Talk to a professional and make sure that your general eating habits are varied, balanced and moderate. Notice that I did not say the word “diet.” This is for a good reason. Diets are short term. Making sure that you are eating correctly is long term and comes with long term health benefits.
Planning your pre and post-workout meals without nailing nutrition basics is similar to trying to do long division and having never learned how to count. Besides, your pre and post-workout meals are only part of your total calories. They cannot make up for an unhealthy diet.
So, what do balanced, varied and moderate eating habits look like? Let me tell you a little more so you can enjoy a healthy diet.
A balanced diet is one that consists of all the food groups - fruit, grains (whole grains), protein, vegetables and dairy. If that sounds overwhelming, think of it like this. A quality training plan has variations of workouts to get you ready for your event. Each exercise works on a different aspect of your fitness to make you better equipped for the race. If you only train one aspect, you will suffer in other areas. The food groups are the same way; each provides a different aspect of nutrition to better equip your body.
A varied diet means that you eat a variety of foods within each food group. For example, if you only eat pasta or bread, that is not a varied diet. You should include brown rice and quinoa as well. Keep in mind an important part of variety is choosing the better option. This means that you should probably opt for a side salad, instead of that large order French fries.
Having a moderate diet is the real trick because of portion distortion. We have become accustomed to large dinner plates and bigger portions when eating out, which makes appropriate portions seem small and discouraging. To put it in perspective, the typical serving of pasta in restaurants can be double the daily recommendation for grains. While an individual serving of pasta is a 1/2 cup, the average person who consumes a 2000 calorie diet only needs six servings of grains for the entire day.
I challenge you to visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to review portion sizes of the five food groups and then follow this link to see how much portion sizes have changed. Also, test your eating habits with a real life comparison! Pour your favorite cereal into bowl like you would normally do, then pour that cereal into a measuring cup to see how much you really eat.
Having an appropriate eating habits does not mean dieting or extreme ideas. It is about balance, variety and moderation.
This is the first in a series of five nutrition related blog posts from P3R Event & Program Dietician Nick Fischer. He is a Registered Dietitian with a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Seton Hill University. Stop back each month for nutrition and planning tips if you're looking for nutritional and dietary guidance while training for the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events.