When embarking on a nutritional plan it is essential to prioritize your goals. No one food can serve the body all of its needs. You must have a plan and follow it the best you can. Eating foods that are of low nutrient value will hinder your progress. To have PERFORMANCE NUTRITION work for you, follow these general suggestions:
• Eat 5-6 meals a day. Each meal should contain enough nutrients to get you to your next meal– no more, no less. Base your intake on your activities over the next three hours after eating. Try not to eat for what the activity you just performed, rather for the nutrient expenditure ahead. For T.V. or study you would obviously eat less than for a workout.
• Don’t overeat! Eat to the point of satisfaction rather than fullness.
• The food formula for fitness is 2-3-2. Meals should be two parts fat, two parts protein and three parts carbohydrates (low glycemic).
• Carbohydrates are the body’s primary raw materials for energy. They are broken down into glucose, a simple sugar that fuels basic energy conversion at the cellular level. Two main factors should dictate your selection of carbohydrates: fiber and glycemic rating.
• Fiber rich complex carbs are essential for healthy, frequent and regular bowel movements. Fitness is an impossibility if you are eternally constipated. So never ignore your intestines. It is a muscle system that needs exercising just as much as biceps, abs and glutes. The exercise comes from processing roughage, also known as fiber, the portion of plant food that the human digestive system can’t breakdown.
• Fiber acts like a broom to keep the intestines clean and working efficiently. The best-known fiber foods are whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits and oatmeal and the latest craze– quinea.
• The heavy consumption of refined, fiberless food– such as white bread, pastry and pasta made with enriched flour– in the Western diet leads to slow bowel passage and constipation, the absorption of toxins and possibly a variety of serious disorders such as diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins and colon cancer.
• The glycemic index. New research shows there are major differences in the way complex carbs are broken down into blood sugar (glucose) by the body. Some complex carbs such as the potato, are processed rapidly and cause a greater increase in blood sugar levels than longer chained low glycemic sugars.
Simple refined carbs, beginning with table sugar and including many sweets, have long been thought to be absorbed faster than complex carbs into the bloodstream, causing a surge in the glucose level.
When blood sugar rises, the pancreas produces insulin to drive the level down. Chronic high blood sugar is associated with diabetes. Low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia and is associated with fatigue, irritability and headaches. Rollercoaster rides or high and low blood sugar can play emotional and physical havoc with the body.
New understanding of carbohydrate assimulation has allowed nutritional science to assign ratings to different carbs based on how quickly they increase glucose levels in comparison to glucose itself. The system is called the Glycemic Index.
To learn more about the Glycemic Index, I suggest you google it. There are many articles and charts describing the glycemix index.
• Don’t load up on rancid, hydrogenated, damaged fats and fried foods. Damaged fats are the toughest foods to digest. A meal loaded with damaged fat will sap the energy you need for workouts and life. Instead, get your fat from fresh foods; oils, fish, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, and meat.
Be careful of snacks with damaged fats. Snack food is easy to consume a lot of, and before you know it you have just consumed more damaged fat than your body can digest in a day.
• Protein is a poor energy food. However, it serves the body as the building material necessary for tissue growth, repair and maintenance. Blood, muscles, the heart, the brain, skin, nails are all formed primarily of protein. Protein is also a basic constituent of hormones, enzymes and antibodies.
Good protein comes not only from lean meat, poutry, fish, egg and dairy– the so-called “complete protein foods.” — but also from complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and beans.
Eating a variety of such foods thoughout the day ensures a steady supply of protein for general fitness needs. If you are lifting weights to build muscle mass, your protein needs are slightly higher, and a good protein supplement may be in order.
• Water is essential for life. Six to eight glasses per day is recommended.
Meal replacement powder blends are great time savers. You add water, or milk to the powder for a quick, nutritious “meal.” A high quality, well-balanced product can contribute up to fifty percent of your daily protein intake.
Look for state-of the art- products rich in nutrients, and high in flavor. You want blends flavored with pure crystalline fructose, Mother Nature’s own low-glycemic sweetener, and which contain the important types of fiber your body appreciates: Pectin, cellulose and hemicellulos.
Good snacks, available in health food stores, include unsalted nuts and seed and energy bars sweetened with fructose.
• Fitness and fast food are unlikely bedfellows. An occasional burger binge is no big deal, but addiction will leave you on the short end of the nutritional stick.
Here are some fast food survival tips:
— Select restaurants that offer salad bars, broiled chicken or fish, lean meat.
— Limit your salad dressing and avoid creamy salalds such as potato and macraroni. Shun bacon bits and croutons.
— Avoid the sauces. They contain fat, sugar, salt and who knows what else.
— Hold the cheese when you order burgers or roast beef. An innocent looking slice of american cheese is loaded with chemicals.
— Desserts tend to be exceptionally high in fat and sugar. A harmless looking piece of carrot cake or danish may be higher in damaged fat than ice cream sundaes.
• Food allergies can be the unsuspected cause of fatigue, inability to concentrate, digestive disorders, gas and bloating, headaches and weight gain. The most common sensitivities involve milk and dairy, wheat, sugar, nuts, and corn. Allergies often involve a favorite food craved additively.
8. Nutritional Supplements:
Survey after survey shows vast numbers of Americans grossly deficient in essential nutrients such as calcium, iron zinc, magnesium and Vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-6 and C. These deficencies increase the risk of illness.
• Two thirds of the food we eat is processed, and processing almost always zaps nutrient content.
• Sugar and highly-proessed refined carbohydrates comprise an estimated sixty percent of our total dietary intake. These are the “nutrient valueless) foods, poor in nutrition, high in damaged fats, that force teh body to “borrow” nutrient reserves to digest the junk.
• Intensive farming and long term use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides destroy the nutrient content of agricultural crops. So does the practice of harvesting crops before they are ripe. Eat organic foods!
• Fast food, a staple of the modern American diet, is notoriously defcient in Vitamin A, several of the B Vitamins, iron and copper.
• Maintaining optimum health in today’s world suggest you supplement your diet. It’s even more necessary if you participate in strenuous exercise and the pursuit of fitness. This puts an extraordinary burden on the body that only extraordinary nutrition can supply.
• The concept of PERFORMANCE NUTRITION recognizes the necessity of state-of the art- supplements to provide the extra nutrients important to immunity, exercise, endurance and muscle breakdown and reconstruction. You’re no longer a couch potato, so a couch potato’s diet won’t do.
You need more protein, and specific amino acids, the building blocks of protein, to accomodate the stepped-up growth, repair and reconstruction of muscle tissue. You need more Vitamins A, B-6 and Calcium. They are partners of protein.
You need vastly more magnesium– a mineral essential for muscle relaxation and strong bones– because you lose buckets of it through sweating. You need more Vitamin C to ensure strong, connective tissue, help protect the body against the effects of intense stress and to slow down lactic acid buildup, the bi-product of muscle contraction.
Eastern European sports scientists long ago elevated nutritional supplementation to priority status, an emphasis that has contributed to the great success of Eastern Bloc athletes. Many of their scientific findings are incorporated in the new generation of sports supplements now available here in the United States targeted to fitness buff’s like you.
Just as you want to eat the very best food, you must also supplement with the very best. Cheap supplments mean low quality– the equivalent of junk food. You don’t need to spend much money, but whatever you spend get the best and get only what you need, not what the manufacturer says you need or offers at a discount. Be careful of super pills or drinks that are the cure all and end all to losing weight. Pills taken to lose weight can be dangerous because they are often times caffeine pills that can elevate blood pressure and heart rate. Caffeine pills are not recommended..
Daryl Conant, M.Ed