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As an athlete, you know how important a good diet is to your training and recovery. You know nutrition can make all the difference between a great training session and a terrible one. But should you be more concerned with WHAT you are eating or HOW MUCH? 

Although both are important, quality is the key to improving health and performance. Improving the quality of the food you eat can often fix the issue of quantity on its own without you having to pull out the measuring cups and food scale.

Here’s an example: let’s say that your ideal calorie intake is 2,000 calories/day.

One frozen pizza is already almost half of that amount (a frozen pizza is around 900 calories per pizza). The pizza is highly processed, and contains mainly carbohydrates and trans fats (the bad kind of fat!). For the same amount of calories, you could eat a plate of steak, potatoes and vegetables, with a piece of fruit, a bit of dark chocolate and a natural yogurt for dessert. The plate of steak and vegetables contains protein, fat, carbs, fiber and various vitamins and minerals.

As an athlete, vitamins and minerals are vital for your performance.

Micronutrients are the key that help make sure you stay in top health conditions. You might be able to get a six pack surviving on rice, chicken and olive oil, but your health and performance will suffer. 

Yes, it can be beneficial for competitive athletes to weigh and measure what they eat, but only if their food quality is high. 

So what changes can you make to your diet to improve the quality?

1. Eat your colors. If the only vegetable you eat is broccoli, you are missing out! Start adding in different vegetables or fruit to your meals to increase vitamin intake. 

2. Read the ingredients. You should know what is going into your body- how many CrossFit athletes have gotten caught for ‘doping’ because they claimed they didn’t know what was in their supplements? A good general rule is to look for products with 5 ingredients or less, or stick to foods that don’t have an ingredient label. 

3. Plan ahead. It is SO easy to stop and buy a sandwich or a pre-made meal.. But with just a little bit of planning, taking a tupperware to work for lunch can be easy. Take a few minutes to look up recipes online and make a plan for the week. Remember, always cook enough for more than one meal- leftovers are your friend. 

4. Keep learning about real food. Information is power; don’t miss out any opportunity to know more about improving the quality of what you eat. Stay awake about the upcoming Freak Academy’s events in the new Fittest Freakest Barcelona store beginning on September.

In conclusion… Both quality and quantity are important for an athlete’s health and performance. You don’t want to eat too little and have your performance decline, or eat too much and find that you feel heavy or slow. However, the FIRST thing you should take into consideration when it comes to your diet is quality! 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Are you eating a variety of whole, unprocessed foods or does the majority of what you eat come in a package? 
  • Are you aware of the ingredients of the products you are choosing to buy? 
  • -Are you choosing the right protein, fat and carb sources, or depending upon powders, bars and supplements? 

Text by Gillian Bennett, Nutritional Coach, Bite Size Pieces Nutrition founder.

Do you have questions about how to improve the quality of what you eat or are you interested in learning more about what eating real food can do for you? Follow Gillian at @bitesizenutri or check out her blog at www.bitesize.es.

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