Nutrition Know-How: Keep it Simple

May 3, 2018

Performance Nutrition Specialist Lee Hyrkas shares the value of sticking to the fueling basics

With all the different meal plans and diets on the market, deciding on the best option can be downright confusing. I find that clients can become wrapped up in jumping from diet to diet and often lose sight of the basics. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to experiment with different eating patterns to determine what best suits your body and taste preferences. However, don’t lose sight of getting back to the basics and keeping things simple for a while. You may be surprised at the results.

The Basics:

• Step 1: Choose a lean protein source: ~3-4 oz., or ~2-3 servings of meat alternatives. Select loin, tenderloin or round cuts of beef and pork. Trim excess white fat off meats and remove skin on poultry. Choose lean ground meats (90/10, 95/5, 97/3). Limit fried and breaded meats. When eating out, ask for dressings or sauces on the side and use about half or less.

• Step 2
o (Hard Training Day): Aim for another quarter of your plate to be fruits and vegetables. These antioxidant-rich foods play an important role in boosting your immune system and fighting inflammation — and they may speed recovery from exercise. Include a least 2-3 servings of fruit and 3 or more servings of non-starchy vegetables daily.

(A hard training day can be considered any training session lasting longer than 60 minutes at a high-intensity level. You should feel very fatigued after a hard session. Individuals performing two training sessions in a day should consider that a hard training day as well.)

o  (Light Training Day or Weight Loss): Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit. 

• Step 3
o (Hard Training Day): Fill half your plate (~3-6 servings per meal) with quality carbohydrates. Strive for most of your carbohydrates to be whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat or sprouted grain breads, oatmeal, etc. Whole grains offer higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Having an adequate amount of carbohydrates on hard training days will ensure that you are getting the most out of your workouts.

o  (Light Training Day or Weight Loss): Reduce quality carbohydrates to a quarter of your plate (~2-4 servings per meal). Less carbohydrate is needed for lower-intensity training. For weight loss, you don’t need to cut carbohydrates completely; simply scaling back portions should do the trick.

• Step 4: Include small amounts of healthy fats and oils with meals. Healthy fats include fish, nuts, seeds, nut butters, olives, olive oil, canola oil, hummus, avocados and oil-based salad dressing. A serving is equivalent to 1 tsp. butter or oil, 1/4 avocado, or 2 Tbsp. salad dressing.

• Step 5: Choose your beverages wisely. Reduce sugary beverages (soda, juice drinks, energy drinks, cappuccino, etc.). Instead, focus on nutient-rich beverages such as low-fat milk, soy milk, almond milk or Kefir yogurt. Calorie-free beverages are also ideal, including water, unsweetened tea, carbonated water or water infused with fruit, mint or cucumber slices. Save sports drinks for events or workouts lasting >60-90 minutes and at a high-intensity level.

• Step 6: Choose lower-calorie condiments to flavor meals. Popular choices include mustard, pepper, salt-free spices (garlic, onion powder, cayenne, etc.), hot sauce, sriracha sauce, lime or lemon juice, Greek yogurt and vinegars (all types).

Lee Hyrkas is a registered dietitian and performance nutrition specialist at Bellin Health. Lee’s goal is to assist every athlete and active individual in maximizing their performance and health. To schedule a one-on-one assessment, please contact Lee at [email protected] or (920) 430-4728.

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