Make the effort

It feels great to be back home in Greenville, SC.
We are back to our routine of work and training and of course, back to the routine with this little golden nugget who enjoyed his "summer camp" with our dear friend Christi for almost 4 weeks.....

As wonderful as it is to be back in our home environment, I have to be honest and say that adjusting to life, without all of our meals prepared and served to us, has been hard.

We were heavily spoiled by Karel's mom, while we were in Znojmo, Czech Republic, with over 2.5 weeks of really good authentic Czech recipes, all home cooked and prepared with love.

With Karel and I continuing to train for the races that we have planned for the rest of the season (next up in August, Lake Logan Half Ironman for me and Ironman Mont Tremblant for Karel), life certainly isn't slowing down for us, with little extra time to shop, prep and cook food.

BUT, we have to make it a priority because our bodies require food to perform and to stay healthy.

Therefore, we have to make the effort.

"Knowing what to do and actually doing it" is a common statement from many time crunched and exhausted athletes.

BUT, you have to make the effort. 

Here are 10 of my tips as to how to make food prep, cooking and eating possible, despite living a busy life as an athlete.

1. Plan ahead - prepare as much as you can ahead of time so that it a meal is ready for when you get home from work or a workout OR prep your meal ahead of time for easy cooking (which is helpful when you are hungry or exhausted).

2. Never let food rules boss you around. The more restrictions you place on your diet, the more you will dread eating and cooking. With a dieting mentality, you may find that food makes you feel uncomfortable and even scared, which may lead into disordered eating or an eating disorder.

3. Always start with a recovery snack or a pre-meal snack. This works wonders as you can think more clearly and you don't use the excuse that you are "too hungry" to cook. 

4. Rehydrate before you eat. The hot weather can zap the appetite. But not eating for hours after a workout (and then overeating in the evening or the next day) is not performance enhancing. Post workout, pour yourself a refreshing glass of OJ, squeeze a juicy lemon or lime into ice cold water or blend ice and frozen fruit for a slushy drink before eating your recovery snack or meal.

5. Get help. On your busiest days, use the grocery store, a fresh and healthy delivery service or even your family members to help you out.  Perhaps one of your family members (or kids) loves to cook but you would rather grocery shop. Maybe you love cooking but despise food prep. Does a grocery store have a hot bar where you can get some items prepared ahead of time or is there a section with pre-made items that you can add to a homemade meal? 
I often find that with a team approach, you can get a lot more done and cooking doesn't feel so overwhelming.

6. Don't try to be perfect. For an athlete who strives for perfection and approaches life with a mentality that everything needs to go as planned, accept that you do not have to be perfect with your diet to reach your goals. Having too many or too high of expectations as to what you should be doing vs what you can actually do can make you feel like a failure, thus making you think "it's not worth it."

7. Have a few go-to meals and snacks. Every athlete needs a few meals and snacks that are easy and simple and fit the bill as to what you need to feel healthy, satisfied and fueled/recovered. Don't make these meals super complicated but make sure you always have the items you need ready, for when you need a quick go-to meal or snack. 

8. Get out of your food rut. Many athletes find themselves into a food rut, eating similar things over and over again because they are easy and simple. While there is nothing wrong with having go-to meals, you shouldn't rely on them day after day. Use your day off from training to get creative in the kitchen or instead of lounging on the couch when you have a few extra hours to spare, get inspired by recipes and make good use of your time by preparing new recipes or dishes.

9. Stop the excuses. If you find yourself always in a situation where you feel too busy, too tired, too hungry or too unmotivated to cook, you will find that day after day, you are simply using the same excuses over and over as to why you can't get a healthy, nourishing and balanced meal on a plate. No more excuses, make things happen. Figure out why you are letting healthy eating or proper fueling be an afterthought and if needed, reach out to a professional (ex. sport dietitian) to help.

10. Appreciate food for fuel. Your body doesn't run well when you don't feed it well. Put a similar amount of passion, focus, dedication and commitment into your daily diet, as you do with other important things in your life. Many times, when the focus is place on food for fuel and for health, the body performs better and it becomes easier to see improvements in health, body composition and performance.