Paying close attention to what foods you are eating, as well as the amount of each food is crucial to maintaining a healthy diet. While you may have mastered these aspects of your diet already, there is still plenty more to consider when optimizing your meals for your workout progress.

The advantage of local produce

Fruits and vegetables can lose staggering amounts of their natural nutrients during the time it takes to ship long distances. Some produce will have lost anywhere between 15-60 percent of its nutrients by the time you pick it up from the store. If you can manage to pick your produce up from local farmers markets, you will be bringing home food that has spent less than 72 hours away from the ground or the vine, the optimal time frame for maximum nutrients. For an added bonus, you’ll likely be spending less money too.

Know which foods are best raw or cooked

There seems to be a myth floating around that cooking always reduces a plant’s benefit to the body. While it’s true that the act of cooking will kill some of the nutrients in a fruit or vegetable, it will also increase the bioavailability of nutrients in some produce. For example, when tomatoes, asparagus, or carrots are cooked, it makes their beneficial antioxidants easier for the body to absorb. On the other hand, heat will break down some vitamins found in foods such as kale, spinach, peas, avocados, broccoli, and brussel sprouts, making these foods most beneficial eaten uncooked. Generally speaking, proteins, especially meat, are best eaten cooked.

Timing of your meals

Each person is different in what works best for them, especially when workout schedules are considered. For instance, the best time to consume carbs are the hours surrounding a workout, both before and after. Some people have also found benefits in switching when they consume the most calories from dinner time to breakfast. A good rule of thumb to follow as well is to never eat after 8 pm, studies have shown that people who cave in to late night snacking are most likely to experience unwanted weight gain. If you feel like you definitely need to eat something after 8 pm, you can make a rule for yourself to stick to a protein shake after this time helps you feel full, and to avoid turning to an unhealthy late-night snacking option. One of the most important factors for maintaining a healthy metabolism is figuring out what eating schedule works best for you, and then sticking to it. When your body gives you cues to eat at consistent times each day that are then satisfied, you will be able to optimize your metabolism.