Nutrition nowadays is straight up CONFUSING. Every week there's a new study, a new diet trend, a new superfood, and new findings that our beloved superfoods may not be all their cracked up to be. With social media now there is A LOT of information out there and it's important to understand the basics of nutrition before getting too in depth on things. Meaning, if you don't know what macronutrients are, you probably shouldn't be worrying about nutrient timing ...
After completing my Precision Nutrition-1 certification a couple weeks ago and as I continue to read, study, evaluate and decipher new findings, I figure I'd create a bit of a "cheatsheet" for the basics of nutrition. I compiled a couple topics that I'm frequently asked about and I'll try to break them down into the simplest forms. This post could probably easily be 100 pages but NO ONE has time for that so I'll keep it short and sweet.
EAT REAL FOOD
Our bodies respond best to food that is unprocessed. An example I like to use is one that I saw on the Netflix documentary "Fed Up" - it was the comparison between how our bodies respond to 200 calories of raw almonds versus 200 calories of a chocolate bar. Vastly different food and response. Our bodies can process and utilize calories from whole foods better than processed simply because the body can use more of the nutrients from the whole foods, rather than the refined ones.
Nutrients our bodies need in LARGE amounts.
Carbohydrates: our body's primary energy source
Protein: building blocks for lean muscle mass and essential tissues
Fats: important for growth and development, as well as used as an energy source with prolonged exercise
Think of your body like a car. The carbohydrates represent the gas that makes the car run. The protein is the steel frame of the car (you don't want to get dented, do you?), and the fats represent the oil of the car that allows it to run smoothly and efficiently. In other words, treat your body like a well-oiled MACHINE!
Nutrients our bodies need in smaller/trace amounts.
Vitamins and minerals are examples of micronutrients and a lot of these are food in whole, fresh food like fruits and vegetables. Most micronutrients we can get from our diet or environment, but it's important to ensure you're eating a variety of REAL, whole foods to do so.
CARBS + Protein
Carbs are responsible for being the body's energy source and the protein is to help minimize muscle breakdown. During training or playing, you are breaking down muscle so getting a little bit of protein in beforehand will help decrease the damage.
Example: Banana + 1-2 Tbsp of Nut Butter OR 1-2 Pieces of Whole Grain Toast + 1 Hard Boiled Egg
PROTEIN + Carbs
The focus shifts to protein post-training to help the body rebuild and recovery by providing it with the essential amino acids it needs to build muscle. However, getting carbs in after a workout is very important (especially for those who are super active), because we have to replenish our muscle glycogen (energy stores) to be able to do it all over again the next day. Remember the car analogy? Think about refilling your tank after a road trip.
Example: Stacked Smoothie (protein powder + nut milk + greens + fruit + nut butter) OR 1 Chicken Breast + 1/2 Baked Sweet Potato
+ 0.5L for every 30 minutes of sweating
Note: It is dependant on individuals and activity level, but just know that it's important to stay hydrated regardless of what you're doing in the day.
Replenishing lost electrolytes is also vital to rehydration and performance - coconut water is nature's Gatorade and a great source of potassium!
Precision Nutrition does a great job at making visuals for portion sizes easy to understand. See below for the breakdown and remember that your hand size is relative to you as an individual!
ENERGY IN < ENERGY OUT
Slight decrease in caloric intake - not so drastic, but you have to be expending more than you're intaking. Focus on eating whole foods, lean protein (poultry, eggs, fish, beans, quinoa, etc.), and whole grains. Be mindful of portion sizes and ensure that you're complimenting your energy output (still refuelling yourself after a workout). Also be aware of sugar intake - this has struck up quite the fuss in the health world, but I've personally noticed a huge difference when I'm more mindful of my sugar (and dairy) intake.
ENERGY IN > ENERGY OUT
Slight increase in caloric intake - you must be ingesting MORE than you are expending. If you're a lean bean with a wicked-fast metabolism, you have to eat like it's your day job. Focus on good sources of protein (and sometimes doubling the portion sizes), hearty carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, oatmeal, etc.), and nutrient-dense foods (nuts, coconut oil, avocado, olives, etc.). Try to get most of your intake from whole foods, but there is a little bit more flexible with other foods to get enough calories in.
MAKE IT A LIFESTYLE
It's so important to understand that nutrition is incredibly INDIVIDUALISTIC and you have to find what works for YOU and what is SUSTAINABLE. What fun is it to not be able to enjoy the foods you love? Everything in moderation - 80/20 rule! 80% stick to real, whole foods - lots of vegetables, fruit, lean protein sources, and whole grains, and then 20% eating the f*cking cupcake ... make it lifestyle to fuel and treat your body well!
My final point is TRY THINGS for yourself. Just because someone else experienced success or failure with something, doesn't mean it will be the same for you. Some people respond REALLY well to paleo-style diets, and others do not. Try a couple different things and create a hybrid eating style that works for you, your health, and is ultimately sustainable.
Need some help with your individual nutrition? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for personalized nutrition coaching!