System solution optimizes the long-term costs. Shop for the whole week at the weekend and prepare the meals ahead, so that you do not have to count calories and spend extra money on the go.
Sports performance, whether on professional or amateur level, requires good fuel. Most of the CrossFitters are familiar with the basics of nutrition: focus on whole foods in their most natural forms, avoid processed foods, eat enough quality protein, do not be afraid of the healthy fats, do not forget about hydration and use quick carbs around the workouts.
However, many people consider healthy eating expensive, mainly if they are used to price-friendly fast food and commercially sold foods from the groceries. In this article I want to summarize a few tips on how to improve your nutrition without paying extra.
How much you Need
An average person needs 2,000-2,500 calories a day. It may increase to 3,000-3,500 if you have one or two intensive workouts. What matters is the overall nutrition balance, regardless of whether you consume two or six meals a day. If you need to fuel yourself up on carbs immediately before the workout, just go for it. If you can hit your PR even after a few hours of fasting, good for you.
Consult a qualified nutritionist to find out the exact quantities of macro nutrients and macro nutrients that you should be aiming for.
To move weights we need muscle and muscle is made from protein. Protein is the building block of all tissue and organs in the body and therefore it is one of the essential nutrients. On average, people need about 0.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight to function properly. Strength athletes need more, up to 1.5-2 grams. Do not exceed 2.5 grams per kg. Instead, focus on quality sources.
Make sure that you are getting about 90 percent of your energy from real food. Prefer quality to quantity. In general, meat, eggs, dairy and fish are superior to plants sources of protein. However, you can include legumes, soy products and grains as they contain nutrients that are not present in the meat.
Remember, the better you know the food and its source, the more sure you can be about the quality. Therefore prefer chicken and eggs from a local farm to meat from a supermarket. You do not have to select the finest cuts of beef or chicken breast. Cheaper pork cuts and chicken thighs will also do the job. Breasts are preferred by the bodybuilders because they contain less fat. Buy in bulk and spend Sunday – or your rest day – by cooking. Preparing roasted chicken thighs is easy. You can eat them for three days in a row if you add different spices and sauces.
For Monday add some salt and broccoli, for Tuesday cut the chicken into pieces and mix with Chinese vegetables, on Wednesday make a chicken sandwich with barbecue sauce. There are plenty of options. Are you an over 100 kg lifter who needs more protein? Wash the sandwich down with a protein shake or two glasses of milk. More carbs needed? Cook more rice.
What about Carbs?
Carbohydrates are the most effective source of energy for the body. Sportspeople, mainly in explosive and strength activities, should not avoid them but use their potential at the right time. As a side dish to your proteins use complex carb sources such as rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole-wheat or sourdough bread and legumes. You can buy a big 5 kg bag of rice, cook 1/4 on Sunday and you have side dishes for three days. Again, add variety by spices and sauces.
Veggies for Vitamins
Vitamins are important for better absorption of the main nutrients and overall wellbeing. They also destroy the free radicals that are produced by high intensity workouts. Include at least 3-5 portions of vegetables and fruit into your day. Again, prefer local products or start your own garden.
Our body needs whole spectrum of amino-acids and various micro-nutrients. Especially if it has to cover the demanding sports training. After three days of chicken change to fish or dairy products. Canned fish are ready to eat in a minute, which saves time in the middle of a busy week. It is possible to get a can of tuna under 2 Euro everywhere in Europe. It can be kept in the pantry for years, therefore do not hesitate and buy even twenty of them when there is a good bargain.
Use Sugar Wisely
Simple carbohydrates are cheap because there is much more of them on the market than the people actually need. Athletes can use them around their workouts to fuel up, mainly if they do not want to spend extra on specialized sport drinks and carbohydrate formulas. Eat a chocolate cake and hit the barbell or refill the energy post-workout with a milkshake. For dinner, however, eat your protein and veggies.
Breakfast is the most important meal, as it provides energy for the whole day. Especially when you work out before noon. Make it a little ritual that is worth your time. Eat slowly and brainstorm. Look at your planned workout, compare with the previous one, and make changes. But take it easy – main goal is reflection, not scientific study.
Back to food, an omelette from 3-5 eggs with whole-wheat toasts and tomatoes is really easy recipe. You can also have traditional bodybuilder’s oats with milk. Oats are really universal, you can add different flavours and enjoy something new every morning. Most popular additions are: nut butters, blackberries, banana, home-made jam, honey, cocoa, cinnamon and protein powder.
Supplements are good to get some quickly absorbed nutrients immediately after a workout or increase your overall protein intake. But they are just an addition to overall healthy died. If you can afford them, go for a whey protein powder, BCAAs, creatine, beta-alanine and potentially joint nutrition and omega-3 supplement.
Do not worry if you have to skip one meal or instead of eating your typical chicken leg you are invited by your manager to McDonalds (find another job J). If you have a solid system, one or two small “sins” during a week will not do any harm. However, if your diet is rather poor and chaotic, not even the best pre-workout snack will save you. The saying “you are what you eat” is really true.
Sample eating plan for a day*
3-5 eggs, 1-2 slices of bacon, 2-3 slices of whole-wheat toast, veggies
MEAL 2 – 30 min pre-workout
- 1 banana, handful of nuts (optional)
- 3-5 g creatine
- 1-3 g beta-alanine
- Half-bottle of sports drink or soft drink (250 ml)
- 10 g of BCAA (optional)
- 40-80 g of quick absorbing carbohydrates, for example glucose, dextrose, chocolate milk. Now you can use simple carbs if you feel like.
- 3-5 g creatine
- 5-10 g BCAA (optional)
- 30 g of protein powder (optional)
- 200 g of chicken thighs/breasts
- 200 g of cooked rice/one medium sweet potato
- 1 can of tuna
- 1 medium sweet potato
MEAL 5 – before bed
- 30 g of protein powder with milk
- nuts or almonds for snack (optional)
- 2800-3000 kcal,
- 150 – 170 g of protein
- 400-500 g of carbohydrates
- 70-90 g of fats
*This is just a very general sample that should demonstrate the possibility. Nutrition is very personal thing and everyone should find out the best system via experimenting and learning.
Usually, explosive and strength dominant athletes, whose muscles are composed mainly of fast-twitch muscle fibres, need more carbohydrates and their intake might be even 700-800 g a day. Endurance-type athletes might prefer diet based on fats.