You might often think to yourself that your diet isn’t always perfect and you need to start making better choices when it comes to healthy foods. Between family, work and running around, you might just feel tired most of the time and wonder if something is missing in your diet to provide you with the energy you used to have.
If you feel that you could use more energy to get through each day, please take the next few minutes to learn these 8 nutrition tips to improve your stamina and performance. By following these tips you will be getting the nutrients you need to fight many chronic diseases that are very concerning to women.
Busy women often find themselves skipping meals, eating “empty” snacks, skimping on vitamins and overstuffing themselves with fat-free sugar-packed foods. Women also have to realize that what works for men may not work for them because women have different nutritional requirements. To help you meet those requirements, below are 8 nutrition tips to make life easier. If you follow them closely, I promise your stamina and performance will improve!
Tip #1 – Eat Often
Most women don’t eat often enough to get as lean and trim as they would like. Let’s think of your metabolism as a burning fire. First off, what exactly is the metabolism? The term “resting metabolic rate” (RMR), is the number of calories your body burns at rest to carry out typical bodily functions like breathing and pumping blood. Your RMR makes up most of your metabolism which is the total number of calories you burn in a day. Back to the fire analogy: women that feed their bodies with 300-400 calories every three hours will be naturally boosting their metabolism during the day which will help to improve their memory and cognitive skills later in the day.
On the other hand, skipping meals can leave you feeling drained, unable to concentrate and wanting to forfeit your evening workout. Long stretches between eating a meal will signal the body to slow down the metabolism and store fat since it’s the survival mechanism left over from our heritage as hunter-gatherers.
When we skip meals earlier in the day, we may want to overeat at night. When night time comes around, you’ll be more likely to choose foods that are high in fat, carbs, sugar and calories which will lead to weight gain and feelings of guilt.
It’s best to eat around five times a day which includes three meals and two snacks. Always plan ahead if you have a busy schedule. Make sure to store healthy snacks in your work bag so you have quick access to them.
Healthy Snack Suggestions
Almonds, apples, dried fruit, energy bars, protein bars, protein shakes (with your shaker cup), canned vegetable juice and small boxes of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal are all good choices that are high in clean carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Get yourself a cooler and enjoy cottage cheese or yogurt as a tasty mini-meal during the day.
Tip #2 – Boosting Your B2
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) assists in the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats for energy for working muscles. This vitamin plays a crucial role during endurance exercise. Research studies on women show that 30 minutes of daily exercise lowers riboflavin levels in the body. What does this mean for you? As a women who exercises, you should try to consume at least the recommended daily allowance (RDA) which is 1.3 milligrams per day for women. Talking with your doctor about whether or not you need more than the RDA is a good option, especially if you enjoy endurance training.
Great Sources of Riboflavin:
- 1 percent or skim milk
- Nonfat yogurt or other low-fat dairy foods
- Breads, cereals and other grain products are also good sources
Tip #3 – Bone Up On Calcium
“Drink your milk, it will help you build strong bones.” We have heard this statement throughout the years in our schools, the media and in our homes. Getting enough calcium and protein is particularly crucial for women, who are susceptible to osteoporosis. Activities such as running and weight training help build stronger bones, but if you are amenorrheic (missing menstrual periods), you can lose bone mass despite regular exercise. The reason for this is that amenorrheic women have lower levels of estrogen which is a hormone that plays a key role in building and maintaining bone calcium.
An estimated 25% of female runners become amenorrheic at some point which is often due to their low body weight and low levels of body fat. Some get help by taking estrogen-replacement therapy. In other cases, changes in their diet work well especially if they have not been eating enough calcium and protein.
For amenorrheic athletes, the calcium RDA of 800 milligrams for women over the age of 24 is insufficient. Around 1,200 milligrams, the equivalent of four servings of milk, seems to be more appropriate. As for protein, women who are vegetarians should know that a low intake may put them at a higher risk for amenorrhea.
Always be sure you get regular servings of dairy products, calcium-rich tofu, greens and calcium-fortified orange juice. Also, eat lean meat and/or high-quality protein combinations such as beans and rice. Avoid fiber supplements as these bind calcium and other minerals in the intestinal tract. When this happens, the absorption of essential nutrients decreases.
Tip #4 – Vegetarians: Getting Your Vitamins
Women who are vegetarians believe that avoiding meat products is a great way to reduce their fat intake, boost their carbohydrates and improve their overall health. Are they right in this way of thinking? Research is showing us that vegetarians are generally healthier than meat-eaters and they have a lower incidence of cancer and heart disease along with having leaner bodies.
We need to understand that being a vegetarian doesn’t guarantee improved health. When the health of vegetarian women is compared to non-vegetarians, they usually took in less:
- Calcium: Essential to the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth.
- Zinc: Even a minimal deficiency of zinc impairs thinking and memory. It’s also important for a strong immune system.
- Vitamin B12: A vitamin crucial for healthy red blood cells and nerve fibers.
Those in the study ate less than half the RDA for B12. Since B12 is found only in animal products (red meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and milk), strict vegetarians (or “vegans”) must look for foods, such as soy milk, that are fortified with this important vitamin.
Zinc is found almost exclusively in meat (oysters are an especially rich source). An exception is whole grains, but stay away from grains that are refined as they lose their zinc content. Wheat germ is one of the best zinc sources. You can easily add a tablespoon or two to your hot cereals, casseroles, soups or blender drinks.
