Hope everyone is enjoying the Labor Day weekend thus far. For many of us, this is yet another opportunity to gather around the grill to BBQ with friends and family. It is a tradition rooted deeply in American history that I too am a part of. But as fitness enthusiasts, we have to draw a line between eating healthy and going overboard. While it can be difficult to eat healthy all the time, there are some nutritional mistakes many active people, myself included, make everyday.
We all know nutrition is a big part of optimal health and fitness. We’re not always going to eat the right meal. It’s just virtually impossible. But there are certain mistakes active people can and should avoid for long-term success and continued progress in the gym. I came up with 10 of such mistakes.
Here they are:
1. Skipping breakfast: This is by far the most common mistake active people make. Starting your day off without a meal is like asking a car to move without any gas in the tank. Breakfast jump starts your day and ignites your metabolism for the rest of the day. When we wake up in the morning, our bodies would have been without food for several hours during the night. A breakfast is exactly what it is: A fast being broken after several hours with no food. No matter how pressed you are for time in the morning, try to grab a small bite before heading out!
2. Not eating before a workout: Eerily similar to the first mistake, working out without the adequate nutrients in the body can affect performance and cause fatigue and dizziness. An ideal preworkout meal should contain sufficient amount of carbs with little protein and fat. It is important to note that carbs should be the preferred source as they supply the body with the most readily available fuel.
3. Waiting too long after exercising to eat: The body has a short window for optimal recovery and maximal growth after a workout has been completed. Most fitness experts conclude that window to be within 30 to 45 minutes although I’ve heard some say as long as 90 minutes. The bottom line is carbs and protein must be consumed immediately following a workout. The carbs will aid in recovery and replenishing glycogen stores while the protein will facilitate muscle growth and repair damaged tissue fibers.
4. Replacing meals with shakes and snack bars: For a lot of us with hectic schedules, getting balanced meals frequently may be difficult. While protein shakes and bars can be good substitutes, they shouldn’t be relied upon too much. No healthy snack or energy drink compares to balanced, nutritional whole foods which contain more healthy nutrients, vitamins and minerals. As a rule of thumb, only one-third of your daily number of meals should come from protein shakes and energy bars.
5. Consuming too much protein and not enough carbs: Whether you’re an endurance athlete, powerlifter or just an all-around gym goer, carbs are mandatory for effective performance and optimal recovery. Simply consuming a lot of protein all the time will slow down your progress, affect your performance and potentially cause damage to your kidneys.
6. Relying on the accuracy of dietary supplements‘ claims: I use dietary supplements regularly and have been doing so for over 10 years. But I take all their claims and belief with a grain of salt. The supplement industry, though worth almost $70 billion, remains an unregulated industry with many of the manufacturer’s claims not supported by the FDA. So many products promise intense pumps, massive gains and a host of other things. Don’t buy into all the hoopla. Always do your research, use caution, listen to your body and follow a sound nutrition.
7. Not consuming the right amount of calories based on your activity level: By now we all know in order to lose weight, calories burned must exceed calories consumed and vice versa for muscle gain. However, the number of calories you consume daily should reflect your physical activity. Competitive athletes and bodybuilders need to consume a lot of calories because of how much fuel they expend during their training and events. The more active a person is, the more calories that person’s body will demand. However, one must be careful not to consume too much calories so fat mass doesn’t increase.
8. Being active means you can eat whatever you want: For the most part, extremely active people can get away with a cheat meal or two every now and then. Because these folks have a high metabolism, their bodies will process food for fuel at a rapid rate. However, if too much calories are consumed, especially meals that are high in trans and saturated fat, weight gain in the abdominal/trunk region will increase. It’s easy to get a little complacent with diet if you’re active, but remain steadfast and try to make healthy choices 90% of the time.
9. Not drinking enough fluids: Approximately 80 percent of muscle is made up of water and roughly 65 percent in the human body. An adequate amount of fluids must be consumed daily for body maintenance. Active people need more water because water is lost via sweat during exercise and excretion when we urinate. Not replacing these fluids can lead to fatigue, dehydration, dizziness and nausea. Thirst isn’t the best indicator for water consumption. If the color of your urine is yellowish or orange-like, you’re already dehydrated. Whether active or not, everyone should aim to consume between 75 and 120 ounces of water daily.
10. Falling prey to the latest exercise and diet fad: We live in a society where so many dietary pills and exercise equipments flash across our televisions as infomercials promising instant results. These ads are usually very tempting and luring in their presentation but don’t buy into the hype. There’s no such thing as a ‘magic pill’ or exercise equipment that guarantees instant results. These are gimmicks! The best remedy for a fit and lean body remains exercising regularly and a sound nutrition program.