There is no arguing the importance that nutrition has on achieving success with your training and your overall health. It doesn’t matter if the goal is weight loss, performance or rehab you will realize success sooner and to a greater extent when you make the effort to eat as well as you can.
But what does eating well mean?
Does this mean jump on the band-wagaon with everyone down at the local box gym and go Paleo? Or should I go low carb? Or low fat? Do I just reduce my calories overall to create a decifict? Can I just cut out sugar? What about the Mediterranean approach? The Zone? Eat right for my type?
Confused? Yeah me too! Sometimes we just make things too complicated, don’t we? Instead of trying to figure which nutritional approach to sign up for and get their tattoo on your forehead what about if we started with the basics?
What about if we addressed what is in common with all of these approaches and those not following any plan?
What if we made sure some of the key nutrients of metabolism were satisfied before we worried about cutting certain things out of the diet? That might a little more sense and be easier to follow.
Because here’s the thing…the problem is not one of not knowing what to eat. It’s not one of education where I can show you what a vegetable, a piece of fruit, some lean protein and a glass of water looks like. I think we’re good in that area and you know what these foods are.
And I don’t think it’s an issue of wanting your goal badly enough. When you see reminders of what your body used to look like and hear reminders from friends and family of what you used to be able to do physically it’s not a question of wanting to have your health back.
Sometimes it’s a fear of failure. And sometimes we make things more confusing and complicated than they need to be.
What about if we simplified your goal nutritionally to get the nutrients your body needs but is missing right now? And just focussed on that. No counting calories. No measuring out portions. No reading labels or worrying about ingredients.
To start we want to simply focus on getting what the body needs and what it’s missing. And for most people this comes down to four things; water, vitamins and minerals, protein and essential fatty acids. Let’s go through each to figure what they all are and which foods contain them.
Missing Nutrient #1 – Water
You already know all the reasons water is important for our health from the fact it is the major component of our muscles, its role in digestion, to thermoregulation and more vital health processes. And you already know that all it takes is 2% dehydration to impair sports performance. And you know the benefits it can lend to portion control.
But how much water should we drink? A quick rule of thumb is 1 glass of water per 15 lbs of bodyweight. So a 150 pound person will drink 10 glasses a day. This doesn’t include what you drink during your training session which simply helps replace water losses.
Look to break this up during the day with:
* 2 glasses upon rising. Do this first thing every AM when your body has gone without hydration for 8 hours or more and is more dehydrated than other parts of the day.
* 2 glasses mid-morning. If you drink green tea you can count this towards your total as well.
* 2 glasses before lunch. See the previous post on portion-control to learn why this is a good idea.
* 2 glasses mid-afernoon. You may want to opt for pure water here depending on how caffeine impacts your sleep.
* 2 glasses before dinner. Same rationale as before lunch.
Some people like my wife want to have a glass of water at the bedside table. I rarely do this as I’m more than likely going to knock it off the table, will sleep through the night and not drink it, or drink and then need to wake up to go to the bathroom. Actually, no that’s not true. I never get up during the night. Unless I’m sleep walking and that’s another story for another day.
Limiting Nutrient #2 – Vitamins & Minerals
When we are looking at vitamins we can break them down into 2 classes which are fat and water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins include:
A – which we get from liver, kidney, eggs and fish liver oil
D – which we get from cod liver oil, milk, eggs, liver and oily fish
E – which we get from germ oil, almonds, sun flour oil and peanuts
K – which we get from spinach, broccoli, eggs and meat
And here are the water soluble vitamins:
B complex – which we get from meat, liver, milk, yeast and its products, nuts and whole grain cereals
C – which we get from kiwi and citrus fruits as well as guava, mango and broccoli
Folic acid is also a B vitamin but has unique properties and nutritional sources which we get from spinach, broccoli, green beans and cauliflower.
While some will maintain that they take a multi-vitamin this is true that they will get some of the missing vitamins and minerals their bodies need. The problem becomes one of potential toxicity if getting too much of a particular nutrient as well as the fact that the nutrients of the body interact with each other to facilitate absorption and digestion.
I won’t go into all the elements, and trace elements, other than to list them so you are aware of what’s needed in your diet. The essential minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, and fluorine.
As for the trace minerals these include: copper, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and iodine. Here’s a pneumonic clue to remember these; Chris Collins Made Megan Sprint Indoors.
***note that these aren’t the actual symbols of these elements but just a first letter representation to help remember***
Limiting Nutrient #3 – Protein
How much protein should we eat? This is an interesting question and depending on who you ask you will hear a variety of answers. For example if you ask the power-lifter the answer might be 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. Ask a vegan or vegetarian and then might say 0.5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. This is a huge difference which we’ll show below.
For the powerlifter weighing 220 lbs this works out to 220 grams of protein per day.
For the 140 lbs person (64 kg) who doesn’t eat animal products this is 32 grams/day.
220 grams versus 32 gram per day or about a 700% difference between the two.
The truth is most people don’t eat enough protein. And the situation is worse for women than it is for men. Part of this has to do with the fact that the RDA for protein is based on sustaining life not achieving a fat loss or performance goal.
Look to see how much protein you currently eat in a day and then gradually look to increase this. Healthy proteins include: fish, seafood, meat, poultry, pork, venison, dairy, eggs, beans and soy.
Limiting Nutrient #4 – Essential Fatty Acids
The name tells us we need to eat these because our bodies are not able to produce them i.e. they are essential. And the broad classification would include alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6). These are important for weight loss, to lower inflammation and may protect against Alzheimers as well as other benefits.
Most of us get enough omega-6 and shouldn’t need to eat more or supplement. Omega-3 is a different story and can be obtained from cold water fish, walnuts and oils (flax seed and olive).
If you aren’t in the habit of eating fish than an omega-3 supplement might be a good idea. Look for one with the following label:
* EPA:DHA ratio of 2:1 or 3:2
* Krill oil (versus fish oil) for better absorption
* in a dark container to prevent light oxidation
Previously I used to recommend varieties that were molecularly distilled and enteric coated. This helps ensure purity and prevent fish burps. Most quality brands have this now so just stay away from discount or cheap versions which may not have these features.
So how do you go about getting started with ensuring you have satisfied your nutritional requirements for the above nutrients? Well it’s pretty simple if you do the following:
Drink more water (1 glass per 15 lbs bodyweight)
Eat more veggies (fresh, leafy, colourful)
Eat more protein (see the list above for choices)
Take an omega-3 krill oil supplement (talk to your doctor re: dose)
Give this a try for 3 weeks and see how your health, fitness, fat loss and sleep change for the better.