Tip #5 – Go Green
Folate, another gem in the B-vitamin family, is available to you in green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and certain dark green lettuces. Most women don’t get enough of this vitamin and the deficiency is linked to severe neural-tube defects in newborns. This connection is so strong that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now recommend that women take in 400 micrograms of folate daily, which is more than twice the current RDA. Recently, there has been talk by the FDA of fortifying grains with folate (as is already done with the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin). Adding folate to breads and pastas would boost your folate intake by an estimated 30 to 70%.
As we wait for this to take place, it’s important to try to eat good sources of folate daily. Sources of folate include leafy greens and citrus fruits. A 6-ounce glass of orange juice contains 120 micrograms of folate. Folate can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking and storage. To retain folate, follow these guidelines:
- Serve fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible.
- Steam, boil or simmer vegetables in a minimal amount of water.
- Store vegetables in the refrigerator.
Tip #6 – Add Soybeans To Your Routine
People who eat regular servings of soybean products such as tofu and miso are at a lower risk of heart disease. 1 out of every 2 women will die of cardiovascular disease. Although women are on average a decade older than men when the disease first strikes, it kills as many women as it does men (10 times more women die of heart disease than die of breast cancer each year).
Leading Causes of Death in the United States (2012)
Native to Eastern Asia, soybeans have been a major source of protein for people in Asia for more than 5,000 years. Soybeans are high in protein (more than any other legume) and fiber, low in carbohydrates and are nutrient-dense. Soybeans contain substances called phytoestrogens, which can significantly lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol.
Add soybeans to soups and casseroles as you would with other dried beans. Tofu works well in salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches and even shakes. Although soybeans are somewhat higher in fat than other beans, the fat is primarily the cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated and polyunsaturated types.
Tip #7 – Iron Women
Did you know that 50% of all female runners are deficient in iron? Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Low iron levels result in fatigue and poor endurance since the blood is unable to carry oxygen as efficiently to working muscles. Another sign that your iron levels are low is feeling cold all the time.
Though losses of this important mineral occur during menstruation, and in a few other ways, lack of iron in the diet is the most likely cause of deficiency, as studies show that female distance runners usually get less than the RDA of 15 milligrams per day.
The solution is simple: eat more iron-rich foods. The two best choices are lean red meat and dark poultry because the specific form of iron (heme) they contain is easy to absorb. Women often do not like red meat due to its fat content, but by choosing lean cuts you can get your iron while still maintaining a low-fat diet. Two good non-meat sources are lentils and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. Also note: the tannins that are in coffee and tea block iron uptake from food, so drink these beverages between meals, not with them.
Checking in with your doctor is best, before turning to supplementation as your source of iron. Too much iron has its risks also. Large amounts can limit the absorption of zinc and may also cause constipation. You can increase your iron intake with 2 to 4 ounces of lean meat a day.
Sources of Foods Rich in Iron:
|List of Grains Rich in Iron:
|Brown rice, 1 cup cooked
|Whole wheat bread, 1 slice
|Wheat germ, 2 tablespoons
|English Muffin, 1 plain
|Oatmeal, 1 cup cooked
|Total cereal, 1 ounce
|Cream of Wheat, 1 cup
|Pita, whole wheat, 1 slice/piece, 6 ½ inch
|Spaghetti, enriched, 1 cup, cooked
|Raisin bran cereal, 1 cup
|List of Iron Rich Legumes, Seeds, and Soy:
|Sunflower seeds, 1 ounce
|Soy milk, 1 cup
|Kidney beans, ½ cup canned
|Chickpeas, ½ cup, canned
|Tofu, firm, ½ cup
|Soy burger, 1 average
|1.8 to 3.9*
|List of Vegetables Rich in Iron:
|Broccoli, ½ cup, boiled
|Green beans, ½ cup, boiled
|Lima beans, baby, frozen, ½ cup, boiled
|Beets, 1 cup
|Peas, ½ cup frozen, boiled
|Potato, fresh baked, cooked w/skin on
|Vegetables, green leafy, ½ cup
|Watermelon, 6 inch x ½ inch slice
|A Sample List of Foods Rich in Iron:
|Blackstrap Molasses, one tablespoon
|Dates or Prunes, ½ cup
|Beef, Pork, Lamb, three ounces
|2.3 to 3.0
|Liver (beef, chicken), three ounces
|8.0 to 25.0
|Clams, Oysters ¾ cup
|Dark meat Turkey ¾ cup
|Pizza, cheese or pepperoni, ½ of 10 inch pie
|4.5 to 5.5
Tip #8 – Count Calories When Cutting Fat
Sure, there are countless varieties of fat-free and reduced-fat products but this fat-free frenzy has a downside. Too many people think that if a food is fat-free they have a license to eat as much of it as they want. Not true! Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie-free. Fat-free foods are usually loaded with sugar and calories, so gorging on them will cause weight gain.
Tasty fat-free treats may also starve you of important vitamins and minerals since many fat-free products are refined which means they are lower in key nutrients. Many of these foods are also lower in fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin E which is an antioxidant that protects against age-related diseases. Research shows that women who switch to a low-fat diet (less than 30% fat calories) often fall below their daily requirement for vitamin E.
To beat the fat-free nutrition blues and retain your youth, make sure you’re getting several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day. To get your vitamin E, eat plenty of whole grains and try to use small amounts of vitamin E-rich oils, such as flax or Udo’s oil on foods after they are cooked and you can also drizzle them on salads. If you are buying fat-free foods, make sure to check the food labels for calories and sugar. It’s the number of calories consumed (taken in) versus the number of calories burned (going out) that will result in a healthy body weight and improved physical appearance. The bottom line for weight loss is that you need to take in fewer calories than you burn. Period!