A lot of people start their health and fitness journey with exercise, but few really pay attention to their diet. Nutrition plays a pivotal role in determining the success of your fitness goals, influencing changes in your body composition, energy levels, and overall health and performance. No matter how hard you train, you won’t see results unless your nutrition aligns with your goals.
In this article, we'll delve into the importance of calories and macronutrients, and how to optimise your nutrition for peak performance and transformative changes in your body.
UNDERSTANDING ENERGY BALANCE
The key to achieving any body composition or performance goal starts with consuming the right amount of calories. Your calorie balance refers to the relationship between the calories you consume through your diet and the calories your body expends through daily activities and exercise. To lose weight or body fat, you need to ensure that you’re in a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume), while gaining weight or muscle requires a calorie surplus (consuming more calories than you burn). If you just want to maintain your weight while improving your health and performance then you’ll need to consume the same amount of calories that you burn.
Once you know how many calories you personally burn in a day, you can calculate how many calories you need to eat each day in order to achieve your body composition goal.
Consuming the right amount of calories will help you manipulate weight according to your goals, but it won’t help you target fat loss or muscle gain specifically. This is where optimising your macronutrient intake comes into play. There are three main macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate and fat – which are molecules contained in different amounts in all food and beverages that provide us with energy and have specific functions in the body.
Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, making it a crucial component of any diet – especially those who are engaging in regular training. To maximise muscle protein synthesis, individual needs range from 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Include lean protein sources such as chicken, seafood, beef, pork, tofu, eggs, and dairy in your meals to support your body's recovery and promote lean muscle mass. Protein powder is a convenient option for those who struggle to consume enough protein in their diet. Click here to shop our Reload Plant Based Recovery Protein.
Carbohydrates are the body's preferred energy source, especially during high-intensity workouts. Adjust your carbohydrate intake based on your activity levels. People engaging in rigorous training may benefit from a higher carbohydrate intake, while those with a more sedentary lifestyle may require fewer carbs to avoid excess calories. Prioritise complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, as they provide a sustained release of energy to support your workout performance.
Fats are essential for hormone production and overall well-being. Include sources of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet. Balancing your fat intake is essential, as fats are calorie-dense, and excessive consumption can lead to an unintended calorie surplus and subsequent weight gain.
OPTIMISING HEALTH & PERFORMANCE
Finding the right calorie and macronutrient needs for your goals is the first step. But if you want to optimise your overall health and performance, you do need to take it a step further. The following strategies will help you do that:
1. Food selection:
Your calorie and macronutrient intake will dictate changes in your body, but your food selection will dictate how you feel. It’s important to get at least 80% of your diet from nutrient-dense foods to ensure that your body is getting all of the micronutrients and fibre it needs for optimal health.
2. Nutrient timing:
Nutrient timing refers to the strategic timing of meals and supplements to optimise performance, recovery, and adaptation to training. Proper nutrient timing can enhance exercise performance, reduce fatigue, accelerate recovery, and improve overall health. Ensuring that you consume a meal containing a good amount of carbohydrates and protein before your workouts will help you fuel your performance and sustain your energy. Consuming a mixed meal containing protein, carbohydrates and fat after your workout will give your body the nutrients to recover adequately from a training session, allowing you to repair and build muscle tissue. Distributing protein consumption evenly across meals will enhance its anabolic effects.
Proper hydration is often underestimated but is crucial for optimal performance as it supports nutrient transport, temperature regulation, and overall cellular function. It’s important to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day, and to adjust your intake based on your activity levels and loss of fluids through sweat. Specially formulated hydration drinks like our Aminolyte Hydrate will help you replenish electrolytes lost through sweat and restore the balance of electrolytes and essential nutrients in your body.
While whole foods should be the primary focus, supplements can fill nutritional gaps and give you that extra edge when it comes to your performance and recovery. Consider adding a multivitamin, a quality protein powder, and a pre-workout/energy supplement to help you get the most out of your training.
Aligning your nutrition with your fitness goals is a dynamic process that requires attention to how much you are consuming, what you are consuming and when you are consuming it. By understanding calorie balance, the role of macronutrients, and by selecting nutrient-dense foods that support your performance, you can fast-track your way to achieving your health and fitness goals. Remember, consistency is key, and finding a sustainable and enjoyable approach to nutrition will contribute significantly to your long-term success.
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