What, When and How to eat
What, when and how you eat can be very personal and cultural.
However, I can share a few tips if you want to tone up, sleep better and perform at your best.
My go to Low Cal, High protein low carb snacks/ meals
Before bombarding you with great amount of information, these are the easy food that I tend to eat: Rockmelon, Chobani Plain Greek Yoghurt, Home Made Jelly, Tuna with Steamed Vegi, Kangaroo tatami with salad, Cacao Nibs with Dried Fig, Turkey Breast with Vegetable Soup, Konjac noodle with home made sauce, Traditional Japanese Fermented Food such as Miso, Koji, Nukazuke etc... I avoid consuming packaged food/sauces when possible.
Go to my insta to see what I eat generally www.instagram.com/natsukos_creative_world/
Our metabolic as well as digestive health are deeply connected to our sleep. After a heavy work out, my adrenaline is up and sometimes, I have trouble sleeping. If I skip a meal after a strenuous training, I will wake up hungry. The health guidance generally says to eat a few hours before going to bed but training sessions can end very late and there is no option to it.
The solution to this was to eat easily digestible food and stretch before going to bed.
Easily digestible food are generally well cooked and fibres are broken down. This includes soup, slow cooked meal and if not intolerant, yoghurt. Hard to digest food includes read meat, fried food, spicy food, high sugar/fructose meals and raw fibrous vegetables, and these should be avoided before sleeping.
How much to eat
You can get your calorie calculated from calculator.net It will give you a base guideline of how much calories you should take to maintain your current status or lose weight. You can calculate your calories using calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html
Generally said, 500 cal reduction per week of calorie intake can lead to weight loss.
However, as an athlete, I do not like to focus just on weight. we need to maintain high level of performance, be in a good mood and have mental clarity.
If you need to reach to a certain weight for a competition, are going through menopause or aiming to return to post pregnancy shape during breast feeding time - go and see a specialist.
One general rule of thumb. If you feel tired or fatigued, your current diet is not really working and body is sending you signals to seek help.
When to eat
It is generally said...
Pre-work out meals
1-2 hours before exercise to fuel up. Give enough time for your digestion to begin before high intensity work outs. It is said that pre-work out meals have the benefit of better blood sugar level control.
Within 1-2 hours after completion of activity to repair any muscle damage.
Research on this topic is still emerging. How much protein one needs to take differ according to individual needs. This can be calculated via calculator.net/protein-calculator.html
I generally go for clean eating. It means to avoid pre-packed food, avoid refined sugar, choose wholesome organic ingredients when possible and avoid inflammatory food for my digestive systems. I tend to get bloated with bread & pastries, sugary food, onions, bananas and dairy. So where I can, I avoid them. Some people react with Soy products, while others are fine. You have to know what works for your system. I love cakes so I make them without using refined sugar, cream, and flour.
Most food preservatives are known to cause inflammation and stress in kidney/liver. I generally go for organic ingredients and avoid pre-made sauces and flavourings.
I am not here to promotes supplements. But I do take digestive enzyme (Pre and Probiotics) especially when I have heavy meals. I also regularly take magnesium citrate. If you cramp frequently, and not eating enough greens (plus low in hydration), your magnesium level may be low. Epsom salt bath helps to absorb magnesium via skin. When the weather is bad, I take Vitamin D. Most importantly - - - Not all supplements made equally so seek professional advice before taking them.
Any diet eliminating a certain food/food group is called fad diet. Paleo, Low Carb, Vegan, Keto etc etc. Personally, I do not follow any of these other than I try to eat wholesomely and avoid processed food/sauces. I like to cook from scratch when I can. I may go under detox for a short period of time, avoiding meats and dairy completely when I experience upset stomach. I am not a dietician so I can not say anything about these fad diets but avoiding food that makes you bloated is a wise thing to do. More and more research is showing the connecting between cognitive function to the inner gut balance. You may find articles of your interest here : www.mdpi.com/si/38359
On the day of competition
The day before competition, I generally avoid high sugar and hard to digest food. Also very important to increase your energy intake, so I increase my carb.
Japanese word "KATSU" means to win so traditionally I ate cutlets before the competition. Tonkatsu is my favorite but it is a deep fried food so I ensure to take lot of grated daikon and shredded cabbage as digestive aids. As I got older, I may not follow this superstition anymore, and now I eat simpler Japanese meals like grilled fish, sautéed vegetable and fully prepared from scratch Miso soup.
Most competition venues do not sell good food. When possible, I prepare food easy to eat and digest the day before. For example, I prepare a bottle of green smoothie (EG-Pineapple, Celery, Apple and Celery), white rice (quick energy release) with Japanese omelette (protein) and sautéed greens (mineral and fibre) , soup or bone broth (fuel and collagen) and caffeine when needed. Bananas are a great easy filing for but I am allergic to them so I don't take them. Energy bars and drinks are very often full of sugar (avoid getting manipulated by the ads) so I won't take them during the competitions.
