EXPERTS agree that good nutrition is the most important part of a fitness journey.
Eating properly helps to increase energy, optimise exercises, burn fat, build muscle and aid in recovery. It can also help reduce the risk of injury, repair damage and promote overall wellbeing.
With that in mind, Eastern Eye caught up with London-based personal trainer, fitness expert and gym instructor Simona Raykova to discuss important aspects of nutrition in exercise.
How important would you say is nutrition on an exercise journey?
Nutrition is very important when exercising and can be the reason why people are often not seeing results. The way you eat is about 60 per cent of your results, so I would recommend fixing bad eating habits and combining it with good exercise.
How long before a gym session should one eat?
I recommend you have your meal one-two hours before a workout, but this is very personal and depends on the exercise, so see what works for you best. If you are doing an aerobic activity like running it should be more towards two-three hours. The best things to have before a workout are carbohydrates such as oats and banana.
What foods help most on a fitness journey?
I don’t like to classify foods as good or bad because that can create an unhealthy relationship with eating. However, carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, wholegrain foods, fruits and beans are best. For protein, lean meats, eggs, protein shakes and bars and healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and nut butter.
What nutrition tips would you give those wanting to lose weight?
If you want to lose weight, work on being calorie deficit. Find out how much calories you are eating now and reduce 200-250 from that. Count calories and increase exercise levels, with a combination of cardio and weights. Don’t forget to hydrate!
Can you talk about the importance of hydration?
It is important to have the right amount of liquids every day for your whole body and organs to work correctly. Please check online how much water you should be having for your height and weight. Sometimes when you feel hungry, your body is dehydrated and needs water.
What are good post-work food tips?
30 minutes post workout I recommend you have a protein shake or high protein meal. That will help you recover quicker.
How important is protein and which foods would you recommend?
Protein intake is very important in general but especially for individuals working out. To keep or increase muscle mass have 80-120 grams of protein – that depends on your current body weight and goals. Protein intake helps with recovery as well. Lean meats, eggs, protein shakes and protein bars are a great source.
What about protein for vegetarians?
There are plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians. Dairy or dairy alternatives are a good source of protein as well as vegan protein shakes and bars (be aware that some have very high sugar, so always read the package). Beans, lentils, chickpeas etc. are always great to reach your protein intake as well as tofu and meat alternatives.
Can you talk about food portion size?
I always recommend having smaller portions and more often, but it depends on the calories you are trying to achieve. Calorie deficit will mean smaller portions/less food and calorie surplus would mean more food.
What are good and bad snacks when on a fitness journey?
High in sugar content snacks like chocolate and cakes are obviously not great. Yoghurts, nuts, fruits, rice cakes and anything high in protein is good, including protein shakes and bars.
How important is breakfast?
In my opinion breakfast is very important as it ‘breaks the fast’ of not having eaten since the day before. However, it’s individual. If your goal is to lose weight, then push the first meal later than usual (around mid-day).
What are common mistakes people make with exercise and nutrition?
A mistake with beginners is when people start going to gym daily and limit food way too much. Overworking yourself like this without nutrition ends up in lack of results and demotivation. Start your fitness journey with the right mentality. If you are not sure how much to exercise and eat, please consult a professional such as a personal trainer. Remember, there is no quick fix and this is a long term journey and lifestyle.
What other food tips can you give?
For those starting a fitness journey or looking to improve their lifestyle, take time to do research and consult a professional. Knowledge will help with understanding what food is best for your body and which will work best for your specific goal. This is essential for every individual, whether you go to the gym or not.
What advice would you like to give those struggling to meet their goals?
If you are struggling, speak to a professional such as a personal trainer, who will help make the journey easier, including teaching you correct techniques and what exercise, or nutrition suits you best. Do your research and remember it is a lifestyle, not a quick fix. Take each day as it comes and find activities you enjoy, and a path that suits you best.
What is a good final motivational fitness tip?
From personal experience, I can say motivation is not always going to be there. We are not always going to want to exercise or have a strict diet. The key is to slowly discipline yourself, and with time it will become a positive habit. You will eventually achieve that goal. Slow and steady wins the race.