Jess Spendlove & Chloe McLeod – Advanced Sports Dietitians and Co-founders of Health & Performance Collective Nutrition and movement go hand in hand to living your best life. While there are a lot of restrictions at the moment, two things we can do are eat well and move our bodies. While the moving our bodies part may look different to the usual gym, circuit, running group or pilates sessions we like to participate in, we can still walk, we can still run and we can get into those body weights workouts in the home. The other thing we all have more of right now is time. Whether that be from not commuting to work, change in your work routine, change in life routine, or just the whole world being on hold thing, there is time to invest in yourself, and what better way to do that than by taking your nutrition game to the next level during isolation, to help you be your healthiest self. Making nutrition and movement a priority during isolation applies to everyone, irrespective of who you are and what life/fitness/training goals you have. If you are reading this article it is applicable to you. How do we know this? If we are both totally honest here, we can even put our hands up and say there are areas of our nutrition and training we can even prioritise more right now. Given that, here are our six top tips to help you make nutrition and movement a priority during Isolation.
Plan out your meals and movement for the week
One of the best ways to ace your nutrition during Isolation is to set yourself up for success. How do you do that? By allocating time at the start of each week to plan and organise the meals you will make. This involves writing out what you would like to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also what ingredients you will need. Tip – check your pantry and what you have to make sure you aren’t doubling up when you don’t need too! By planning your meals you have a guide for what you are going to cook and what you need to buy. This can help to alleviate the stress of deciding what to put on the table when it comes to dinner time. It can also save you from just ordering some takeaway because it’s the easiest option. Planning ahead allows you to tailor your meals towards your nutrition goals and budget (both financial and energy). A little planning gives you the best chance of executing good nutrition throughout the week. To help with this we have created a weekly meal planner which you can download here
The same goes for your movement. Schedule it in the diary so it is a priority. That might be in the morning before the kids wake up, in the middle of the day when you need a work break, or at your favourite time of the day to exercise.
Adjust your food intake to your movement output
This is all about strategically using nutrition to fuel for the work and intensity required, whatever that might be. When it comes to fine-tuning energy intake, one of the most important macronutrients to focus on manipulating and adjusting is carbohydrates. How you should do this depends on a few things like the type of training session and individual goals. Generally speaking, intense, longer length runs or training sessions will require higher carbohydrate intake, whereas recovery days require less. While we understand this will make sense to a lot of you, often the disconnect isn’t in the knowledge, but the application. What might this look like you ask? Adjusting the ratio of carbohydrates on your plate from a 1/3 for a high day down to 0-1/4 for a lower or rest day. The most important point – your mindset should be ‘fuel for the work you are going to do’. This means prioritising what you eat before a training session to get the most out of it. So often not enough thought is given to the pre-training, and people can go in under fuelled, which can impact performance, perceived exertion and overall enjoyment of the training session, not to mention your mood and appetite later in the day.
Keep protein Intake consistent
Unlike your carbohydrate intake, protein intake should remain mostly consistent day to day for an active person, with an increased focus post-training to support recovery. In addition to helping the body recover, maintaining muscle mass and maximising strength, protein is also incredibly important for appetite regulation. Protein is very filling, also known as satiating, and helps reduce hunger by lowering ghrelin, our hunger hormone, and increasing leptin, our appetite-reducing hormones. What should you do? Make sure each meal and snack contains a source of protein – animal or plant. This will help support recovery and maintain muscle mass, while also preventing excessive post-meal grazing. Start nailing this part of your nutrition and you will notice the appetite regulation factor immediately!
All the Colours
Colourful fruit and vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants which offer protection against free radicals and oxidative damage, helping to support recovery post-workout. We also know that antioxidants and the vitamins and minerals found in fruit and vegetables are incredibly important for supporting the immune system, which should be on the top of everyone’s lists at the moment. The easiest way to make sure you are meeting your fruit and vegetable target is to find a way to have some colour at every meal and snack. A good cue is to remind yourself that if a meal or snack is only brown and white, it is not complete. A little organisation goes a long way and making sure you’ve got what you need prepped and ready to go makes it a lot easier to consistently eat well. Hate chopping and cooking? Make it easy for yourself and buy the pre-packed salad mixes or chopped veggies ready to be roasted, frozen fruit and vegetables mixes or pre-cooked tinned legumes and beans. Sometimes it is less about meal prep, as it is about ingredient prep.
Have healthy snacks available
I mean is it just us or is the snack cupboard constantly talking to you when you’re working from home!? This really is a struggle for so many people right now. The good news is with a few specific nutrition strategies you can really get on top of this once and for all. To keep your nutrition on track it really helps to have some healthy snacks available. The first step here is making sure you factor this into your weekly plan and buy some when you are at the shops. What are you looking for in a well-balanced snack? Good quality protein, some colour (fruits and veg), some whole grains and some healthy fats. Nutrition and taste are both equally important! What does that look like? Here are a few of our favourites
- Mezze plate – boiled egg or smoked salmon, cheese, veggie sticks, hummus and a few nuts
- Greek yoghurt with fruit and mixed nuts
- Smoothie – banana, peanut butter, liquid of choice, Greek yoghurt
- Wholegrain crackers with ham, cheese, tomato & avocado
- Rice cakes with ricotta, berries and cinnamon
It is a really good habit to prepare some healthy snacks at the start of the day or week. Then, when you find yourself hungry you have something healthy on-hand and ready to go. Try mixing up your snacks each day to prevent yourself getting bored.
Go to the shops with a grocery list
This may be another state the obvious point, but it is surprising how many times this can be where people fall down. Imagine, planning your meals, snacks and movement for the week, factoring in the performance nutrition principals and then falling down by not taking your grocery list to the shops! Trust us, this happens. You might go in with good intentions, the mental list, but enter the grocery store and all of a sudden there are distractions like other people, specials, the smell of the bakery and all of a sudden the list in your head is not so clear. A grocery list will help you to fill up your trolley, and then your pantry, with nutritious foods. Plus, it will save you time when walking through the aisles and spending money you don’t need too, or prevent you from being tempted. A good tip is to try and do most of your shopping around the perimeter of the store which is where the majority of the ingredients you need (for best health) will be. By sticking to your list, it will also prevent you from being tempted to purchase unnecessary ingredients while at the supermarket! For more nutritional tips and tricks, check out the H&P Collective on Instagram & on their website