Ask almost anyone struggling with their fitness, health, weight loss or sports performance goals what the hardest part to perfect is and they’d probably say it’s the nutrition. But it’s one thing to hear the advice and another to heed it.
That’s why it was with such gratitude that we sat down to a proper hands-on workshop on food planning for performance held by ActiveLife by Daman this week.
The health insurance company has paired up with arts space Warehouse421 and healthy catering company and cooking school, Lana’s Partiperfect to host a couple of interactive kitchen talks and tutorials over the summer.
At the last one, not only did we have heaps of helpful notes and handouts to take away with us for effective meal planning, but we also got to learn to make and taste a few inspired recipes in the pop-up kitchen, and take our healthy treats home.
Here is some of what we learned that can also help you on your way to a better workout and to achieving sustainable peak performance levels. It comes down to meal planning; thinking ahead about what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat it each day.
At the end of the day, if you don’t have a game plan then achieving your health and fitness goals is just going to seem that much more impossible. Without a plan, food choices are typically guided by feelings of extreme hunger or stress, which may cause you to eat more than your body needs.
If you already know what healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners and pre- and post-workout snacks you’re in for ahead of the day or week, it gives you more breathing room to really focus your energy on other important areas of your life.
And Daman nutritionist Areen AbuHejleh believes that showing your kitchen and pantry just a tad more love on the weekends can be quite creative and fun, too.
BEFORE WORKING OUT
AbuHejleh says that what you eat before your workout is crucial for fuelling the workout itself and maximising your performance throughout, and that this meal should be had at least three-four hours prior (or 30-60mins before if it is a snack).
During the workshop you will learn to make some incredibly delicious, filling and energy-packed power snacks that will do the job really well for you. “If you work out for around 60 minutes or more and really want to build muscle and perform well for longer periods, you’ve got to make sure you eat well beforehand,” she says.
“It’s got to be something slow burning and low in fat and fibre because those foods take a longer time to get digested. “Easily-digested carbs and proteins can be found in snacks such as oatmeal with fresh fruit, apples with almond butter, Greek yoghurt or a piece of whole wheat toast with bananas and peanut butter.”
“Drink at least three glasses of water 1-2 hours before exercise (spaced out, that is); the last one can be as soon as 15 minutes prior.”
DURING YOUR WORKOUT
It’s of course important to hydrate throughout exercise, too, says AbuHejleh, maintaining gulps of water every 15-20 minutes or so.
“A gulp of water is less than a sip, really, just to hydrate your mouth. You don’t want to be chugging too much or you might get a stitch.”
And she is against the market’s popular sports drinks as many are extremely high in sugar.
She says: “Make your own sports drink at home – combine a cup of water, the juice of half a lemon, 1tsp of honey, and a pinch of salt, and you’re good to go.”
AFTER YOUR WORKOUT
Consumed 30-60 minutes post-exercise, the goal of any post-workout meal is to reduce muscle soreness and any muscle protein breakdown caused by exercise and basically enhance your overall recovery.
“You just burned a ton of calories – what should you eat? Something with complex carbs and protein,” says AbuHejleh.
“Try grilled chicken with veg and potatoes, or salmon and sweet potatoes, a veggie omelette with toast or whole wheat tuna fish sandwich. “If your goal is to lose weight, however, you could skip this particular meal. All in all just make sure you re-hydrate, whether that’s with your home-made sports drink or plain water.”
Most studies say you should get in about 8oz of water within 30 minutes post-workout, but if you tend to sweat a lot you might want to get in more.
Warehouse421 will also be hosting a workshop called Diet Myth Busters ON Sunday, August 6, from 15:00 to 17:00 at Port Zayed, Abu Dhabi.
It will touch on why most diets don’t work, what healthy eating really means and how to achieve a healthy mindset. It costs Dh50. For more information, visit their website – www.warehouse421.ae.