Ring in the New Year with a fresh diet start. For most athletes I’m not talking “big bold throw everything out in your cupboards changes” – you’d be surprised how little tweaks to your standard routine can go a long way.
For inspiration, let’s look at how some celebrities incorporate healthy eating strategies into their lifestyles. Often, I find myself pointing out the downfall of following the diets of those who are experts in acting and music and… not in nutrition. But, in the spirit of fresh beginnings let’s turn over a new leaf and find the positive nutrition role models in popular media. Let’s look at celebrity diet strategies that are helpful and healthy for athletes.
1. Eat Breakfast Every Day
Take a page out of Cameron Diaz’s book (literally) and choose breakfast every day. Her choice is savoury oatmeal that includes healthy fats, and greens. Your choice doesn’t have to include vegetables but should have a balance of different foods and nutrients.
There are so many important reasons to include breakfast in your daily regime, but it is always surprising how many athletes skip the first meal of the day. It might be because they aren’t hungry in the morning (like Kate Hudson), or that they would rather sleep, or it may be because they battle gastrointestinal issues. But there is a good reason to fight through these barriers and include the most important meal of the day.
Eating breakfast offers another opportunity to include valuable nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin C in your day. It also provides macronutrients to fuel you for your day’s activities.
Further benefits are those such as improved body composition. A 2014 study looked at the effects of daily meal calorie distribution on weight and body composition change. Participants were divided into two groups; the first group ate most of their calories early in the day, the second group ate most of their calories later in the day. Both groups ate the same food, and thus the same total number of calories and macronutrients. Researchers found that eating more of your total calories earlier in the day is associated with a greater fat reduction and better insulin sensitivity. Similarly, a more recent 2018 study from Ritsumeikan University in Japan found that skipping breakfast is associated with a lower muscle mass.
Apart from body composition benefits, breakfast also has the potential to improve cognition in the morning. Immediate effects of eating a morning meal include improvements in memory, attention, and psychomotor tasks.
What is the best breakfast choice best? It appears that options that include carbohydrates that have a lower glycemic index (GI), or that are more slowly digested and affect your blood sugar more gradually, are the better bet. But, there needs to be more research in this area.
2. Eat Regularly Throughout the Day
Kate Hudson credits her small frequent meals with helping to keep her energised throughout the day.
Canadian high-performance athletes are similarly wise about frequent fueling often to boost their workouts. A 2013 study found that elite athletes on average eat three meals and two snacks a day. Further, it found that these athletes modified their training day versus rest day caloric intake by eating fewer snacks on rest days. Also, on average, snacks made up 24.3% of their energy intake.
Does this mean that you need to be continually eating throughout the day? Absolutely not. But snacks are helpful during the day when you space your meals by more than 4-6 hours. Snacking is also useful for an athlete that finds their practice landing on their usual meal hour. In this case, many athletes choose to split their meal in two and eat half before exercise and half afterwards.
3. Pack Healthy Snacks
Alison Sweeney, soap star and Biggest Loser host, reportedly keeps her kitchen stocked with healthy snacks like raw vegetables, fruit and nuts and avoids purchasing less healthy options like potato chips.
Similarly, as an athlete, you should have your pantry, fridge, and training bag stocked with fresh, whole foods to avoid the temptation of buying salty and fatty post-practice or workout foods. Good choices include nuts and seeds, apples, bananas, cheese strings, plant or dairy milk, homemade muffins or power bars, energy balls, or veggies and hummus. Just be sure to pack your perishables in a cooler because food poisoning is the last thing you want!
4. Include High Fibre Carbs
While many celebrities are quick to toss carbs in their quest for perfection, some recognise the importance of this maligned macronutrient and include high fibre carbohydrates regularly throughout the day. Both Julia Roberts and Ryan Reynolds reportedly embrace starches like oats, quinoa, and brown rice at most meals. They also include whole fruit.
Fibre intake from grains, fruit and vegetables is associated with lower risk for obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. These are all excellent reasons to maintain a mix of fibre sources, which tend to also be a good source of carbohydrates, in your diet.
Similarly, for an athlete, carbs are your source of energy and are associated with better performance outcomes. Depending upon your training load and intensity ramp up and down your starch portions to meet the physical demands of your sport.
5. Include all Food in Moderation
Celebrities like Heidi Klum and Nicole Kidman are said to loosely follow the 80:20 rule where they choose healthier options 80% of the time and leave room for less healthy foods. While I’m not suggesting that you follow this rule, it is essential to allow yourself to enjoy most food in moderation. After all, being overly stringent takes the joy out of eating.
6. Get Ready for the Week on Sunday
Let’s circle back to Cameron Diaz, who gets her food ready for the week every Sunday. Planning is always the basis for success and planning your eating regime is no exception.
Sunday is a fantastic day to plan out your meals, grocery shop, cut up a bunch of raw vegetables, make your power bars or muffins, and even throw on a tomato sauce or stew that you can make in a large batch and freeze for later. You’ll be surprised how a little forethought radically changes your nutrition for the better.
That’s a wrap. As you can see, healthy eating means getting back to basics. Use these healthy eating strategies from celebs to inspire you and propel you into a healthy and happy 2019.
Nutritional planning is integral to achieve your optimal athletic performance. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers one on one or group nutritional counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. Also, the Food For Thought Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips. Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!