In the same way that you won’t achieve all your goals in sport after one training session, one meal won’t undo all your hard work.
However, when these habits become regular, perhaps each week, you might find it harder to reach your performance or physical goals.
It isn’t so much the food in question but the process and purpose of these meals and what role they play in your athletic development and wellbeing. If you are at a point where you feel you need to blow out for a whole day, then it may be that your diet and relationship with food isn’t as healthy as you think it is.
Before you eat something that may not support your training goals, think about why you want to eat it. For example, if you are tired or emotional, or want a pick-me-up in energy, or seeking an escape through food, then you may be eating it for the wrong reason/s.
Below are some factors to consider when trying to align occasional foods to your training goals and nutritional intake.
The occasional treat will not destroy your health and performance goals
The key is to make sure they only make up a minority of your diet, with most of your intake coming from vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins and nutritious fats.
Social flexibility is good for you
There is more to becoming a successful athlete than getting stronger, fitter and faster – a life outside of sport is invaluable. Food can connect people. Knowing that you are able to eat all foods enables you to attend social events without worrying about the food that will be provided. For example, attending your friend or family’s birthday party can involve cake if you enjoy it.
Restriction from all “discretionary” food items can encourage a negative relationship with both food and our bodies as it labels certain foods as “good” and others as “bad”
Excessive restriction can leave individuals more vulnerable to binge eating episodes, which can lead to a vicious cycle of bingeing and restricting that isn’t good for either physical or mental health.
Avoid saving yourself for a blow out
Saving yourself for dessert or a blow out can encourage over-eating simply because you have created a window where you have ‘allowed’ it. Further, it can result in sub-optimal intake of nutrient-dense foods that optimise fuelling and/or recovery. The trick is to maintain a balanced diet with nutritious meals and snacks as per training/competition demands, and include small portions of dessert or extras every now and again if you feel like them and/or enjoy them.
Consider the 80:20 rule
80% of the time your diet should include nutrient-dense foods, with 20% of the time allowing for the less nutritious items.
Pay close attention to every mouthful you eat to maximise enjoyment of it. For more mindful eating tips, read this (link to mindful eating blog).
In most cases, consume it away from training and/or competition
Eating a burger and fries directly post training or cakes before training is not going to support optimal performance or recovery. The priority should always be to support training and once the body is satisfied with everything it needs then have something extra as just that, extra; not to replace the role of healthy food.