Nutritional Tips for Coaches
Gina Paulhus, CPT and Owner, HOMEBODIES FITNESS TRAINING
As a coach, chances are you work during the hours the average person sits down for a meal–in many cases, it’s ‘dinner’ that you miss. Working through a major meal can throw off your eating habits and wreak havoc on your attempts at keeping a healthy lifestyle.
Eating the right foods consistently throughout the day is the best weapon we have to keep our energy levels and our health in order. Once nutrition starts to slide, it’s just a matter of time before it catches up with us. The following 10 tips will give you some ideas on how you might improve your eating habits which will carry over into you performing better and having more energy at work and in your personal life. You will also set a good example for your athletes.
#1 Eat breakfast. This one is an oldie but goody. We’ve all heard it, but tons of people STILL don’t eat something within an hour or waking up, and it’s a huge mistake. If you don’t have a huge appetite in the morning, have something small that contains protein such as a yogurt, a protein shake or a hard boiled egg. You can always have a snack later on, but you don’t want to wait until lunch to eat. Just don’t do it.
#2 Have healthy snacks on hand at home, in your car and in the office at work at all times. The biggest reason people choose the wrong foods is because they find themselves hungry and there is nothing else convenient to eat. 100-calorie packs of nuts, fruit such as bananas, apples and clementines, or whole food bars made with nuts and dried fruit are good choices. If you have a refrigerator, yogurt, string cheese, and veggies with hummus are good snacks.
#3 Have a plan for lunch. If you’re working during lunch, the best is to bring lunch from home. You can also bring a healthy microwave meal. If you are going to get take-out, have a few go-to meals you can order out that you know are healthy, and stick to that list. Don’t wait until you are ravenous to eat lunch—you will make poor choices. Make extra dinner the night before, and save a portion for lunch the next day. If you go to work after lunch, try to make lunch the biggest meal of the day to hold you over.
#4 Drink tons of water ALL day. This is another oldie but goody. Water is even more important than food for our health and energy levels. There is no getting around the need for, in general, 64 ounces of pure water each day. Count how many times you fill up your water bottle and make sure you’re getting enough. This will also help control your appetite.
#5 Managing the late dinner. Most coaches regularly deal with having to eat a late dinner. While not ideal from a digestion standpoint, eating late is not the end of the world as long as your total calorie intake for the day is not excessive. However, the main problem with a late dinner is that people get so hungry waiting for a late dinner that the end up overeating. Try to have a snack that contains fiber such as a piece of fruit or a whole food bar around 6pm when the average person would be eating dinner, and fill up at least 50% of your dinner plate with vegetables. Eat those first and you will not eat as much of the higher calorie items. You will also ensure you get adequate nutrients since vegetables are the most nutritious part of the diet.
#6 Use a day off or a lighter work day as a chance to get ahead with you food planning for the week. Make sure you get that grocery shopping in, and try to cook some meals ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer. You will be so glad you did on one of those 12+ hour days when you barely have time to brush your teeth.
#7 Don’t let your caffeine habit get out of hand. We all rely on coffee from time to time to get us through. However, using caffeine habitually creates a vicious cycle of energy problems because it can interfere with our sleep, which makes us more tired in the end. Caffeine also tends to cause an energy surge followed by a crash, which can lead you toward more caffeine or snacks you really don’t need. It’s best to keep coffee to the morning. In the afternoon and evening, if you need a boost, tea contains a gentler source of caffeine that won’t tend to keep you up at night, and it also contains healthful antioxidants.
#8 Sugar is the enemy. If you do one thing, look out for added sugars in your diet. Sugar is the worst thing you can put into your body, and just keeping tabs on that will make a ton of difference. Many packaged foods contain a surprising amount of added sugar—read labels!
#9 Go organic whenever possible. Your food is only as good as your body can process and use it, and organic food is much more nutritious. You will eat less and get more out of organic food—it’s worth the extra money when you can get it.
#10 Don’t beat yourself up if you make a poor choice. We all do from time to time—the important thing is to get right back on the bandwagon at your next meal or snack.
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