What Does Your Fitness Instructor Eat?

When your instructor teaches six classes a day, you better believe she has a special diet

Photo courtesy of Chelsea File

Full-time fitness instructor Chelsea File balances a healthy workout schedule with a healthy diet. 

It’s hard to stay healthy during the week, even with a stable work schedule. For fitness instructors, it can be even more challenging. Some days start as early as 5 a.m. and are spent traveling from studio to studio until 11 p.m. Not to mention, instructors are expected to stay at a high energy level at all hours of the day, making it extra important for them to maintain their health. It’s obvious that they get enough exercise, but how do they fuel their workouts? How do they recover? I spoke with Chelsea File, who balances the life of a cycle, yoga, and strength-training instructor at three separate studios all over New York.

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Usually, File teaches three to six classes a day. As if teaching were not enough of a workout, File even attends classes on her own time. Her busy lifestyle and active schedule would not be possible without a healthy diet. Here’s how she makes it work.

Starting the Day with Energy

File’s alarm buzzes at the crack of dawn — 4:30 a.m., to be exact — and she wakes up to a glass of water. Before teaching two back-to-back classes at Brooklyn Bodyburn, she has something light, like a banana and chamomile tea, to give her enough energy to get through the classes.

Pre-workout drinks and foods should fuel you without over-filling you,” she advises. “I would stick to simple stuff like a banana, apple, protein bar, or even Greek yogurt. Stay away from something like a smoothie before class — that’s just going to swish around in your stomach as you work out.”

After she teaches her 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. classes, File gets her sweat on. She takes a Bodyburn class and follows it with her go-to post-workout breakfast: homemade almond butter balls or a Larabar.

Midday Meal to Refuel

Three classes into the day and it’s nearly 10 a.m. File heads to Modo Yoga, where she takes a yoga class before teaching her own class at 11 a.m. From 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., File takes time to fuel and get in some nutrients. “Lunch is almost always a salad of some kind,” File says. “Whether it be a quinoa and arugula salad or an avocado salad, it’s always something green. From there, I snack throughout the day on fruits, veggies, and hard-boiled eggs.”

File recommends having something with protein immediately following a workout, such as a hard-boiled egg, a peanut butter energy ball, or a smoothie, to prevent overeating later in the day. “If you wait a long time to eat after working out, you will end up eating a whole lot more because your body has reached a state of starving,” File says. “Absolutely eat within 30 minutes of a workout, even if it’s something as simple as a handful of nuts. Not only will you not eat everything in sight as the day goes on, but you will also boost your metabolism.”

Evening Ride and Delicious Dinner

File’s evening is spent in the classroom, this time on a bike. At 5:30 p.m., she leads an indoor cycling class at Cyc Fitness that combines biking and strength training. After a class like that, it’s time to repair. “My dinners tend to mirror my lunches, so it’s a lot of veggies and sometimes fish, especially on days where I’m feeling like I need a bit more protein,” she says. Her favorite meal to whip up is sautéed kale and Brussels sprouts with shallots and a fried egg.

Consistent Eating Schedule

“My eating schedule is pretty consistent,” File admits. “I try as hard as I can to make most of the food I eat, mainly because I definitely eat cleaner when I make my own food.” File follows a vegetarian diet, which means many of her meals are vegetable-based.

“I try to eat as healthy as I can, but that being said, of course I let myself have some ice cream every once and a while!” File jokes. “I work out to feel great, and sometimes feeling great means treating yourself to a cookie.”

Banning foods from your diet completely can get you into trouble. Restriction leads to resentment, so it’s always important to give yourself wiggle room.

Keeping a Clean Diet and Healthy Lifestyle

“I try to stray away from a lot of bread and gluten-heavy meals because I find I’m not left feeling full or satiated,” File says. “I try to avoid soda, anything super processed — no Twinkies for me! — and no fried food. I avoid these not only because they’re not great for me, but also because I feel awful after eating them, and that’s the real issue.”

Although File maintains a clean diet, she is a huge advocate for finding a balance between food and exercise. “When you start to appreciate your body not for what it looks like, but how you fuel it, that’s when you’re dieting well,” File explains. “Our bodies naturally crave healthy food, and your cravings change as you start to eat cleaner foods.”

File mentions that it’s not only about what you eat, but also when you eat it. “Eat food throughout the day that keeps you feeling satiated, not stuffed,” she says “The moment your stomach starts growling, you’re not just hungry, you’re starving. When we starve, we give into cravings that are unhealthy and that don’t actually fuel our bodies.”

It’s All About Balance

“I am dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle, and to me, that’s finding a balance between working out and eating well,” File says. “If one thing becomes more important, then it’s not healthy living to me.”

With any career, there has to be give and take. Finding a way to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life is key for living your healthiest and happiest life. 

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