Eating for Performance and Recovery

If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you very likely know that I believe our nutritional requirements are completely individual due to differences in the likes of genetic and ethnic background, the environment we live in and the environment our ancestors developed in as well as your daily activity levels…

That said, we are all still human and because of this fact, we also share quite a few similarities in our needs also.

Particularly if you’re a healthy individual without any major health complaints.

When this is the case, I use a simple ‘Portion Size’ template based around my clients training frequency to get them rolling.

You see, your training frequency – or activity level in general – has a huge impact on how much energy your body requires to function at optimal levels.

They type of activity and intensity will also play a massive role so these aspects must also be considered.

For example, somebody training once a week is going to need far less calories than somebody that’s training 4-5 days a week.

This likely seems obvious, but somebody who’s training once a week and eating the ‘ideal’ diet for somebody that trains 4-5 times a week is very likely going to gain excess amounts of body fat. Whereas a person that trains 4-5 times a week but eats the ‘ideal’ dietary intake for somebody that trains once a week will very likely have poor energy levels, impaired recovery as well as muscle and strength loss to name a few.

Not ideal for either person.

So, how much should you be eating each day?

Using the table below I’ve broken things down into what I’ve found to be ‘ideal’ starting points for somebody that wants to maintain their bodyweight but also support their performance goals and needs.

These are the starting recommendations for each of your ‘Main Meals’ throughout the day. Snacks (if you have them) would be approx. half the amounts listed below. By “main meals” I am referring to Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

 
Training Volume Protein Healthy Fats Non-Starchy Carbs Starchy Carbs
1-2x p/wk 1 Palm 1 Thumb 2 Fists 1/2 Fist
3-4x p/wk 1.5 Palms 1.5 Thumbs 2.5 Fists 1 Fist
5-6x p/wk 2 Palms 2 Thumbs 3 Fists 1.5-2 Fists
 

As you can see, it’s a pretty simple system and all you have to do is use your hand as a portion size guide when prepping your meals rather than weighing and measuring specific amounts which can be very frustrating, time consuming and for many it can be downright confusing.

The above recommended amounts will do wonders for the majority of people but feel free to experiment a little to find your own ‘sweet spot’.

As mentioned before, no two people have identical needs so don’t be upset if you need to tweak the recommendations above to make things work for you.In case you’re unsure, here are some food examples:

Proteins Healthy Fats Non-Starchy Carbs Starchy Carbs
  • Meats
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Protein Supplements
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Organic Ghee
  • Grass Fed Butter
  • Organic Lard
  • Organic Dripping
  • Olives
  • Organic Raw Nuts
Most Above Ground Veg:
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Courgettes
Some Below Ground Veg & Some Fruits:
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Berries
Most Below Ground Veg:
  • Potatoes
  • Swede
  • Beetroot
Wholegrains (if you can tolerate):
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Spelt
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
Fruit Juices and Sports Drinks
 

Right, so now you know what you should be eating at each main meal or snack, how frequently should you be eating throughout the day?

As a general rule you’ll want to eat approximately every 3 to 4 hours.

Often nearer the 4 hour mark if training frequency is less and closer to the 3 hour mark if you train a lot.

Protein

Majority of the time, your base protein intake will remain as recommended above (based on training frequency) and the other macronutrients are tweaked around your protein depending upon your goal.

As with all health and fitness rules, there are no absolutes and you may find that on cold days or following stressful days you will feel much better and more satisfied with an increased intake of protein in your diet.

Healthy Fats

You’ll want to maintain an adequate intake of healthy fats at each meal.

In my experience with most clients, fat tends to lack the most in their breakfast. This is because most people eat the likes of toast and/or cereal for breakfast when they first seek out my help.

You’ll very likely find that your morning energy levels and satiety are far improved with a good serving of healthy fat with your breakfast – particularly if you or your ancestors are from colder regions around the globe or you do lots of heavy strength training.

Non-starchy Carbohydrates

Non-Starchy Carbs are a great way to ensure adequate fibre and variety in your dietary intake.

When I say variety, I’m not only referring to the particular foods themselves but also the micronutrients contained within them.

Different coloured fruits and vegetables contain differing amounts of varying Vitamins, Minerals, Phytonutrients, etc… All of which are essential for optimal health, performance and recovery.

Starchy Carbohydrates

Unfortunately, “carbs” are now becoming the enemy in the fitness industry and slowly taking the place of the so called, artery clogging Saturated Fats!

The biggest problem in this industry is too many people talk in terms of extremes!

Thankfully, the world is slowly waking up and realising that Saturated Fats ARE NOT actually bad for you providing they come from healthy sources such as Grass Fed Meats or Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil.

In the same way that Saturated Fats shouldn’t be feared, neither should “Carbs”, providing they’re whole and unrefined.

It’s the over-processed, refined, nutrient deficient, additive filled varieties you need to look out for.

Rarely is it the foods that Mother Nature provides us with.

Foods like Sweet Potatoes, Swede, Beetroot and Wholegrains (if you can tolerate them) are a great way to help maintain your energy, satiety and meal variety throughout your day/week.

Generally, they can be enjoyed with each main meal without any fear of ill health or unwanted weight gain. You just have to be smart about the amount you consume.

For instance, if your goal is fat loss you’d likely benefit from 1/2 – 1 fist sized serving of Starchy Carbs per main meal or possibly even limiting them to within 2 hours of your training sessions.

If on the other hand your goal is to gain weight/ muscle, you may need anywhere up to 3 fist sized servings per main meal.

What about pre and post-training?

For best results your best bet is to base this off your intended long-term training outcome. Add the amounts suggested below to the ‘standard’ meal recommendations above to help accelerate your progress:

Outcome Pre-training Post-training
Fat Loss Same Same (unless limiting starches to post-training – then add upto 1 fist)
Muscle Gain 1/2 palm protein 1/2 palm protein + 1 fist of starchy carbs
Performance 1/2 fist starchy carbs 1/2 palm protein + 1/2 fist of starchy carbs

Play around with your quantities and monitor how your body reacts over time. If your results are moving in the right direction, carry on. But if things stagnate or begin to go backwards you know something has to change.

If you have any questions, be sure to let me know in the comments below. 🙂

In Health & Performance,

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