After a competition, it is a reward time for me. The best is not overeat junk or inflammatory food for optimal recovery, but uptake of carb is a simple reward. The social aspect of life is super important. Unless you have to get up early and work the next day, I would appreciatively take what people offer me, go for comfort food, drink or eat something spicy to mark the day.
Get yourself scannd
instead of guessing, it maybe worth getting your body analysed by Body Scans. DEXA scans can reveal where you are storing your fat, discover metabolism rate and check your bone density. Having reality check maybe useful for you to motivate yourself for better health and optimal performance.
If you want to tone up, the most important thing is to avoid continuous digestive inflammation. Everyone is different in terms of what can cause inflammation. Common inflammatory food including, refined sugar & fructose, beans, spicy food, refined carbohydrates, fried food, artificial transfer, soda and processed meat, alcohol and snacks. There are many sites listing anti-inflammatory food. If you feel bloated, you may want to discover what maybe causing it or seek professional advise.
Commonly known anti-inflammatory food includes, berries, fatty fish, broccoli, leafy greens and turmeric.
How to cook
The best way to cook food to retain nutritional value is steaming. Microwaving also preserves nutrients but if you cook in plastic containers, you are consuming poison at the same time. If you choose to microwave, ensure that you use glass containers always. Deep frying is tasty but can turn good oil into bad, and can lead to inflammation. Boiling can reduce the minerals if the boiled water is just drained away. Raw food is full of nutrients and fibre. It is good in the day time but some raw food can be hard to digest so I generally avoid eating raw meals if eating late at night. What I like is colourful and nicely presented food. Examples of what I make at home can be found - High Kick Kitchen and www.instagram.com/natsukos_creative_world/
This is a good easy read greatist.com/health/healthy-cooking-methods#1
How to eat
Aim for happy eating. Diet can be a wholesome experience so avoid eating while working on computers, phone or watching TV. I find this difficult to do so alone so I make sure to find the time to eat with others when possible. The important tip is to dine with people who are generally happy, fit and healthy. It is impossible to eat well while your company is addicted to sugar, alcohol and heavily processed food. Surround yourself with positivity.
I do not like being anti-social so if I have to undergo a certain diet, I will socialise with people who understand the needs or are under similar circumstances. that way, we can avoid discomfort of over eating the food that you did not really want to eat to begin with.
What to eat
This is a very difficult topic. What we eat greatly differ from one culture to another.
We need to have a happy relationship with food. If you forcefully remove food you love, that will make life miserable.
I regularly monitor conditions with my skin, stool, fatigue levels, endurance capacity, and sleep quality.
If one or more of these topics are out of optimal level, then I review my diet. Did I overeat? Did I indulged rich food? Did I eat inflammatory food before going to bed? How much sugar did I take (including carbs)?
I also review my stress level. When I am stressed, seriously, I can not care less about my food. Sometime I go opposite to optimal to abuse myself internally.
I have a few activities to rest my soul on these occasions, such as bush hiking, swimming and going to see some arts.
Read Food Labels
It is important to know what you are putting into your body. What is written on the front of packaging can be very misleading. "Natural" "Healthy" "Low-Fat" do not mean they are good for you. The reality can be discovered if you read the ingredients at the back of each packaging.
Many packaged foods use preservatives and flavour enhancing chemicals. If you see numbers in the ingredient sections, be weary.
Always compare the figures per 100g. Serving suggestion may say only 2g of sugar but per 100g it maybe 19g. Ones serving quantity differ greatly and often they use smaller measure to appear "healthy". Buy a scale to find out real quantity you are taking per meal.
Food for optimal performance
The requirement for optimal sports performance will differ depending on the type of activity, gender, age and duration. It is not easy to say what has been the best for me. The link here shows good basic guidance to calculate how much you may need as basic nutrients before, during, and after sporting activities. The scientific research below suggests that probiotic supplementation enhances athletic performance, recovery and immune. www.mdpi.com/838880
Weight loss vs Toning Figure
Personally speaking, I dislike the word weight loss. Losing weight does not mean getting fitter or more energetic. Muscle is dense compared to fat so when you start exercising, sometimes we gain weight in scale. In fact, super athletic people over 6ft are often obese in terms of BMI although they have almost no body fat. I like the word "toning up" because it generally fits directly with the activities you get involved with.
If you are competing in sports that require to be under certain weight or be in certain shapes, then the best is to seek professional help. Skipping meals, reducing fluids/carbs without detailed analysis and knowledge... you may achieve weight goal but you can become very low in energy and lower your performance potential.
We often get preoccupied with the size of clothing or numbers on the scale. But the most important thing is how you live your life. Even if you could get into your dream dress, if you are tired and exhausted, then you are wasting life away.
Find the best inner and outer balance so that you can fully utilise your potential and live your best life! This will lead to a body composition that suits you the most.
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