Food vs. Fuel

Talk to any serious competitive athlete and you will hear the mantra “Food is Fuel”.  It is a simple, true axiom meant to remind the uber fit that it is ok to eat grilled chicken, brown rice and steamed vegetables for every meal.  After all, athletic performance and staying ripped is all about the quality of the calories and micro nutrients these amazing athletes take in to fuel the work they need to put out.  My guess is that if you are reading this blog for fitness and travel advice, you do not fit into that category.

On the other side of the equation are those who feel that “family is made around food”.   Relationships are made around the table and more people will enjoy the table if the food is rich and inviting.  After all, life is meant to be ‘lived’ not just endured.  But a diet filled with high calorie, high (bad) fat foods is not good for you or your waist line.

So as RoadWarriors, How do we find the balance between fueling our bodies appropriately and feeding our need for relationship?

It is a balance that I battle daily on the road.

I made a major shift in my approach when I realized that I actually am an Uber Athlete – AND SO ARE YOU!!  Can I bench 300 lbs? – No.  Can I run a sub 5 40-yard dash? – No.  Can I go 5 rounds with the UFC’s best? – No.  But I like to think I am really good at what I do and my nutrition plays a big part in my success.  So how do you blend the two successfully?

Plan ahead:

If you have read just about any of my posts you can sense a theme that centers around this.  I firmly believe that Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.  You need to know when you are committed to others and where.  Planning around client dinners is crucial to balancing your diet and having long term success living a life on the road.  If I am having dinner with a client that enjoys steak houses, I am going to limit my red meat and carb intake that day prior to the meeting.  If the night calls for a more adventurous palate (Ethiopian anyone?) I may front load the proteins to make room for the veggie based dinner.  Get it?

Think about your daily totals:

I don’t really track calories.  I do track how many servings of each macro I have had throughout the day.  I use the container system created by Autumn Calabrese.  It helps with both portion control and total servings.  Learn more about that here.  Knowing what you need to consume makes sure you are being intentional rather than reactionary.

Carb timing:

In general, I like to time my simple carbs around workouts and early in the day (Fruits I will eat whenever and wherever).  Carbs turn into sugar and energy the easiest of anything we ingest so ingest them before you need them.  The  later in the day, the less I need the easily accessible energy so tapper them off.  Taking a group for Italian?  Skip the oatmeal in the morning, have a salad loaded with veggies and protein for lunch and then enjoy the garlic bread and pasta that night.

Eating greens early:

The one food group that I struggle with getting enough of in my diet is vegies.  It is so easy to skip these, especially if you find yourself in the hotel lobby restaurant or airport limited service restaurant.  Do yourself a favor, start your day off with a serving of veggies.  My go to is the omelet bar.  Give me all the veggies, heavy on the jalapenos, with just a little bit of turkey sausage.  I make my digestive system work from the moment we are breaking fast.  If I can, I am snacking on carrots, celery, red peppers or some other veggie with hummus or peanut butter in mid morning.  That way if it does get late in the day and I am tracking my servings, I am not forced to have all veggies to get caught up.

Limit alcohol intake:

As a frequent traveler with status, you can find free booze everywhere.  In the lounge, at the hotel concierge lounge, even on the plane.  Remember that your body treats alcohol as a poison and stops processing of anything else until the alcohol is processed.  Imbibe intelligently.  My favorite drink is actually a tonic with lime – looks just like a cocktail without the extra calories or headache the following morning.  That being said, I also love a good craft beer, rich red wine and/or single malt scotch.  Just in moderation.

In the end it comes down to treating your food as fuel when you are on your own and making those special client meals just that, special.  Remember, you are an uber performer in what you do.  Eat like an uber performer.

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