Training and fueling your body appropriately is the KEY to becoming a stronger, better athlete. There are no shortcuts.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation that gets thrown around when it comes to sports nutrition and a lot of people go by what they hear or what they presume to be true. While nutrition is incredibly individual, there are still some key principles. Let’s set the record straight on some very common questions.
I see athlete X eating cookies and donuts on Instagram with abs. What gives?
Athletes who want sugar know there’s no better time than around your workouts when your body can burn through it and use it as energy. Ever attend a lifting meet? It’s not uncommon to see lifters eating candy bars or having pixie stix before they go max deadlift. There’s nothing wrong with fitting treats into your macros. And keep in mind on social media you’re seeing the highlights of what that athletes eats. Because no one likes to brag on Instagram about grilled chicken and broccoli. Most of them eat pretty clean most of the time.
If I have a cheat day and the scale goes up, does that mean I’ve gained fat?
No. Cheat days usually involve higher amounts of carbs and higher fat intake. And that means the scale is going to go up. Why? Water retention from all the delicious foods you just consumed. If you went out to eat the night before and ate moderately well and the scale still jumps up, don’t panic. Going out to eat usually results in your sodium intake going up quite a bit. It’s very difficult to put on 5 lb. of real weight overnight.
Don’t freak out when you see the scale go up -it’s good for your body weight to fluctuate up and down, that means your body is working like it’s supposed to.
I don’t have time to eat healthy, meal prep and track every little thing that I eat.
You don’t need to track EVERY single piece of rice you eat. More often than not, it’s all about consistency. Following the 80-20 rule is a good way to start, where 80% of the time you’re eating quality, nutrient dense foods.
If meal prep is an issue companies like Trifecta Nutrition make pre-portioned bulk food and meals that take two seconds to allot into your daily calories. And if you’re totally lost and want someone to just tell you what to eat and when, check out RP Strength. Their diet templates are a great resource for people who don’t have a clue where to start.
Do I have to have a protein shake after I work out?
No, you don’t. It is optimal to get a meal of carbs and protein after a workout as it aides recovery and starts the process of growing/repairing muscles. Some people don’t like eating a meal for a while. Others are coming from a long commute at work and like the convenience and taste of a protein shake with carbs. (Sometimes this is all that convinces me to get to the gym and workout.)
Protein shakes are great, but make sure you’re taking carbs with it or have picked a formula that has carbs in it. The carbs is what people often miss. Drinking pure protein after and you’re still missing part of the equation. (If you need recipe ideas, here’s two.)
If I don’t consume something within the 30-minute window, will I miss the window to recover?
There’s no magic window of time. Obviously, the sooner you can replenish your body after a hard session the better. But you don’t need to hurry up and rush over breathless to your shake bottle or run out of the gym so you can go home to eat. You can catch your breath, put your weights away and still recover.
And it’s not just post-workout that’s important. Having a great mini-meal or shake after won’t help you if your next meal comes in eight hours or you eat awful the rest of the day. Pre and post training are key times but they aren’t the only times to pay attention to what you’re shoveling in.
I’m trying to lose weight. Do I still need carbs?
Yes. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to automatically take away carbs when they try to lean out.
When you do that, essentially you’re cutting water weight so you think you’re making ground. But eventually your performance is going to tank. You need carbs (see the reasons above). You may need not 300g of carbs a day –this is when nutrition comes down to the individual– but omitting them completely as a way to drop weight while training is almost always a mistake. Carbs don’t make you fat, they make you strong.
As long as I’m hitting my macros, nothing else matters, right?
Flexible dieting is great, but you still have to keep overall health in the picture. The micro nutrients you get from veggies and eating nutrient dense foods like sweet potatoes or asparagus contributes to your overall health as a human being.
Plus, you can eat a lot more volume of food if your quality is better, ie. a better bang for your buck when it comes to macros. Most of your meals should be centered around a lean protein source and veggies.