If you aren’t adjusting your nutrition depending on the type of training, you might be missing out on the gains and results you want to see.
There really should be a difference in your nutrition when you’re training like an athlete versus training for general health. One is not better than the other because both goals have their place and time in our lives, but one will require you to be more strict than the other.
Remember – just eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating enough. We have to FUEL our activity with more food than we think to perform, recover, and allow our bodies to function properly.
Here are some key things to remember for either training goal:
Training for Performance
Eating like an athlete and optimizing performance and recovery can be done through counting macros, or even intuitive eating if you are comfortable and confident in this method.
Protein is a priority, as it always should be. If you don’t track your food, we suggest at least tracking protein and overall calories to make sure you’re getting enough of both. Another thing to consider is putting the majority of your carbs around your workouts (pre and post-workout meals) and maybe even an intra workout carb source as well.
Sometimes, we have to eat when we’re not hungry because we merely need the calories to support our training. Or, sometimes the opposite happens and you need to not eat when you are hungry (this is typical when you are in a cutting phase).
The eating when you’re not hungry part even rings true for intuitive athletes who are training for performance. It goes against the intuitive aspect of your approach, but you also can’t NOT eat if you are training. Meaning, those days you just don’t have an appetite and want to eat only 800 calories aren’t going to fly.
Training for Health
If you’re not concerned about performance metrics, your nutrition can look a lot different. When health benefits from training are higher priority, there is a lot more flexibility and less of a need to be exact with your nutrition.
However, we still want to make sure you’re hitting adequate protein, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to track macros. Just make sure your protein needs are being met consistently to help with recovery and maintaining muscle!
Nutrient timing can still be a focus as far as timing your carbs around your workouts, but it’s not AS much of a necessity. Get in your micronutrients, and as always – surplus, deficit, and maintenance is still a thing whether you track your macros or not. Keep that in mind!
You’re also going to want to make sure your daily carbohydrate intake is on par with your activity. Depending on the type of training and the intensity or volume, you might need less than you normally eat when you train for a meet or specific performance goals.
Whatever your approach, we want to stress again, eating adequate amounts of protein. Of course, we can’t NOT eat and expect to see strength gains.
Let’s dive a little bit more into this since it is an area that gets confusing for many. For an intuitive eater like Mary, she finds that at least three out of her four meals need to include a protein source based on her training that she’s doing for general health. Ideally, you would want to have protein with every meal for at least four meals a day.
Minimum amounts for a non-athlete should be 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day. If you are an athlete, this is a bit higher at 1.4-2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day. If we are looking at a 150-pound female, the minimum would be 54 grams of protein per day for a non-athlete and 95 grams (at least) as an athlete.
The bottom line here: if you are back to training full time, you need to be more precise with your nutrition. The minimums here probably don’t apply to you, so we’d suggest aiming for the 2.0 grams per kilo end for protein. If you’re training for fun, pay attention but you’re not asking as much of your body, so don’t overthink or stress too much.
No matter your goal, nutrition has a MAJOR impact. Don’t forget that and don’t forget to EAT!