Maybe it’s time to ask yourself, are you training to eat? Or eating to train?
You like your food. Ok most people do, but you really enjoy treats, sweet things like cakes and chocolate, or perhaps you’re more of a chips and crisps sort or person. Or maybe you’re not into junk food – how does a big bowl of pasta carbonara with garlic bread, a roast with lots of roast potatoes and all the trimmings, or pie and mash with lots of gravy sound? Lovely right?!
Unfortunately if we all ate this way all of the time we’d all gain weight pretty quickly, UNLESS of course your life is extremely active so you burn most of what you eat, even if that is a fair few calories.
I see this behaviour all the time to a lesser degree in people who exercise – they went for a run that day in order to ‘allow’ themselves a whole pizza when they go out to eat that night. They did a spinning class after work so 3 glasses of wine with supper if perfectly acceptable. They’ve spent Saturday morning chasing after kids at the play arena so have completely earned that chocolate fudge cake.
From a calorie point of view, this may just work, if what you are burning off exceeds the calories consumed. But what of health and body composition? ‘Rewarding’ ourselves with food is pointless unless it’s something really ‘naughty’ – another way of saying these foods are high in calories but low in nutritional value (bar the roast dinner perhaps, but that’s not usually people’s first choice of ‘treat’ foods).
This is what athletes do, and what some people do when, say, training for a marathon. Their food intake is as important to their training regime as the activity or sport they are taking part in, and is devised and regulated specifically to maximise their performance in their chosen sport. This may encompass systems such as carbohydrate timings, counting macros (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) or the use of protein shakes to make consuming extra protein more convenient. The message is the same either way – eat what your body requires in order for you to perform at your best. Eat to live, rather than live to eat.
You don’t have to be taking part in any formal exercise or training to have this approach – everyone’s health benefits when they choose what to eat based on how it will improve their energy skin, heart healthy, immunity, strength and everything else that constitutes health.
A piece of chocolate cake might even have the same calories as a handful of nuts and a banana (and therefore have the same effect in terms of weight gain or loss), but I think you can probably guess which is going to deliver more nutrients.
I keep my food choices really simple – I try to get as much nutrition per calorie as possible, thereby maximising my intake of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients such as amino acids and essential fats, without eating more calories than my body requires, and therefore not resulting in excess weight gain. Since taking this approach my overall health and energy have never been better. I urge you to give it a try and see if you too can reap the benefits of ‘eating to train’.
That’s not to say you can’t enjoy healthy food, of course, you just need to learn how to eat well without depriving yourself.