Our diet is essential for our health and welfare, both physically and mentally. What we eat will dictate our energy levels, growth, recovery from injury, muscle strength, mental ability and concentration, ability to fight disease, presence of allergies, organ function and weight.
Diet describes how we eat, it is not about losing weight. To ensure that we have a body that can function at peak performance and tolerate the stresses of every day life we have to address our nutrition.
The principle aims of nutrition are to :-
-maintain ideal weight for height
-support an enjoyment of food and eating
-enhance adaption and recovery between training sessions
Below are some very useful guidelines for a healthy diet. It is an holistic approach and not specifically for weight loss or medical conditions.
1. It is important to eat regularly, ideally every 2-3 hours to ensure the body has a constant supply of fuel. If we skip meals the body will ‘store’ as it thinks food is scarce and will need to keep a supply of energy (body fat) for daily function. 3 meals and a couple of snacks throughout the day is a healthy goal.
2. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, don’t skip it!! This kick starts the metabolism and also provides energy for the morning, keeping you alert and energised.
3. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper! Therefore our smallest meal of the day should be dinner and the largest is breakfast. Make sure you get up early enough to make this happen and try not to eat less than 3hrs before bed time.
4. Don’t eat your meals on the go. Take time to eat in peace and taste your food. Try not to eat in front of distractions such as the TV or in the office at the desk.
5. Chew your food until it is liquid in your mouth. This is where digestion of carbohydrates commences. It is key to helping the optimal total digestion of food.
6. Variation in food is the key. Don’t eat the same foods for every meal such as tuna sandwiches for lunch every day. The body needs a variety of nutrients from different foods. There isn’t a super food that supplies them all. Provide a ‘rainbow of colours’ with your food choices therefore covering a broad spectrum of macro and micro nutrients.
7. Check your portion size, don’t over indulge. This is the biggest mistake people make. With current advertising and portions getting larger and larger we are ingesting more calories than we need. Keep portions small, chew your food slowly and learnt to recognise when you are full and stop eating. We don’t always need to clean the plate.
8. Don’t feel the need to finish everything on your plate, it’s ok to leave food. Listen to your body, as to when it’s full, and stop eating. It can take up to 20mins to have a sense of being full, so eat slowly and enjoy your meal.
9. Try to drink 15mins pre eating, this will aid digestion and fill you up so you are less likely to overeat.
We have 3 main food groups that need to all be included in every meal as each one has its role and function.
– Carbohydrates are our primary energy source, vital for muscle contraction and brain function. It is ESSENTIAL that we have enough complex carbohydrates in our diet. No fad low carb diets , they just don’t work in the longterm.
– The building block of carbohydrates are sugars (glucose, sucrose, lactose, fructose)
– We store glucose in our muscles and liver as glycogen to be broken down and used as needed. Glucose is also available in the blood. We need therefore to constantly replenish these stores with a constant supple of carbs. We can start to replenish stores within the hour so a steady stream of food throughout the day is our aim to keep blood sugar raised.
– It is also essential to have fat in our diets. We need fats for cell membranes, insulation and vitamin transport. Fat is very energy dense.
– There are different kinds of fat, good fats (mono and polyunsaturated) and not so good in large quantities (saturated fat) and not good at all (trans fats).
– Protein is the third essential food group. This can be animal and plant protein
– Proteins are broken down to form the building blocks of amino acids. They are essential for growth and repair and healthy muscles, nails and hair.
– Protein also helps us to feel fuller for longer.
– Micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) should also be included and will be available in the above food groups. We require a broad spectrum of micronutrients so again, a varied diet is the key.
– Hydration is vital to body function. We should be drinking good quality water daily and reducing our intake of coffee and soda. The formula 0.33 x body weight in kg = the amount of water required in a day. This needs to be increased in the presence of exercise sometimes up to 3 times.
– Our urine should be pale yellow or even clear, even first thing in the morning.
– Coffee, alcohol and packaged juices need to be kept to a minimum. Freshly squeezed juices are preferable.
– If you are hungry, drink water. Dehydration is often perceived as hunger.
– It is appropriate to turn to sports drinks like Gatorade if your exercise session is between 1-2 hrs of maximal intensity. Any less than this and water will suffice.
With regards to weight loss it is probably a 70:30 balance between nutrition and exercise. You need to change the balance of energy to have 'energy in less than energy out'. Any weight loss needs to be slow, steady and in moderation. Be very wary of diets promising rapid weight loss, they are no good for health or for keeping weight off long term.
You are what you eat, therefore if you eat rubbish food your body will respond with rubbish. Poor skin, recurrent injuries, delayed healing, low energy, poor concentration, and an overworked liver.
o Eat every 2-3hrs, include carbs in your snacks
o Never skip breakfast
o Stay hydrated! Water is the key!
o Avoid processed foods
o Eat organic meat/ diary and vegetables where ever possible to obtain the best nutrients
o Eat a variety of foods- a rainbow of colours!
o Have all 3 food groups on your plate in 1 meal
o Eat foods in their natural state (not in packages)
o Be prepared, plan your meals and snacks, don’t get caught out eating fast food!
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