You work out regularly, your trainer is really pleased with your moves, you watch what you eat and you know the fat and protein content of everything. Yet you’re still not quite getting the progress you want. This could be down to some very simple nutritional mistakes you’re unwittingly making, according to Pure Warrior dietitian, Simone Austin. The good news is it’s very easy to get you on the path to nutrition nirvana.
“With so much advice available, it can be overwhelming to know how to make better choices when it comes to nutrition, and how to ensure you’re getting the most out of your diet. It’s a great idea to consult a dietitian, but in the meantime, here are a few tips and tricks to help you along your fitness and nutrition journey,’ say Simone.
1. Swap the kilojoule count for nutritional value
Not all kilojoules are created equal. For example, lollies may have a similar amount of kilojoules as a piece of fruit, but won’t have the same nutritional value, nor will it fill you up as much, meaning you’ll be hungry sooner.
In a similar vein, you may think you’re making a smart choice by choosing the salad, but once you’ve added a creamy dressing, cheese and croutons, the kilojoule count jumps right up.
Simone’s tip: Instead, focus on eating wholefoods that are packed with nutrients. When making meal choices, think about your overall protein, carb, fat and fiber content. Choose healthy fats to help keep you full and watch for the hidden less desirable ones. Eat when you feel hungry and stop before full, aiming for comfortable.
2. Stop following the fads
Atkins, 5:2, blood type – often these diets focus on weight-loss, rather than overall nutritional balance. So, while you may initially lose some kilos, your body may not be getting some of the important nutrients it needs and you may find that you put weight back on once you stop the plan.
Similarly, labels like gluten-free and fructose-free don’t necessarily mean healthier, as these foods can be laden with sugar and fat. And “no added sugar” just means no extra sugar has been added to the product. It says nothing about the existing sugar content of it!
Simone’s tip: Eat fresh, wholesome, plant-based food as much as possible, and when you do purchase a packet, carton or can of food, read the labels! Don’t get sucked in, find out what’s actually in the product and at what amount. Look for the research to back up advice and be cautious of sensationalised promises.
3. Don’t drink your kilojoules
Australia has been listed in the top ten countries for per capita consumption of sugary drinks1. Alcohol, soft drinks, hot sugary drinks, cordial, fruit juices and smoothies are all high in sugar, yet often have low nutritional value and do little to sate your appetite.
Simone’s tip: Limit your intake of these beverages and stick to water and herbal teas where possible. In fact, see if you can meet the recommended adult intake of 8-10 cups a day2, by keeping a large reusable bottle of water on your desk at work to remind you to drink. Also, check your urine, straw colouring is the desired hue (if there can be such a thing with urine!).
4. Eat plenty of protein
If you regularly hit the gym and work out, then protein is a key nutrient which you need to be sure you’re getting enough of. Protein forms the building blocks of muscles and can help increase muscle mass and strength when used in combination with resistance training3.
Simone’s tip: Get your protein quota from foods like dairy, meat and poultry, eggs, legumes and fish4. Another way to increase protein intake is through a protein supplement – drink it after a workout, to help promote protein synthesis.
5. Stop eating without thinking
When you’re eating on the go, it’s all too easy to buy whatever’s convenient and wolf food down with little thought, especially when distracted by technology. This means it’s easy to overeat and make poorer nutritional choices.
Simone’s tip: It’s a great idea to practice mindfulness while you eat. Focus your energy on your meal and use all your senses to savour what you’re eating. You’ll be more likely to make a considered meal choice, eat slowly (which aids digestion) and stop eating when you start to feel full, plus you will have the pleasure of the taste to really enjoy your food.
1 Australian Bureau of Statisitics 2014, ‘Consumption of Sweetened Beverages’, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12, Australian Bureau of Statisitics, Australia.
2 Better Health Channel 2014, Water – a vital nutrient’, Victoria State Government, Australia.
3 Pasiakos et al. 2015, ‘The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review.’, Sports Med, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 111-113.
4 Cited: Heart Foundation 2017, ‘Proten Foods’, Heart Foundation Australia.