Over the coming weeks and months I hope to pass on my knowledge of nutrition to you and give you the substance to go about designing a nutrition plan. Before I can help inform and refine this knowledge in a coherent way for you we really need to start from the top! Understanding what each food source will provide you and where you can find it is essential for formulating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet to support your training and help you reach your goals sooner. So lets begin.
I have lost count the number of times people tell me "Oh I don't eat carbs" to which, a little confused, I say "Seriously? You don't eat fruit and veg!?". The idea that carbohydrate is fattening and negative towards help is a false assumption and is born from the obsession that many fad diets have with counting calories. Of course you should be aware of energy consumption but also be aware that foods offer more than just energy.
There are three, and only three, macronutrients in existence and they are:
Protein is the raw material with which your body builds and repairs - if there isn't enough protein present in your diet you run the risk of your body utilising too much protein from those stores in your muscles. This jeopardisesmass which as you can imagine has a profound impact on the appearance of your muscle, the effectiveness of your training and especially your recovery. Many of the richest sources of proteins also contain various formations of the omega fatty acid families which not only help regulate the thickness of your blood but also have other anti-inflammatory actions in the body. But perhaps most importantly they give rise to essential products of the body called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are essential for just about all cell functions and there are those found in animal sources of protein which - I'm sorry veggies - just are not found anywhere else in the dietary kingdom. At this stage try not to get bogged down with the amount and the quality of the meat as this is beyond the remit of our first article but is something we'll discuss later on.
Animal: beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, pork,
Non-animal: lentils, beans, pulses, some nuts have a higher amount too - but these are mainly fats.
Carbohydrate is probably where the most confusion lies with regard its source, function and its benefits to the body. I'll start by clearing a few things up in the below list of sources.
Grains; wheat, rye, barley.
From the above list I'm betting a few readers will feel a bit disappointed that their "no carb" diet doesn't actually exist... Of course grain based foods have their own pitfalls but again that is beyond the remit of this article but is a subject we will come to talk about in the future. But removing carbohydrate all together has become more common of late isn't necessarily a good idea and should be done with caution and consideration. Carbs allow our brain to function, they help prevent our bodies using muscle as fuel and provide us with an expanse of vitamins, antioxidants and essential minerals. The amount we eat should be governed by our body types, our family history and the type of training we do. If you do a lot of high intensity training you'll likely require more carbs, the more resistance training you do the greater the emphasis you should place on proteins.
If only there were two different words for fat and fat! The preconceptions many have regarding fat in the diet can be a difficult wall to breakdown as a fitness professional, and it's not as simple as saturated vs mono or poly unsaturated. The simple truth is that there is a time and a place for all fats (except those trans fats, the chemically altered kind) and there is little evidence to suggest we should exclusively eat one kind or eliminate one kind. There are however correct times to consume certain fats and there are obviously those that are better to emphasize.
Saturated; coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, butter. These are the best fats to cook with as they remain more stable at higher heats.
Polyunsaturated; walnuts, sesame seeds, peanuts, chia, canola oil.
Monounsaturated; sunflower, avocado, cashews.
Add to that a good amount of omega 3 and omega 6 from sources such as flax, walnut, salmon, mackerel (omega 3) and evening primrose oil, tuna, beef (omega 6) and you have a good mix. Nuts are also a fantastic source of fat and also contain a small amount of protein, these are great for snacking on as any fat stimulates release of the hormone CCK, which when released helps to regulate the feeling of being full and thus reduces the amount of snacking.
- Proteins; essential for building healthy tissue! Choose a wide range of fish, meat, seafood, poultry and ensure you don't eat the same foods all the time.
- Carbohydrate; brain function, energy, minerals, vitamins, prevention of muscle breakdown. Found in ALL fruit, ALL veg, grain-based foods.
- Fats; help control appetite, contribute to pro and anti inflammatory mechanisms in the body, another source of vitamins. Found in nuts, oils and animal sources of protein.