On my IG page (Balticmove) I had a question “nutrition tips for athletes”. I was thinking "how much do athletes differ from general population clients?". The reality is that everyone needs to start with basics. Everyone starts from the beginning.
Yes yes, I know, basics are boring and you (or we) are still looking for the secret diet, secret ingredient that makes us look like models, feel strong like A. Schwarzenegger and be productive as S. Jobs.
So, if you are looking for The Secret ingredient, diet – there is none. You will not find it here. And you will not find it anywhere. But keep looking – that is how we get better and that is why you read this article. However, while there is not any secret ingredient, there is one "public secret" and that is... Mentioned at every of 5 tips below.
Before we start let me tell you one short story about what I mean about start with basics.
Couple years ago I was working with one client who wanted to lose weight. Things were going pretty well, in 4 weeks she lost only 2kg but all circumferences shrunk significantly. She felt that on her clothes. Then we decided to improve her nutrition habits. We sat down and started to talk. - I feel great and working out is doing good for me. But I want more. I want to improve my nutrition. - What does interest you? – I asked - I want some advises how could I improve it. - What specifically? - I don‘t know, maybe, for example, is it better to eat fish with pasta or with rice? I almost felt off my chair (didn't show that obviously). However, it was clear for me that we need to first understand basic principles of nutrition before worrying about the details.
These 5 advises are not in the order of importance because it depends each individually.
1. Eat proteins at every meal. More often and be consistent.
Proteins are important because body’s tissues (muscles, bones, organs etc.) are made of them. They are involved in enzymes and hormones production, also it transports oxygen within our bodies. These are only few important factors for proteins. However…
We rarely get daily adequate amount of proteins (1.5g/Kg/day). E.g., if my body weight is 80kg, I would need 120g of proteins a day – 400g of chicken breast; 600g of ham/salmon; 9 eggs and etc. Some people might need even 2g/Kg a day.
We will not get into details but I want to mention that protein ≠ protein. There are 20 different amino acids that could for proteins. Some of amino acids our bodies can synthesize (create) itself, some can get only from the food we eat. But if you could just eat more proteins consistently – that would be small win already.
***If you are interested more about it – write me or comment.
2. Eat colorful vegetables and fruits at every meal. More often and be consistent.
Don’t know how many of you know but based on the color of fruit/vegetable we can assume the benefits it has for our body (it isn’t always true but many times).
Red color – for heart and lung health – cherries, beet roots, tomatoes.
Deep blue, purple – for brain, heart and cellular health – blueberries, plums, eggplant.
Orange – for DNA protection and skin health – carrots, oranges, sweet potatoes.
Yellow, green – for eyes and bone health – broccoli, spinach, pineapple.
White – for immune system – garlic, onions, cauliflower
Besides that we are getting fibers that helps with gut health/digestion, eating variety of fruits/vegetables will lead to more bacteria (good bacteria) which improves gut health too.
3. Match energy intake to needs and goals. More often and be consistent.
This is pretty simple but not easy because we all like to eat. But what do I mean by needs and goals? No, you don’t need to count calories. Let’s look first at it:
Person needs to Lose weight? – stop with 80% full stomach. Again, simple but not easy. How much is 80%? Hard to determined but you really know when you are 100%. So if you are at 100%, next time eat less.
Person needs to gain weight? – eat to 100% (some cases more than 100%). It might be that the person thinks that one eats a lot but perception of “a lot” and “a little” is very person depended.
Person needs to maintain weight? (sometimes this could lead to losing weight too!) – if you have more active day, eat like you usually do. However, if during the day you are/will be less active than usual, I would encourage you to reduce carbohydrates, e.g., eat meat/fish just with salads/fruits/vegetables but without rice/pasta/potatoes and etc.
4. Choose higher quality foods more often. More often and be consistent.
First of all, FOOD IS NOT GOOD OR BAD. There is continuum of better or worse food. Let’s do not think of it as “good” or “bad”.
So if you are eating chips, maybe there is healthier option, such as, vegetables chips; maybe we could choose diet-soda instead of soda and etc.
This would be definitely a win and these small wins will definitely accumulate and lead to better health and, for most of us, lesser weight.
Secondly, try to eat less processed foods. This means that the more food looks like real food the more benefits it has (e.g., vitamins, fibers). E.g., apple juice? Does it look like apple? Flour? Does it look like wheat/oat etc?
Another way to determine less processed foods is to ask “Does it have a barcode?”. If yes – then it is more processed.
Ok ok, I got it, sometimes we can get fruits and vegetables in packages and they are not more processed than those not in the packages. However, you got my point, sun-dried tomatoes are more processed that tomatoes; frozen fries are more processed that potatoes; apple sauce is more processed than apples and etc.
Here I could also include what we call “empty calories”. Products that do not really have benefits except one – they might taste damn good for some of us.
Sweets and cookies
They usually are caloric-bombs – very easy to get a lot of calories but not enough of proteins, fibers, vitamins and good fats.
5. Eat slowly and mindfully. More often and be consistent.
This is the one that I personally struggle the most. I do try it very hard but it is a struggle every single time. There are few benefits to eating slowly and mindfully.
First, we all know that satiety comes little later, therefore, you might eat little less at every meal. Secondly, many times people eat fast because they are stressed. So it makes sense to eat slower in order to feel less stressed. And lastly, many of us do get good feeling when we eat. Interesting enough, that we get that feeling not only from the food we eat but throughout whole eating process. Thus, if we could eat longer, we could enjoy our meals longer.
How to put it into practice? E.g., for slowing down - put fork down on the table between bites; for being more mindful - remove phone while eating.
THE SECRET -
make healthier choices more often. The more often you do it and the more consistent you stay with it, the better the results.
These would be tips for everyone to start with. Yes, they are basics but they do work. Before you start worrying about “is it better to eat fish with pasta or with rice?” check these 5 boxes first.
Then we can talk little deeper about intermittent fasting (experimenting with that for last 3 months), how to calculate proportions/calories, what and when to eat and etc. Let me know what would interest you about that and then I will do my best to write something interesting.