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What and When To Eat?Published:
What and When to Eat?
How much fuel our body needs depends on a multitude of factors. Our age, height, weight, type of exercise we engage in, duration and frequency of exercise, the intensity level of these workouts, activity levels outside of purposeful exercise, and our lifestyle goals are some of the considerations that dictate our nutritional needs. Likewise, determining when we should consume our fuel is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
School of Thought: Start Your Engine
Breaking the overnight fast within the first couple of hours of waking up, followed by eating small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day still is a tried and true approach to fueling our bodies. Breakfast should focus on protein for tissue repair and satiety and on fiber-containing complex carbohydrates to provide energy for our muscles to work properly, assistance in blood sugar stabilization, and supplying the body with vitamins and minerals. Limit added sugar and seal the deal with a bit of plant fat for additional satiety, fat-soluble vitamins, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. An example of an easy protein-forward, fiber-containing balanced breakfast is a yogurt parfait made with plain Greek yogurt (or low-sugar, flavored yogurt) topped with fresh berries and nuts.
Throughout the rest of the day, the balancing act of protein, complex carbs, and heart-healthy fat is a constant. Consuming consistent nutrient-dense meals and snacks within four hours of each other can aid in a decreased appetite, improve weight loss, and provide better blood sugar control which means fewer energy dips.
School of Thought: The “IF” Factor
Not a breakfast eater? Not a problem. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a popular dietary movement that requires much discipline. One extends the fast between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the following day by at least twelve hours while also ensuring not to eat three hours prior to bedtime. Because we restrict the time to fuel ourselves, we should ensure our meals have high nutritional value to function at full capacity. Variations of IF exist and have been linked to improved health conditions such as body fat reduction and increased lean muscle mass. IF may even be a therapeutic approach for brain health by reducing the likelihood of being diagnosed with or preventing the worsening of dementia. IF is not recommended for certain people such as those who are pregnant or who experience or have experienced disordered eating.
But What About Timing?
For the general population what we eat throughout the day is more important to overall health than specific timing. Often, people unnecessarily focus first on timing the individual consumption of protein or carbs, or fats instead of the quality and quantity of food.
However, for more active individuals, fueling time and individualized macros become more factorial. If doing a moderate to high-intensity workout lasting around an hour, fuel with a small snack 20-30 minutes prior or a small meal two hours prior to your workout to avoid GI distress and hunger while exercising. Soon afterward (within two hours) help the recovery process with equivalent carbs and protein (about 20g) such as an ICONIC protein drink plus a handful of berries. If your moderate to intense sweat sesh lasts 60 minutes or more, your post-workout gets bumped up a bit with a smoothie made with 20g of protein from protein powder and more carbs from half of a banana, a cup of berries, and even some leafy greens. The focus here is on carbs to refuel the muscles plus protein to repair and rebuild muscle. Keep in mind that rehydration is a key factor in the recovery process.
If you are trying to gain weight and muscle then fueling within 30-60 minutes post-workout is highly recommended. Research shows that including carbs plus protein, some fat, plus caffeine can expedite recovery. The new, plant-based line of Immunity Coffee Powders by ICONIC checks all of those boxes by containing protein, carbs, fat from MCT oil, and 200mg of caffeine. Additionally, it meets 100% of the recommended daily value for Vit D, Vit C, and zinc to charge our immune systems.
Are you a morning exerciser who prefers to work out on an empty stomach or are you someone that just can’t skip breakfast? Do you feel a crash coming between lunch and dinner? Whatever the case, opt for nutrient-dense, well-balanced meals and snacks that help you achieve maximum energy and satiety. Supply your body with consistent fuel that is protein-rich with plenty of veggies, regularly incorporating plant-based fats complex, fiber-containing carbs, and limit added sugar. Consult with a Registered Dietitian to best determine your specific nutritional needs and possible timing for your particular lifestyle.
Aimée Plauché, RD, LDN
Nutritional Wellness Consulting