4 Steps To Better Nutrition - Tips From A Professional Athlete

Written by Natasha Jackson. Natasha is a personal trainer at Vagus Fitness. Natasha is also a full time athlete, looking to compete in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics in Heptathlon! You can contact Natasha at natasha@vagusfitness.com. Click here to receive $100 FREE gift card to train with Natasha.

I'm too tired.

I don't have enough time.

I don't know what to make.

I don't enjoy spending all my free time going to the grocery store 3-4 times per week.

But I'm hungry and I want to eat well! 

Is this you at times?

This is definitely me.

I am a full time athlete and a part time personal trainer.

I train (for my sport) 5 days per week, (sometimes more), and at least once per day for about 3 + hours.

This requires a lot of fuel.

I'm not going to go too much into the specifics of what training looks like for me, but just know that I train for 7 different track and field events and compete on the international level.

I don't have a lot of extra time to spare between all the training, physical therapy, part time job, being a wife, and trying to have somewhat of a social life.  

As a full time professional athlete, eating quality food every 2 hours is a must, otherwise you risk injury, a drop in energy levels, and weakening of the immune system, just to name a few. 

I was failing in the "fuelling my body properly" department so I had to figure out what was going to work for me to become more prepared.

Food preparation and organization is key!

Having good food preparation is not only important for athletes, it is important for everyone!

Fuelling your body well is imperative no matter what your goals are.

I'm sure you know very well how it works... 

You are on your way home from work and you know you have no food at home...

That convenient fast food chain will do the trick...

Or i'll just grab a quick pre-made meal at the grocery store.

Maybe you make it home and as you scour the kitchen for something to eat, you find yourself snacking on the junk food that is somehow ever-plentiful.

However, if you were prepared, you will have some homemade nut and seed bars waiting for you to snack on while you prepare your quick and healthy dinner that you had planned. 

If you are new to exercise, know that exercise is not all-inclusive.

Exercise alone will not make you reach your health goals, although it is extremely crucial.

The same goes if you have been exercising for a while and are still not seeing the area around your middle disappear.

Fitness and health is a lifestyle and it starts with taking small steps toward that lifestyle so that those small steps can turn into bigger steps, and those new habits you create over time will replace the old ones... 

When a client comes to me and wants to lose weight, most of the time, they expect exercise to be the most difficult part, but that is not the case.

The hard part is being disciplined in your nutrition and meal planning.

So I would like to share some steps to help you get started and show you how I efficiently organized my nutrition:

Step 1: Find a way to organize your favourite recipes.

They could be handwritten or typed out and printed and kept in a binder. You could take a photo or a screen shot if it is in a book or an online blog, then save all those photos in a recipe folder on your computer. Personally I've tried all those options and they aren't convenient enough for me, so I started with an app called Pepperplate.

This is a free app that I downloaded on my computer and my smartphone.  I then took all my favourite recipes from my cookbooks and manually entered them into the app, and I took my favourite recipes from my favourite online food blogs and copy and pasted them into the app. Once you've done that, you have a nice list that looks like this:

Step 2: Plan your Week.

Once you have a bunch of recipes, plan what day you are going to make what in the app's planner. And think about it nutritionally. For example:

As you can see, I haven't planned a meal for every night, or even lunch. I usually pick 3 recipes I want to make for dinner throughout the week. Then I make enough of that recipe for leftovers for dinner the next day (especially because I usually work late on Tuesdays and Thursdays), and sometimes there's enough for lunches too. On days I don't have leftovers or I'm just not feeling it, I always make sure I have things on hand for lunches such as deli meat, bread, organic canned soups, spinach or kale for salads, and I make a TON of smoothies. So plan for what works with YOUR schedule. Plan ahead. 

Step 3: Have Healthy Snacks for Snacking.

I usually try to make one homemade snack per week as well. Like a nut and seed bar, or a breakfast type cookie. Something that is quick and filling for in between meals. 

 Step 4: Shopping!

Once everything is planned, go grocery shopping! This is the best part of the app because once you pick a recipe, you can pick the ingredients that you need and Pepperplate will add them straight to your shopping list on the app. Then it uploads directly to the app on my phone and all I need to go shopping is my phone... and my wallet unfortunately.  No pen and paper required. You just check off the ingredients as you go. I used to absolutely dread grocery shopping, but not anymore! 

This is an example of what the list looks like:

So there you have it!

Meal planning made easy.

I no longer stand in front of the fridge wondering what to make.

I no longer starve because I'm too busy to eat. I no longer snack on things I shouldn't because there's no other option. 

To get you started, here is a nut and seed bar recipe that is my go-to for healthy snacking.

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