Fitness is a cornerstone of healthy living. Going on a daily jog or adding in a session of anaerobic exercise can improve your quality of life, your physical strength, and self-confidence. But it isn’t as simple as lifting some dumbbells or doing some sprints on the treadmill. If you want to see real improvement with personal fitness, you need to tailor your diet to get the most out of your workout. Here are a few tips on how to do it.
Know Your Body Type
One of the most important factors in tailoring your diet is your body type. Each person has a particular “somatotype” from three sample body types. They are the following:
Ectomorph: Lean muscle. Long proportions. Difficulty putting on weight. Narrow.
Endomorph: Heavy, round. Typically lots of body fat and muscle. Gain weight easily.
Mesomorph: Athletic. Powerful. Gain and lose weight easily.
These types are meant to categorize individuals, but not necessarily limit them. Each of these body types are capable of pursuing whatever form of exercise with success, but some body types may have more difficulty than others. For example, if an Endomorph is trying to lose weight then they may want to avoid fatty foods even more so than other body types. People aren’t confined to just one body type. Endo-ectomorphs and Ecto-endomorphs are other body types with specific implications on how you gain weight, where you store fat, or how quickly you gain muscle.
Knowing your body type will allow you to understand potential challenges in your routine, and also set realistic workout milestones based on that knowledge. The best way to figure out your body type is to have an ISAK-certified anthropometrist do your measurements. ISAK certified professionals, like dieticians or physiologists, can provide precise data on your body type that can help you understand the challenges you’ll face in your workout regimen.
Your Workout Goal
Setting clearly defined goals helps to determine what kind of diet you’ll need to commit to in order to get the most out of your training. You’ll work off of three main principals:
Daily Caloric Intake: The amount of calories you take in per day. Plain and simple. Easier to calculate on a week-to-week basis.
Macro-nutrients: Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats. These are the three major nutrients that will affect your goals.
Intensity and Frequency of Workouts: How hard and how often you’re working out.
These principles will play into your fitness goal no matter what it is. If you’re looking for weight loss, decreases to your caloric intake would be your primary consideration. For putting on weight, you’d do the opposite. But it’s more complicated than that. Some foods are better than others when it comes to the types of nutrients they provide. A cheeseburger might taste exponentially better than a salad, but the salad provides quality vitamins and nutrients over the burger’s fatty content. Avocados and nuts provide better quality fats than that of fast-food or candies. If you’re doing high-intensity workouts multiple times a week, you may also have to adjust your caloric intake to match your goals.
Frequency of meals is something else to consider. Some suggest that multiple small meals can speed up your metabolism and thus promote weight loss through caloric burns. This has been proven false by multiple studies, including one by JD Cameron. The main focus is on the quantity and quality of calories as opposed to how often you intake.
There are an endless amount of workout goals and just as many different opinions on how to reach them. Muscle & Strength and Exercise.com have extensive data bases with routines for people of all ages and experience. Try different plans. Consider what routines you’re willing to commit to, and that give you the greatest level of improvement. Also, consult your physician and relevant experts to see if your plan is a good fit for you.
Commitment to the Diet
Diet is a constant balance in and of itself. Throw exercise into the mix and it can be even more complicated to manage, especially if you’ve never worked out before. When you choose your workout plan, you have to commit to a diet that is going to support that. This is one of the most difficult parts of working out because it becomes a fundamental lifestyle change, and requires a great deal of self-control.
Most people have a preconceived idea that this means giving up foods they love, or eating for functional purposes rather than pleasure. This isn’t the case. The key is to consume your favorite, perhaps less nutritious foods in moderation. Balanced meals that lead to fulfilling your macro-nutrient goals is key. Try to find the right balance of proteins, fats, and carbs in each meal, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself once in a while. An overly strict diet will only ruin your motivation to continue exercise.
Eating Well has many good examples of cuisine for those looking to lose weight. People looking to bulk or put on weight should consider large meals post-workout and increased caloric intake in general. There is a wealth of material to consider for specific workout diet plans, but always cross-reference your resources. Evaluate them to be sure they can back their claims.
Chicken, fish, fruits and vegetables are the staple of any fitness plan for the quality fats and high value of protein they provide. Taking vitamin supplements and post-workout protein sources are also potentially beneficial to your plan. For more examples on cuisine consider the following article by Mia Mancini on healthy dinners, and this list of fifty healthy foods.
Bringing It All Together
Tailoring your diet is difficult, especially for fitness and even more so if you’ve never worried about diet before. Remember that diet is about control rather than limitation. Also keep in mind that your body and fitness goals are going to heavily influence your diet, and that this lifestyle shift will not be without it’s growing pains. Use these tips. Perform research and goal-setting to help you to define the purpose of your workout, and establish the ideal meal plan. Let your commitment drive you to the body you want, and the success you deserve.