You want to be at the top of your game for your classes, studying, and providing bodywork; making sure that you are properly fueling your body is key to educational success and career longevity. These basic nutrition tips are helpful no matter your diet, whether it’s omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, or something in between.
1. Start the day with breakfast
Try to think about food as fuel. We don’t drive our car for hours with the fuel tank empty light on, do we? The same goes for our body. In the morning we’ve been in fasting mode, often for up to 12 hours, so we need to put a little gas in the tank before we take our body and brain for a spin.
Not hungry? No problem. Start out your day with a tiny bit of fuel to get the engine running. When people aren’t hungry in the morning, or may even feel nauseated, we often find that they’re eating large amounts in the evenings so they’re still full or digesting the next morning. By starting the day out with breakfast, and eating regularly throughout the day, portions and hunger often reset and you’ll have more energy for your day.
2. Choose fuels that last
Before we get into food recommendations, think about a meal or food that left you hungry only a while after you had eaten it. The meal was probably something low in fat, protein, or fiber. For example, if you ate a multigrain cereal with fat-free milk you would probably find yourself hungry in about an hour (or less).
Carbohydrates, such as starches and grains, give your body important fuel but are digested first and fast. Try adding protein, fiber and fats to your carbohydrates to make them last or choose a whole grain, high-fiber food. Protein and fats digest slower than carbohydrates so they will stick with you a little longer. Ideally, you want to combine this protein into a meal with a mix of carbohydrates plus protein or fat.
3. Fuel often for more energy
If we keep using the car analogy in comparison to the human body, then your “car” runs out of gas about every four hours. At that point you have used up circulating fuels and start to dip into reserves in your liver and muscles. If you aim to have a small meal or snack about every four hours the snack will give you more energy and keep you sustained.
If you’re physically hungry after eating, that tells you that the amount or type of food that you are eating needs to be adjusted (see choose fuels that last). If you stay full for longer than five hours, perhaps your portion was a bit much or the meal was rich or heavy.
Understand that both undereating and overeating on occasion are part of normal eating, but for ideal fueling and more energy during our workday we want to eat at the four-to-five-hour mark.
4. Stay hydrated
Hydration keeps us mentally alert, physically energized and functioning through the day. Failure to stay hydrated during the workday is hard to recover from in the off hours and can lead to fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, and other problems that can have a negative impact on our performance.
Generally, all beverages except for alcohol and excess caffeine can be considered hydrating. Water, herbal teas, sparkling water, dilute fruit juices and vegetable juices all contribute to our needs. Consider keeping a water bottle in the treatment room for an occasional sip, and model good hydration habits by joining clients in a drink of water at the end of sessions.
Bodywork is hard work! We need to recover by hydrating and replenishing our nutrition stores. Consuming protein helps to repair and rebuild muscle tissue that we use during physical labor and exercise.
Foods high in protein include meats, fish, eggs, nuts and nut butters, soybeans, some grains, and dairy. Omega-3 fats, in general, are a great choice because they help decrease inflammation system-wide. Food sources of omega-3 include fatty fish (think salmon, mackerel, herring, sturgeon), chia and ground flax seed, and walnuts. Magnesium helps regulate metabolism, nerve function, and muscle function. Food sources of magnesium include nuts, soybeans, leafy greens, and beans/legumes.
About the Author
RanDee Anshutz, RDN, LMT, is a registered and licensed dietitian, licensed massage therapist, and Certified Body Trust provider. She owns Synergy Health and Wellness in Bend, Oregon. Her team helps people improve their relationship with food and body. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “Welcome Every Body to Your Table: The Why, What and How of Serving All Sizes of Clients.”