you are and get you on the path to tearing up the trails with endless energy in no time.
STEP 1. Plan your meals like you do your training.
You plan your training each week, so think about planning your meals, too. Find a few minutes each week to sit down and plan what you’ll eat each night during the week. Think about what is on this week. Do you have any meals out planned? Are there any late finishes at work, or things on the family calendar that need to be considered? It may be that you pull something out of the freezer or whip up an omelette that night. Once you’ve got dinners sorted, move onto lunches then breakfasts and snacks. It often helps to keep breakfast and lunch pretty simple and to rotate between a couple of staples. The less decisions you have to make, the better. Eggs on toast or oats or muesli with some stewed fruit
and nuts are simple go-to breakfast options. You can even double up the eggs on toast as lunch if you get stuck. Ideally for lunch and dinner you want to aim for a meal that is half veggies or salad, a quarter protein and quarter carbs. However, if you’re under a heavy training load, you’ll want to change this to thirds of each for a bit more fuel. You also want to vary your protein and veggies so you get a good balance with lots of different colours. Aim for red meat 3-4 times and week, fish 2-3 times a week and chicken/pork/ turkey/eggs at other meals. Stock the kitchen Once you have your meals planned, write a shopping list and stock the kitchen. Arriving home after a long day to an empty fridge is a sure fire way to push you to dial the local pizza joint. Choose a day each week to shop (go at off peak times so it’s not such a punish!). Outside of the items you need for your planned meals, make sure you have simple, versatile, healthy staples that can used in an emergency in the fridge and pantry. Frozen veggies and berries, wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice, eggs, tins of beans and tuna, a jar of pesto, nuts and seeds, mince, a packet of crispbread and some nut butter are all great ideas as they can be thrown together in a multitude of ways. Cook ahead When planning your meals, think about things you can cook ahead and reheat when you get home. At this time of year, a slow cooker will be your best friend. Chuck everything in, leave the house, come home and voila! Dinner is served. The best bit about slow cooked meals like ragu, curries and soups is that they freeze well so you can cook in big batches so you get multiple meals from one bit of effort. You can prep the veggies to go with your meals in advance as well… roast a big tray of veggies, chop and store your stir-fry veggies in a container in the fridge ready to go, or prep a big salad (just save the dressing until you’re ready to eat it so it doesn’t go soggy). Also think a bit broader and prep your breakfasts too! Use containers to make individual portions of Bircher muesli (you can heat it in the microwave in the morning for a warm start to the day) or hard boil eggs so you grab one and a piece of toast on your way out the door.
Double up As you might do a double session day, make lunch at the same time you’re making your dinner. Serve any leftovers directly into a container when you serve your meals – this works in two ways: you have lunch ready to go the next morning, and you aren’t tempted to go back for seconds! You can make leftovers a little more interesting by turning leftover meat into a wrap with some salad or leftover stir fry into a cold noodle salad with some additional salad veggies.
Have a back-up plan Hopefully now you’ve planned your meals, stocked the kitchen, cooked in batches and frozen extra meals – you already have your back up plan in place! However, it always pays to have some healthy snack options in your glovebox, bag or desk drawer. Things like dried fruit and nuts or a good quality muesli bar travel really well. Keep some simple meal options in the office, too. Keep a box of oats, loaf of bread, tins of tuna or beans, a packet of frozen veggies (or a frozen meal) or crispbread and some peanut butter in case you get stuck.