If the COVID-19 pandemic has turned your definition of a “normal routine” upside down, then it’s entirely possible that your diet and exercise habits look much different now too. With fitness centers across the nation closed until further notice, your workouts might have decreased in these last couple of months. Or maybe with all the extra free time and urge to stay occupied at home, you’re becoming more active than before.
In this period of uncertainty, movement can be a useful way to cope with the heightened emotions thanks to its ability to increase your mental resistance. As your regiment changes, so should your diet because the body’s nutrition requirements fluctuate based on how active you are.
If your exercise regimen has been modified, readjust your eating habits with these simple tips. When you get your nutrition right, you can maximize health, energy and stamina in the midst of this pandemic.
Examine your macronutrient needs
Base your meal plan around the three macronutrients—proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When you eat a healthy ratio of these macros, you consume a variety of other essential nutrients by default while also building strength thanks to the protein and stocking away energy, thanks to the carbs and fats.
The average sedentary person needs about .8 grams (per kilogram of body weight) on a daily basis, according to Sports Health Journal, but if you are active consistently, 15 to 30 percent of your calories should be from protein sources.
In terms of carb intake, Sports Health recommends 3 to 5 grams (per kilogram of body weight) each day for light movement and 8 to 12 grams for more intense exercise. Fat requirements are similar the same for most fitness regimens, suggests the Sports Health Journal, with 20 to 35 percent of your calories containing fat. Note that the fat should be unsaturated and ideally heavy in omega-3 foods.
Consider the timing of your meals
When you eat is just as crucial as what you eat for both performance and recovery, explains Tiffani Bachus and Erin MacDonald, registered dietitian nutritionists. Cells in the metabolism convert your nutrient intake into energy to sustain a workout, so it’s beneficial to time meals so the metabolism can optimize those calories and fuel your movement.
For example, if you eat one hour before exercise, choose a snack with one gram (per kilogram of body weight) of carbs and 15 to 20 grams of protein in order to maintain blood sugar and fortify the muscles as you work out, explain Bachus and MacDonald.
To recover, they advise eating 15 to 25 grams of protein, 1 to 2 (per kilogram of body weight) grams of carbs and 5 to 10 grams of fat within an hour after exercise. This stimulates tissue repair and puts the essential nutrients burned back into your body. Remember the more frequent, long and intensive your workouts are, the more often you need to refuel.
Allow yourself the occasional treat
It’s important to feed your body the food that will fuel it—but it’s also okay to indulge too. The habit you need to be careful of, however, is mindless snacking to numb out from any emotional tension you would rather not feel. While food can be a source of comfort, before reaching for a handful of potato chips, a slice of takeout pizza or a bowl of ice cream, think about what is behind that craving.
Kris Sollid, registered dietitian and senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, says: “[Be] more present with your food. Notice when you are hungry versus when you might just be feeling bored or stressed. While you’re snacking or eating a meal, pay attention to how satisfied the food makes you and stop when you feel full.”
Keep pre- and post-workout foods on hand
When planning a diet around your new fitness regimen, here are some foods to keep on hand. Most of these items are non-perishable and readily available in supermarkets for easy access while in quarantine. With a high nutrient-density, these foods will nourish and satiate your appetite for longer periods of time, so you be as drawn to eating out of boredom or uneasiness throughout the day.
In addition to the three macronutrients, these foods also contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
- Raw Nuts: pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts
- Legumes: chickpeas, black beans, lentils, edamame
- Seeds: pepitas, sunflower, chia, hemp, flax
- Powders and Shakes: look for natural, organic and non-GMO protein powders with no artificial sweeteners or ingredients
- Eggs: look for free-range, pasture-raised and organic with no added hormones
- Dairy: kefir, cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt
- Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, squash, Brussels sprouts (look for frozen to maximize shelf life)
- Fruits: berries, mangoes, peaches, bananas, grapes, pineapple (look for frozen to maximize shelf life)
- Whole Grains: quinoa, oatmeal, barley, farro, spelt, brown rice
- Starches: sprouted grain bread, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob
- Fermented: kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, red cabbage
- Plant-Based: avocados, olives or extra-virgin olive oil, natural peanut butter, tempeh, baked plantain chips
- Animal-Based: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines (choose wild-caught and look for frozen to maximize shelf life)
Align Your Diet With Your Fitness
Make the most of your workouts by getting your nutrition on track. Use these tips to figure out what you need to eat and when so you can build strength and feel great, even in the middle of a pandemic!