If you’re a nutrition client of mine, you’ve likely heard me talking about “fueling your body.” But what does that actually mean, and why is it important?
For many people, viewing food as “fuel” is a shift in mindset. And this mindset shift can be difficult, especially in today’s “diet culture.” But it is important to know that fueling our bodies is more than just what we eat before our workouts to make sure that we don’t bonk. Fueling your body is eating food that supports your body to feel and perform its best, no matter what you’re doing – whether it’s working out, playing with your kids, or just getting through your work day!
Another way to look at this is by nourishing our bodies. Nourishing our bodies is one of the most basic ways that we can support our physical and mental health. Not only does food provide us with energy, but it also helps us heal, fight illness, move well, and protect our mental wellbeing.
Here are some ways I love to nourish and fuel my body:
1. I load my plate with vegetables. I try to make my plate as colorful as possible, to take advantage of all the micronutrients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that different colored veggies and fruits provide us. (Eat the rainbow with this incredible salad recipe here!)
2. I make sure I get plenty of protein. Not only does protein maintain and build muscle mass, but it also helps regulate body function and immune system health, aids in hormone regulation, and so much more! My go-to sources are lean sources of protein such as chicken breast, ground turkey, and seafood.
3. I think about ADDING fat to my diet. I focus on adding plant-based sources of fat such as avocado, nuts, seeds, and oils. These unsaturated fats are heart-healthy and superior to the saturated fat found in animal products, which can contribute to heart disease.
4. I fuel around my workouts. I want to feel good and energized during my workouts, and love knowing that I am using the food I have consumed to power me through. After my workout, I am consistent with a protein shake and carbohydrate, such as a banana. I love knowing that this is helping restore depleted glycogen and repair my muscles, and I even love to visualize the repair process taking place as I consume it!
5. I eat regularly, every 3-ish hours. Not only does eating regularly keep your metabolism steady and prevent overeating, but it also regulates your blood sugar levels, which will help you feel more balanced and energetic. This means I am always bringing snacks with me, as I am often on the run (especially in the afternoons, with my kids’ various activities!) and I never want to be caught feeling HANGRY!
6. I lean toward whole foods vs. food products. I love knowing what I am putting into my body to nourish it. Whole foods are nutrient-dense, and are filled with vitamins, minerals, and fiber – and don’t have added sugar, sodium, or other preservatives. All it takes is looking at a food label of processed food and asking myself, “Do I really want to be putting that list of ingredients (most of which I can’t pronounce!) into my body?”
If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it would be to listen to your body and nourish it. Eat foods that make you feel energized, healthy, and nourished. Avoid those that don’t make you feel good or ones you don’t feel nourish you. I encourage you to tune in to how you feel after eating different foods and to make decisions about what you want to eat based on how you feel and perform your best.
Kristen Van Hull, Nutrition Coach