How to plan your diet while training for a sporting event

Photograph by Reinhardt Hamman

So your workout routine is well underway, and you’re desperate to achieve those all-important fitness goals. Training is hard enough when you’re a wheelchair user – you have to find accessible gyms with the right equipment, after all, and these are often in short supply. You also need to consider carefully what you eat. Whatever the sporting event you may be training for, a healthy and well-balanced diet is essential. If you want to maximise your chances of success, here are six big changes you need to start making to your diet:

1. Protein is a must

For wheelchair users, of course, upper body strength is often crucial – and protein is an important building block your body needs for this. If you want to build muscle and become stronger, then you really need to incorporate more protein into your diet, especially if you’re doing an endurance-based exercise. If you’ve invested in sustainable exercise clothing from brands such as Nike, who want a 10% reduction in the environmental footprint of their products, then you’ll also want to keep up the trend with your fitness diet. While meats like chicken and turkey are a common way to get protein, many vegetarians and environmentalists want to protect the planet by reducing their meat consumption. It’s important to remember that you can also get your protein intake from non-meat products, like tofu and beans.

2. Increase your hydration

On average, we should be drinking two litres of water per day in order to remain healthy. However, if you lead a more active lifestyle and are training for a significant sporting event, you’ll need to drink even more water than usual. If you’re dehydrated, it can degrade your exercise performance, leading to headaches, cramps and fatigue. Make sure you’re drinking before, during, and after exercise so that you can remain at the peak of your physical ability.

3. Choose bigger portions

Exercise can really take a toll on your body and if you’re not feeding it enough, then your fitness regime is unlikely to progress. You need to be eating way more food than before, increasing your portions significantly. Snacks are also an important consideration, but instead of feasting on chocolate bars, you need to be enriching your diet with fruit and nuts.

4. Tailor your diet to your specific exercise

Every athletic endeavour requires a completely different eating plan. Depending on the amount of muscle you need to build, and the specific muscles that will be involved, you need different levels of carbohydrates, protein, and fruit and vegetables. So do your research to find a diet that suits your specific requirements.

5. Be selective about your carbohydrates

Carbs are great for making you feel full and energetic, but not all carbohydrates are ideal for your exercise regime. White carbohydrates, found in white pasta and bread, are refined and take longer for your body to process. Stick to brown carbohydrates and seedy bread where you can.

6. Don’t forget to treat yourself

While it’s important to be strict with your diet and exercise regime, your happiness should be your number one priority. When you reach a certain goal or milestone, treat yourself to the occasional sweet treat or meal out; it will give you the motivation to keep achieving your goals.

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