Fitness Starts in the Kitchen: Foods to Fuel Your Body

When you’ve made the decision to start eating healthier, get more toned or simply to live a healthier lifestyle, it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the information that’s readily available. What’s important to note, though, is that nutrition plays a huge role in your overall health, as well as your fitness level.

Just like with exercise, where there are certain workouts or routines you should do depending on your fitness goals, the foods you eat play a specific role as well. That’s why it’s important to understand what you’re putting in your body before you can expect a specific result at the gym. 

While diet and exercise together are a winning combination, experts do seem to agree that diet can be more effective than physical activity when it comes to weight loss, as you can get a better calorie deficit through your diet. Keeping the weight off, though, is better achieved through exercise, according to Dr. Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.

While you may have an established workout routine that keeps you busy working toward your fitness goals, it’s also important to pay close attention to your nutrition.

All Calories Are Not Equal

If you’re trying to lose weight, the key is to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you are consuming. Normal daily functions within your body burn calories throughout the day, and the recommended number of calories you should eat varies based on many factors like your age, sex, height, weight, physical activity, metabolic health, and several others.

Cutting down on the calories you take in can help significantly on the path to weight loss, but you also need to consider if your body is getting the nutrition it needs through the reduced calorie intake. If your regular snack is a candy bar and soda, cutting down to just a candy bar is technically less calories, but you could still make better choices for your health and to fuel your body with more nutrient-dense foods. 

Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, eating the right kinds of foods can be very beneficial for your health. Maintaining weight, gaining weight, and building muscle can all be accomplished with the help of healthy, nutritious foods. 

When trying to gain weight, paying close attention to your nutrition is also very important. Eating an abundance of calories will certainly help you gain weight, but they should be smart, nutritious calories. Adding empty calories with minimal nutritional value will contribute more to body fat, as opposed to the lean muscle you’re likely wanting to gain. It’s all about smart food choices.

Nutrient-Dense Foods

Nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, nuts, beans, and seeds are all considered nutrient-dense foods as they have a high ratio of nutrients compared to calories.

You may also have heard of macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients

Macronutrients, sometimes referred to as macros, are the nutrients your body needs in large amounts, which give you energy and help your body maintain itself. Macros include protein, fats, and carbohydrates, all of which are part of a healthy diet and fuel your body with what it needs to thrive.

Protein

Eggs, beans, fish, poultry, lean meat, low-fat or skim milk, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, and cheese are all great examples of protein in a nutritious diet.

Healthy fats

Fat is an important part of your diet and is needed by your body as a source of energy to provide essential fatty acids your body can’t make. It’s also a component in cell walls and helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Examples of healthy fats include nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocados, and olive oil.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates help fuel your body and brain. Carbohydrates, like other nutrients, are found in both healthy and unhealthy foods. Some examples of healthy carbohydrates include potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole-grain breads and pasta, and brown rice. 

Refined carbohydrates include white rice, white bread, most crackers, and sugar, and are not considered nutrient-dense because they typically lack fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found naturally in plant-based foods, and helps you feel full longer.

Micronutrients

While micronutrients are vitamins needed by the body in very small amounts, their impact on your overall health are critical. The World Health Organization states that a deficiency in any micronutrients can cause “severe and even life-threatening conditions.” These include iron, vitamin A, iodine, vitamin C, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, and many others.

It’s All About Balance

Just like variety in your workout can help you maximize results at the gym and improve your fitness level, variety in your diet can help your body get more of the nutrients it needs to thrive. Different foods have different nutrients, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods to fuel your body for your daily life as well as give you the energy you need for your workout routine.

When you change your eating habits and start paying more attention to the foods and nutrients you consume, you’ll likely start to notice how different foods affect your energy level and even your mood. Improving the fuel (your diet) helps improve your body.

Healthy Substitutions

It can be challenging to make healthy choices when it comes to fueling your body, but even small changes to your diet can be a great start. Read on for some healthy substitutions you can make to fuel your body and contribute to better overall health.

Rather than restricting snacks altogether in your diet, opt for healthier snack options. If you typically choose a salty snack like potato chips, try some whole-grain crackers with hummus, or a sliced apple with crunchy peanut butter to satisfy your crunch craving.

When cooking or baking, you can often make recipes healthier with substitutions. If you love pasta, substitute whole-grain, vegetable, or even chickpea pasta for refined white varieties. Make your own pasta sauce to cut down on added sugar, or simply compare nutritional facts to find the best option. Even lasagna can be improved upon by using plain, low-fat Greek yogurt instead of ricotta cheese, to cut down on calories and up the protein level. You could also add some spinach, kale, or roasted veggies like zucchini to your pasta dishes to increase your nutrient intake.

It’s easy to make healthy substitutions in baking. Instead of vegetable oil, which a lot of baked goods require, substitute applesauce or a mashed banana to make the recipes healthier. You can also use low-fat Greek yogurt in place of oil or butter in most baked goods recipes.

Another healthy substitution that’s easy to make is in sautéing. When a recipe calls for oil to sauté vegetables, use water or broth in place of the oil. You’ll cut calories and likely not even notice the difference in taste.

Small changes and healthy substitutions like these in your diet can certainly contribute to progress toward your fitness goals. If you’ve been seeing subpar results in the gym, consider making changes in the kitchen to help fuel your body.

Your Unique Nutritional Goals

Nutritional needs are different for everyone, which is why it’s great to consult with a professional to help determine what your individual goals should be, along with a plan for achieving them.

EōS Fitness partners with Betr Health to provide members with personalized nutrition assistance, on-demand chat, direct calls with a personal coach, and motivational group calls. Betr Health is based on a three-level food protocol designed to restore gut health and support overall wellness.

“Physical exercise is important, but it’s just one piece of the whole puzzle when it comes to overall wellness,” said Rowdy Yates, vice president of fitness at EōS Fitness, about the partnership with Betr Health.

Stop by an EōS Fitness gym near you and learn more about Personal Training options, where members can get customized workout schedules, meal plans, and support along their fitness journey. Join now to receive a Complimentary Welcome Workout to discuss your fitness and nutrition goals!

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