Athletes, trainers and fitness enthusiasts are more aware than ever of the importance of excellent and accurate, sports nutrition. Not only does optimal nutrition help a fitness trainer/athlete train and compete at their peak, but it’s also vital in maintaining a healthy weight, aiding rapid muscle repair and recovery and sustaining energy levels post workout.

However an inadequate diet can limit potential and hinder the chances for maximum performance. Yet, whilst many athletes strive for optimum nutritional intake on a day to day basis, there’s a lot of misinformation regarding a ‘proper’ diet, particularly so if the goal is to lean up while maintaining safe body fat levels and preserving energy.

Obviously training sensibly and eating well is essential in realizing this ambition, but often fitness trainers/athletes focus on one over the other.Unsurprisingly, many up their training and increase supplementation in the hope of burning fat quickly, but research has shown that dietary modification through the consumption of whole foods can help maximize a fitness trainer/athlete’s potential.

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Why are whole foods better for optimum nutrition?

The key for optimum nutrition is balance. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean proteins are all essential daily dietary requirements to guarantee the body has a good supply of energy to perform. Whole foods are unprocessed, or may be processed just a little and have no additives like salt.

It’s believed they contain more minerals and vitamins in comparison to processed foodstuffs making them healthier and more beneficial to the body particularly when it comes to stamina, energy and recovery. This is due to the unique balance of biologically active natural compounds, inter-related in a complex system that supports the life of the plant or animal from which the food is derived.

This web of interlocking parts is often lost in processed foods and cannot be replicated in supplements, which as their name implies, are meant to ‘supplement’ dietary intake, not replace real food. Recent studies suggest that not only do whole nutritionally dense foods provide more benefits than isolated nutrients, but the unnaturally high doses of single nutrients supplied by supplements may actually induce detrimental effects on health.

When a fitness trainer/athlete takes a supplement, they’re often ingesting a much larger amount of a single nutrient than is necessary thus creating an unbalanced diet. For example, some protein supplements offer up to 80g protein per serving whereas the recommended daily intake for an endurance athlete weighing 75kg is only approximately 90 – 105g. Of course, supplementation can help in achieving the goal of getting lean and maintaining safe body fat levels, but it should not be the sole dietary focus.

Nutritional summary

The goal of a lean physique is one of the most common ambitions for athletes, trainers and fitness enthusiasts. So, just which whole foods should you eat and when for a lean, energetic and healthy body?

Lean Up . Way Part 1_2

Eat several small meals

It’s recommended those trying to achieve this goal consume five to six small meals throughout the day, all of which contain carbohydrates and protein, in order to maintain steady blood sugar levels thus keeping the metabolism high for burning calories and fat.

Don’t cut the carbs

Contrary to popular belief carbohydrates are essential in helping the body burn body fat and get lean. In fact 45 to 50 percent of your total daily calorie intake should come from carbs! But, instead of the starchy white variety, opt for optimal complex sources like sweet potatoes, brown/wild rice, barley or quinoa, oats, legumes and whole wheat bread or pasta.

These slow digesting carbohydrates should be consumed with all meals of the day, except post workout, as they release a constant supply of energy in order to boost metabolism and increase the amount of fat burnt.

Following a training session, fast digesting carbohydrates and a portion of protein, like a baked potato with cottage cheese, should be consumed to provide the body with quick energy for rapid recovery and muscle building amino acids.

In Part 2 we look at Proteins, Carbs & Fats as well as providing a delicious recipe and useful daily eating plan!

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