Really, How Important Is Nutrition
Nutrition is the thing that keeps us alive! We tend to look past the fact that food is the fuel for our bodies. When we struggle with weight loss the underlying factor that we never want to look at is, what are we putting into our bodies? Poor nutrition choices can greatly affect our day to day lives. A poor diet provides less nutrients and is more calorically dense making weight gain more likely. That’s why making the right choices on what we eat makes a difference in overall well-being.
Each meal should have a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Protein provides the building blocks for all tissues—muscle, bones, tissue, organs, brain—and supports growth and development to keep us healthy and strong. Carbohydrates or “carbs” are the main source of fuel for our body. They provide soluble and insoluble fibers that support gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health. Fats, primarily healthy fats, support joint health and the absorption of essential vitamins (A, D, E, and K). This is why it’s so important to make right choices in every meal! What does making the right choices look like? Optimal nutrition is nutrient-rich foods, appropriate portion sizes, regular eating times, and hydration.
Most of the food that we think of as “good” or “healthy” food is the food that we should be eating. Lean protein/plant protein (poultry, beef, beans, tofu, etc.), carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, and oils). Make your plate colorful and that will make it easier to ensure you’re getting a balanced meal filled with plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Here is a list of the top 11 most nutrient rich foods:
- Egg Yolks
- Dark Chocolate
Each of these foods have different vitamins and minerals that are very good for your body without having to worry about calories or taking supplements.
Portion sizes are crucial for any diet because it prevents you from overeating if you struggle with that. Setting a limit, or minimum of food to eat will also force your brain to feel full so that you’re eating healthy. Portions will vary depending on your size and goals, but for a rule of thumb, here are a few examples of size control for each main food group.
- Vegetables — 2 to 3 cups
- Fruits — 1½ to 2 cups
- Grains — 5 to 8 ounces
- Dairy — 3 cups (fat-free or low-fat)
- Protein foods — 5 to 6½ ounces
- Oils — 5 to 7 teaspoons
This seems like a lot to remember, but you don’t have to be too technical with it. An easy way to portion these healthy foods out is to use your hand. For protein, the palm of your hand is the size of an appropriate serving. For carbs, the size of your fist, and for fats, the size of your thumb.
REGULAR EATING TIMES
Eating at the same time every day can have our bodies working more efficiently. That could be eating every two hours, having three meals per day, or skipping a meal (aka fasting). Whatever you choose, keep it consistent. Say you are used to eating three meals a day. One day you eat breakfast, skip lunch and dinner, then eat a late night meal. Your body is used to digesting things at certain times and when it doesn’t digest in a while, it might start to panic and lead to further problems like bloating and indigestion. That’s why a lot of people don’t think fasting, juicing, or other timing diets work for them. Their metabolisms must get used to eating first. Here’s a link for more information about an eating schedule. There are lots of diets that suggest eating at different times. My suggestion is to find the one that works best with your day-to-day schedule and lifestyle. You’ll be able to keep it more consistent that way.
Water is so so so important for our bodies to function properly everyday. It keeps us hydrated, boots our metabolism, flushes harmful bacteria in our bodies and so much more. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water. When we’re dehydrated we can have headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and impaired cognitive function. In order to avoid becoming dehydrated, we have to know how much water or calorie-free fluid to consume. To calculate this, take your body weight and divide it by two; that will equal the number in ounces of water/calorie-free fluid. For example, a 200lb man would need 100 ounces of water to stay at optimal hydration. Water and staying hydrated also helps with workouts. Your body needs to sweat to cool itself down while burning calories or getting rid of an infection. Without it, your body can overheat. If you plan on working out, it’s important to drink water hours before, not just before hitting the gym, or during your workout because your body will want to expel the water rather than absorb it. It’s best to drink about 8 cups of water a day. Some people carry bottles that keep track of the amount. You’ll soon find that the more you drink, the more your body will crave water to keep you hydrated. The best fluid sources are water, coffee or tea (little to no sugar or cream!), or water plus a flavoring agent (crystal light).
GET SOME PRACTICE
Let’s put all of this into practice. We’re starting with making our eating more routine and consistent, being sure we have key nutrients (protein, carbs, fats), have the right food selection of those nutrients, following that with the right portion sizes (think palm, fist, thumb!), and finishing it with proper hydration. If we can put that on repeat every day then we are ensuring optimal nutrition and optimal well-being. Read a previous Training News entry to get into the more detailed aspects of nutrition!