Power Eating: Eating for More Energy

Fall is a time when many of us look forward to settling back into a routine. The lazy days of summer are over and we tend to adopt a more regular schedule, including adding more exercise and new eating plans into our daily routines. Some of us however, often feel intimated by the challenge of keeping fit and eating well. The many Olympians I worked with this past year treat their bodies like elite machines. Everything is forged into a science of intake versus output for the best results. But for those who are interested in simply feeling more energized, dropping a few pounds or managing stress, there are some easy ways to work a healthy eating and fitness plan into your life.

Whether you are an elite athlete or someone exercising for health and fun, many people lack time, especially when it comes to proper nutrition and exercise. Eating well involves planning and people need quick and easy meal solutions. Staying on track with a new eating plan is much easier when prep time is kept to a minimum. One good option is to prepare a week?s worth of healthy dinners on Sunday and freeze them.

Another option to consider is stocking up on frozen meals as they can offer easy nutritional analysis on the label, and are also great for easy portion control, as you are much less likely to reach for another helping. One meal I often recommend is Ignite because it is developed with nutrition in mind, designed for active people and won?t leave you hungry. This new frozen meal boasts two full servings of vegetables, 16 vitamins and minerals and has plenty of protein and fibre. If you are concerned about heart health, Ignite is low in fat and sodium allowing it to qualify for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada?s Health Check Program (http://www.heartandstroke.ca).

I am also an advocate of carbohydrates, the prime fuel for the brain and muscles. All of us, especially if we are active, need the right balance of protein and carbohydrates to maintain energy levels during exercise and to repair muscles after a workout. I recommend eating your protein and carbs in the form of whole foods rather than supplements. Adults with moderate to high activity levels should aim for six to ten grams of carbs and 0.8 to 1.7 grams of protein for every kg of body weight per day. This would mean that an average man at 180 lbs. (82 kg) would need to eat about 80 grams of protein a day, which could come from a lean meat, chicken, fish, lowerfat dairy products and alternatives such as peanut butter and legumes (chick peas, lentils and soy).

Also be aware of when you eat. Fuel your body at regular intervals over the day to get plenty of energy for your workout. Eat a small meal about two hours before you work out and snack about one hour before, ideally one that combines some protein, carbs and a little fat. An apple with some peanut butter or a banana and yogurt are both good snack options. It is equally important to recover after training by again eating both carbs and protein. Some people are quite surprised when I explain just how much food energy an active body needs. Depriving the body of adequate energy will make you sluggish, your workouts ineffective and may ultimately slow down your metabolism.

Hydration must also be factored into the power eating formula. Adequate fluid before, during and after exercise is necessary for health and optimal performance. While it is important to stay hydrated all day, it is also important to drink enough fluid during your workout to balance fluid losses. This translates to about 2 cups of fluid two hours before and 1/2 to 1 cup every 15 minutes during a workout. Drink 2 1/2 to 3 cups of fluid for every pound of weight lost via sweat. For example, if a 150-pound athlete lost 2 per cent of body weight (3 lbs. of sweat) during training, then 7 1/2 to 9 cups of fluid would be needed for rehydration.

TOP TIPS ON ?EATING FOR ENERGY?:

1. Plan ahead. Take some time to make a grocery list and stock your kitchen. Plan some menus for the week, cook in bulk and freeze individual portions. Or take advantage of convenient healthy frozen meals like Ignite, to ease the pressure of your hectic life and spend more time at the gym.

2. Eat a balanced diet. Aim to include three to four food groups at each meal. Try combining protein with carbohydrates at meals and snacks to maintain longer lasting energy and prevent hunger. Don?t forget fruit and vegetables to get the most nutrition for the fewest calories.

3. Say yes to carbs. They are the prime fuel for energy. A low-carb diet leads to fatigue and a craving for sweets and high fat snacks. Choose smart carbs like whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit and lower-fat milk products.

4. Stay well hydrated. Keep a bottle of water on hand to prevent dehydration and fatigue throughout the day. If you feel thirsty, you are probably already in the early stages of dehydration.

5. Reward yourself. Staying on track with healthy eating and regular physical activity can be challenging, but don?t forget to relax and enjoy a few small pleasures (yes, this includes chocolate!). Remember that eating well, being active and feeling good about yourself are all part of Health Canada?s Vitality message ? so go ahead and nourish an active body, mind and spirit!