It's a busy day with so much to do. Whatever you have on your plate, whether it's keeping the kids on schedule, getting to work on time, finishing a project or presenting a huge work presentation, the end of the day can find you weary and drained. That's when it's hardest to get in your workout. While you know the workout will make you feel better, the actual process of getting there and getting started can feel like too much work in itself. There has to be a better way to get through the day, right? RIGHT.
Sometimes a better nutrition strategy is all we need to give us a boost and help us through our day (Sleep is also huge but that's a post for another day). Here I'm going to share with you six simple strategies to take with you during the work or school day that will keep you sharp, keep you healthy, and keep you energized. Please keep in mind that this does not necessarily apply to those in intense training for sport as those individuals may need larger portions, more carbohydrate, and more snacks. These strategies are more for the individual fitting exercise into their workday to feel better and stay healthy or those just beginning an exercise / training program. If this is you, I hope you can incorporate a few of these strategies to whatever degree you are able and that it gives you a boost in your energy, your productivity and your workouts.
1. Eat a good breakfast.
- This does not mean donuts, or only coffee, or hash browns from the drive-through. However, it doesn't necessarily mean a big sit-down hot breakfast either.
- Aim to get around 10 grams or more of protein in your breakfast, at least 3 grams of fiber and some complex carbohydrate (from whole grains, fruit, or low-fat dairy).
- Low-fat Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup low-fat granola (I currently am loving the KIND Cinnamon Flax Seed granola) + 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 whole grain granola bar + 1 nonfat latte (regular or soy) + 1 orange
- 1 or 2 hard boiled eggs + 1/2 cup red seedless grapes + 1/2 whole grain English muffin
- 1/2 - 1 whole peanut butter & banana sandwich + 8 oz nonfat milk
- 1/2 - 1 whole turkey & cheese sandwich (on whole - wheat bread)
- Homemade trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, whole grain low sugar cereal) + 8 oz. nonfat milk or nonfat latte
2. Don't skip meals. Period.
- Don't have time for lunch? Make sure you pack hearty snacks to get you through the day.
- What do I mean by hearty? Choose at least 2 -3 out of the 5 food groups per snack
- Whole - wheat tortilla with nut butter and sliced bananas
- Trail mix with whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and almonds
- Whole grain crackers + cheese + apple slices
- 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with veggies or fruit
- Greek yogurt with low-fat granola
3. Keep things lighter at lunch.
- Try to go for leaner lunches that energize you instead of tire you out.
- Salads with grilled chicken, tuna or salmon
- Roasted vegetable, chicken and quinoa bowl
- Homemade chicken salad (made with nonfat yogurt, diced veggies and fresh or dried fruit)
- Turkey wraps
- Vegetable or other broth - based soup with whole-grain crackers & fruit
4. Drink water throughout the day. It's amazing how not getting enough can zap our energy.
- Remember that you can also stay hydrated by eating foods with a high water content like fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurts, soups and smoothies.
5. Choose foods and meals with lean protein and complex carbohydrates.
- The combination of protein and complex carbohydrate promotes a steady rise and fall in blood sugars.
- The spiking and crashing of blood sugars (in diets mostly comprised of simple carbohydrates like refined breads, pastas, cakes, and candies and minimal protein) leaves us very lethargic and can put more stress on the body.
6. Make sure to pack fueling snacks.
- If your workout is 4 to 5 hours after your last meal, make sure you pack a snack.
- Starting a workout under-fueled is only going to inhibit your workout. If you're working to build lean muscle, training for a marathon or triathlon, or just trying to increase running time or distance, don't expect your body to take you further if you aren't giving it the resources it needs to get you there.
- You have to start your workouts fueled so that you can give it your all. Only when you are able to give it your all will you be able to improve. So start fueled. If you notice you feel tired or faint early into your workout, that probably means you didn't start fueled. Grab an apple, a small nonfat yogurt, some dried or fresh fruit, whole grain crackers or a low-fiber, low-fat granola bar about 30 minutes to an hour before your workout. You should soon start to see an improvement in your practice and workouts and therefore greater progress towards your goals.
Something to consider...
(A) If your workout consists of cardio - that's when you want to keep your snack low-fat and low fiber with minimal protein to avoid cramping and an upset stomach during your workout. During cardio your body typically either focuses on the workout or digestion - so make digestion as easy as possible.
(B) If your workout is going to be resistance training or very low-intensity cardio, you may be able to include a little more protein and fiber in your pre-workout snack or meal. The workout and digestion should not conflict here.