Health and fitness is about more than just coming down to CrossFit Thao Dien, working out hard, earning hi-fives from your fellow athletes after a new PB, and heading home again. Exercise is a great habit, and it allows us the physical and mental freedom and confidence to do what we want in life. But how we eat and drink is probably the most vital part of our daily habits and routines.
At CrossFit Thao Dien we know that for most of our athletes, better nutrition would help them achieve their goals faster, whether those goals are health related (most often ‘lose fat’) or performance related.
Food and fitness are completely intertwined – we need fuel to burn during exercise, and exercise changes how we burn our fuel.
Food and diet is such a big part of our culture. We socialise over food and take pleasure from it. There is also an endless variety of body types, health objectives and needs, access to different ingredients, and personal preferences over issues such as alcohol, organic food, caffeine etc.
We are not nutritionists, and cannot prescribe specific dietary recommendations or plans. However, from our personal experience and professional training we do know a lot about this topic. There is so much information available to people about food, health and diets. There is also so much miss-information, fad diets and quack science. It is hard for our athletes to understand the information, make a judgement on whether it is true or not, and then turn it into action.
So, we sat down with Lois at Fit Foodie Saigon and created FIVE easy rules. In our experience these apply almost universally to everyone – whatever your current health level is and whatever your food and fitness goals. These rules are effective at helping nearly everyone achieve what they want. They are easy to apply, pretty self-explanatory, and together will help get your started with some actionable steps towards more effective eating. See what you think and tell us how it works for you!
1. EAT MORE VEGETABLES – Do you have vegetables on your plate? WHY THE HELL NOT? Fill at least half of your plate with veggies, the more colours the better! Don’t worry about over eating veggies – that’s pretty hard to do. JUST EAT MORE. They are full of good stuff, taste delicious plus if half of your plate is full of veggie goodness there’s less room for other stuff. You really should be constantly chasing vegetables. 5 a day is way too little.
2. ADD PROTEIN AT EVERY SINGLE MEAL – Yes even at breakfast. You need to eat more protein, for sure. Protein keeps us fuller for longer, reducing the risk of ‘bad’ snacks. It is also a low GI source of energy, released over a long time preventing blood sugar crashes. Protein helps to maintain muscle mass during fat loss, and more muscle mass means you’ll naturally burn more calories – who can say no to that?!
3. KEEP TRACK OF FATS – Fat-free products are pretty discredited. If you have fat free milk with a chocolate biscuit dunked in what is the point? Fat is important in our diet. Like protein, fat is low GI, keeps you feeling more-full, and also many fatty foods we love – nuts, avocados etc. BUT fat is super calorie dense, so you need to keep track and watch out. There is the same number of calories in a handful of peanuts as there is a banana, but you don’t eat multiple bananas in one sitting, do you? Thick, tasty sauces can be laden with hidden fat form the oils. Similar with salad dressings. So, eat fat, but keep your eyes out for where too much is hiding.
4. KNOW YOUR CARBOHYDRATES HIERARCHY. For nearly everyone it’s OK to have beer and cake – occasionally, sometimes, often, whatever. But you need know the families of carbs and constantly try to consume better ones. We already mentioned vegetables – rule 1. Next is fruit, then starchy veg (potatoes), then whole-grains, then the processed carbs (beer and cake) being the bottom of the list. Better carbs are lower GI, releasing energy more slowly and preventing blood sugar crashes, and have other nutritional contents too – vitamins, minerals, fibre etc. You need these in a balanced diet, but better carbs help you out a lot more. Constantly try to replace the carbs in your meals with ones higher up the hierarchy.
5. HAVE TACTICAL SNACKS and make your meals similar sizes. You don’t need to eat immediately before or after a workout, especially a 1 hour CrossFit class, but if you are still having three meals a day with your biggest one in the evening, WAKE UP! Nearly everyone would benefit from a bigger breakfast (see rules 1, 2 and 4 about what a good one looks like!), a smaller dinner, and some well-planned snacks through the day so you don’t go 7 hours from lunch to dinner with an evening workout in the middle. This pattern of eating and snacking will reduce the chances of you having an over-sized dinner, or caving in for a less healthy snack (let’s face it, most readily available snacks don’t help with rules 1-4…).
Try them... 5 easy rules for more effective eating
Want more support with diet and recipes from a nutritional coach?
Get in touch with Lois, member of CrossFit Thao Dien & Founder of Fit Foodie Saigon