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Overall Performance Nutrition
When I think of the value and importance of nutrition, a humorous comic comes to mind. The setting is a view of a furnace inside of a house with a man staring at the furnace holding several wooden logs. The line below this visual is the man saying “Make me warmer!” The primary message being sent is the importance of giving something before one asks for something in return. This parable applies directly to nutrition in general.
Obviously our cold friend isn’t going to get any warmer if he continues to fail in fueling the very object that could offer him immediate comfort. The kind of fuel and the frequency that this fuel is introduced will greatly determine the quality of heat produced and the length that this heat is produced. The same concepts apply to nutrition. Whether your goal is to lose weight, properly fuel an active lifestyle, build muscle or recover from aggressive training, proper nutrition and the timing of that nutrition can significantly enhance such efforts.
As a real life example, let’s look at stereotypical thoughts around weight loss efforts vs. an educated approach:
|- Eat less frequently
||- Eat more frequently
|- Restrict food diversity
||- Increase food diversity
|- Restrict/eliminate fat consumption
||- Alter/retain/increase fat consumption
|- Short term fix
||- Long term lifestyle change
If we continue to use our furnace metaphor, we would easily be able to better appreciate the first comparison of consumption frequency. If we don’t put fuel into the fire, how will it burn? Furthermore, if we don’t continue to put fuel into the fire, how will the flame sustain it’s heat? From a nutrition standpoint, the same rules apply. If we restrict our feedings, our body will adapt and teach itself to store calories that are introduced in a restricted frequency (2-3 times a day). Conversely, if we eat 6-7 times a day, our bodies are being sent messages that tell it to continue to burn calories—food will be introduced every few hours. Don’t believe it? If you happen to be one of those “no breakfast for me” or “only coffee for breakfast” types, try eating a granola bar, bagel, or even some fruit and/or yogurt between 7-8AM. I guarantee you’ll feel like you’re starving by 11AM. I would also bet that if you are not eating breakfast regularly now, you can probably go to 12:30PM or 1PM without any discomfort. This is an example of how we can train our metabolism to increase or decrease its speed.
As for food diversity and fat content management, the traditional messages tell us to restrict both. This “low fat” mentality has become so addictive that many food marketers are now taking advantage of this claim and hiding other nutritional “potholes”. My favorite example of this is in the yogurt category. Many brands scream “no (or low) fat”. What they don’t tell you is that while such items may not have any fat, they have grossly inflated sugar content and huge caloric value.
In reality, our bodies flourish when inundated with nutritional diversity and the proper amount and types of fat. So many weight loss strategies mandate strict disciplines around protein laden foods and/or the elimination of various sources of carbohydrates. How long can such a nutritional mantra last? The fact is that your body needs protein, carbohydrates and fat to function properly. Nutritional diversity also keeps your digestive system “off balance”. Just as diversity in our training methods affords our muscles different stimulus (and better results) nutritional diversity challenges our digestive tracts with different types of food to digest. By doing so, our metabolism is constantly challenged with digesting different foods that prevent it from lapsing into a “comfortable” state of less than optimized digestion.
Successful nutrition strategies are focused against the particular individual and the goals that individual wants to realize. Such strategies incorporate real life dilemmas such as dining out, social life, training goals and successfully balancing all three. Anyone can starve themselves for 2-3 months, drop weight and then spend the next 2 months watching the weight come back on as their bodies overreact to the stimulus of more food and store such incremental calories. Incorporating the concepts outlined above can significantly improve one’s fitness, health and self confidence as they become more aware of the power (both good and bad) of the foods they choose.
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