You’ve heard it a thousand times before—performance is defined in the kitchen, not just the gym. Isn’t it interesting that two people can train their bodies on the same program yet one could out perform the other? Why is that? Believe it or not, eating nutritious foods while training can give you that competitive edge you need to take first instead of settling for second. If you want to continually progress in your fitness goals, you’ll have to lay it all out on the line—including your diet.
So, what does that mean? It means you’ll have to eat strategically, relying on all those food groups outlined on the food pyramid in proper proportions. It also means you have to time what you eat and drink. If you are going to put something not-so-nutritious into your body, you’ll need to choose the best time to do it. With that said, here are some junk food alternatives that will make you feel confident that you can survive any training program without having to eat only eggs, chicken breast, and asparagus in rotation.
If you are craving sugar—
Eat unrefined dark chocolate, not refined milk chocolate. It contains less sugar and more antioxidants to clean up the free radicals floating around in your blood after a tough workout.
Look for foods sweetened with fruit juice or agave syrup, not high fructose corn syrup. These are natural, lower glycemic options.
Flavored oatmeal, homemade baked goods, and smoothies with Stevia, not table sugar, Sweet N’ Low, or Equal. Stevia is a plant-based alternative to artificial sweeteners and refined sugars.
Sip on Zevia or La Croix soda, not conventional pop (diet or regular). Zevia is sweetened with Stevia, and La Croix is water naturally flavored with essential oils of fruits.
If you are craving something fattening—
Eat baked fries or potato wedges, not French fries. Season homemade fries and wedges with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fried foods are high in saturated and trans fats, whereas olive oil contains mainly monounsaturated fats.
Dip raw veggies into hummus or guacamole, not ranch or other cream-based dressings. Hummus and guacamole contain healthy fats and proteins. Avocado is also high in fiber and potassium.
Eat PB2, not Jif peanut butter. If you plan on eating a good amount, grab for PB2 dehydrated peanut butter. It’s sold at most health food stores in powder form, containing the same amount of protein as regular peanut butter without the fat… Go nuts! Also, if you are selecting a healthy peanut butter, it should only contain peanuts, not palm oil or other strange sounding additives.
The moral is to shoot for low-sugar, low-fat options that are as close to their natural states as possible. If you are going to consume high-glycemic, refined foods (simple sugars), plan to eat them during exercise or post-exercise. They are also beneficial during the carbohydrate-loading phase prior to a big race or performance. These sugars are converted to glycogen in the muscles and liver the quickest—and the quicker the conversion, the better the results. Good luck and eat a smart diet – not a limited one!