How to Eat for your Fitness Goals

Photo Credit: Kaite Smith

Photo Credit: Kaite Smith

In today’s world of the internet and social media, there’s a lot of contradictory information out there about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. How are we supposed to decide what is true when Person A is telling us to eat a low fat/high carb diet, but Person B is telling us to cut carbs from your diet completely?  

The answer, as always with these kinds of questions, is that it depends on you and your lifestyle.

Here are some questions to reflect on:

  • What are your goals?

  • What do you like to eat (yes, you are allowed to enjoy your food!)

  • What your food budget is

  • How much time you have for food preparation, cooking meals etc.

  • Who else you may be cooking for

  • The quality of food you are consuming

  • What else is going on in your life that you need to reserve energy for (e.g. if you have a stressful job then adding more stress in the form of an extreme diet may not get you the same results as someone who isn’t already under that kind of stress)

  • How often you like to/have time to eat

  • Sustainability – are you able to actually stick to your diet?

Coach Hannah Douglass  Photo credit: Aidan Matin

Coach Hannah Douglass
Photo credit: Aidan Matin

Another piece to consider is the type of exercise you are doing.

CrossFit, for example, has a high demand on our body’s glycogen stores for fuelling our workouts. We get glycogen most readily from carbohydrates, so if it is important to us to perform well in our workouts then we may want to consider eating some form of quality carbohydrate such as fruit, kumara or wholegrain bread at meal times. If you do resistance training of any sort, it’s important to consider eating a source of lean protein at meal times too.

The common theme through all these questions is YOU.

Your diet needs to work for YOU specifically. It doesn’t matter if Person B lost 10kg by not eating any carbohydrates, if you’re going to feel totally miserable doing the same. If cheese is your happy place, it’s probably not sustainable to base your diet around never eating cheese – maybe you keep it as a treat food to have once in a while instead.

Whether you’re wanting to gain muscle mass or slim down, make sure you are nailing the basics first. Try to prioritise less-processed food where possible and eat mindfully. Get enough sleep and drink plenty of plain water (coffee doesn’t count) every day. If you are doing those consistently and still not seeing the results you want it’s time to drill down into the specifics, like your food choices at meal times and portion sizing.

In a world of extreme diets and misinformation, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be extreme to be effective – and often it’s more effective long term to take a more moderate approach to changing the way you eat to better suit your goals.