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Fit 4 Life | Tuff Enuff with your nutrition

Published:Wednesday | June 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMMarvin Gordon
When training to improve performance, nutrition is one of the key areas to address.

When training to improve performance, nutrition is one of the key areas to address. It's not as simple as the oft-repeated "eat more to get stronger/bigger". Nor does it begin or end with calorie counting.

Proper nutrition is a complex concept. From seeming simple questions like "how much" to "when", careful consideration of nutrition can make all the difference. 


One has to look, first of all, at food quality. Food is more than just fuel. Food serves a host of functions geared at keeping you alive, healthy, and performing at your best. Nutrient density is one of the less-talked-about but important standards of food quality. Nutrient density ranks foods based on the proportions of nutrients it contains, especially in relation to the number of calories present.

Nutrient-rich foods stand at the top of the table and contain high amounts of micronutrients and phyto- or zoochemicals in relation to calories. Natural foods, especially fruits and vegetables, have the highest nutrient density.

And, no. Not processed foods which say 'natural' or other similar catch-phrases on the labels.

The closer to its natural state the food is, the better it is for your health. At the bottom of the table are energy-dense foods, often referred to as 'empty calories' because they contain few nutrients and are rich in calories. These are usually heavily processed foods. 


Training nutrition looks at quantity in two basic ways: the overall amount consumed, and the balance of nutrients consumed. It is not as simple as counting calories.

One must consider food quality, type and timing of meals and training sessions, as well as the effect of nutrient balance on training and performance.

Cardio type workouts require more carbohydrates – ideally of the low glycemic type – in relation to proteins.

Resistance training, on the other hand, demands more protein after a workout session. Nutrient balance is also important for maintaining healthy body composition. 


Nutritional supplements are not an alternative to proper nutrition. No protein powder, for example, should serve as a replacement for natural sources protein such as lean meat.

Instead of reaching for supplements first, one should always strive to eat the best way possible within budgetary, time, and other constraints. That would mean going for nutrient-rich foods, low-glycemic carbs, high-quality proteins, such as lean meat or fish, and keeping consumption of fast and/or highly-processed foods in check.

Supplements can then be added where needed. 


Forget those 'no food after six rules'. Pre- and post-workout meals are more important concepts to consider. The body needs fuel to do the work, along with materials for repair and adaptation. The amount of food required on training days will also differ from the amount needed on rest days.

- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email:;