Thursday, January 23, 2014

General nutrition for health

Each day, the topic of nutrition always comes up in conversation.  And this is for good reason, as I feel that proper nutrition can not only help athletes (and all general population for that matter) achieve greater success but ultimately live a healthier life.  Greater success can be defined as improved athletic performance, improving overall health; such as reducing chronic diseases, cholesterol and blood pressure levels, or as simple as losing those unwanted extra pounds and having a healthier BMI.

Nutrition is a topic that can be discussed for hours.  Just turn on your tv or read any magazine and there are plenty of ads trying to sell you something that will make you lose weight, lean up, or look like so-and-so.  I feel that we as a society make nutrition more complicated than it really needs to be.  For the sake of keeping this somewhat short, I will not go into too many specifics but instead touch on the basics.

I am not a licensed nutritionist, however, I have worked very hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle by fueling my body with the most optimal (nutrient-dense) foods.  Sure I will have an occasional bowl of ice cream (or two ;-).  I'm not after seeing my 6-pack abs in the mirror, instead, I am only trying to live a life without the use of medications and one in which I can enjoy for as long as possible.

Enough about me, let's discuss what constitutes an adequate "diet".  First of all, there is no one "right" diet. Every athlete has different eating styles; whether it be a vegan diet, Western diet, or any other diet.  What is common among all of these diets though, is an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Whether the diet is to improve athletic performance or reduce chronic diseases, two fundamental components must be present:

     1.  Eating appropriate amounts of calories
     2.  Eating the appropriate amounts of nutrients to prevent deficiency or toxicity

A great resource to help make sure you get enough of each is the Food Guide Pyramid; which displays recommended types and amounts of food to eat daily.  Of course each athlete will be slightly different and will need to adjust accordingly based on exercise levels.  The Food Guide Pyramid is a great starting point for which athletes can evaluate the adequacy of their diets.  According to Kristin Reimers, PhD, "as a good rule of thumb, if a diet provides a variety of each food group, it is likely adequate for vitamins and minerals. However, if the diet excludes an entire food group, specific nutrients may be lacking".

When talking about nutrients there are two types, macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.  I'll discuss the macro-nutrients which are comprised of Carbs, Proteins and Fats.  The question always comes up, "how much of each should I eat"?  This completely depends on your body type and athletic goals.  For the purpose of this article, I will list the "general requirements" of each.

*Note- To determine your weight in kg's divide your weight in lbs. by 2.2

*Note- All recommended % below are from the Institute of Medicine


     Protein:  10-15%  of daily caloric intake or .8 g/kg of body weight for the avg. male and female.  For endurance athletes and those in a heavy resistance training program, this nutrient could be as high as 1.5 - 2.0 g/kg of body weight per day.

     Carbohydrates:  45-65% of daily caloric intake, or 5-6 g/kg of body weight.  This nutrient can fluctuate the mot with endurance athletes.  For some ultra-endurance athletes, an appropriate amount could be as high as 10 g/kg of body weight per day.  And conversely, some athletes may have lower Carb requirements.

     Fats:  20-35% of daily caloric intake, with less than 10% from saturated fats.  Elite athletes tend to consume more than 30% during heavy training periods.  Although fats are looked upon as bad, there are plenty of benefits to to fat .  The main being for insulation and protection of the body's organs.  Fat also serves as the carrier for fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K.  Not too mention without fat, there wouldn't be much flavor in foods.
There are three types of fats...The good (monounsaturated), the bad (polyunsaturated) and the ugly (saturated).   Steer clear of most saturated fat, however, here is one saturated fat with good health benefits.

*As you can see there are lots of variables that can affect the proper amount of each nutrient.  For specific requirements to help reach maximal athletic performance, I would recommend talking with a licensed sports nutritionist to determine which levels will be best for you.

     Water:  125oz daily intake for men 19-30, and 91oz daily intake for women 19-30 as referenced by the Food and Nutrition Board.  For athletes while exercising the number of ounces will depend on the person, duration, intensity, and temperature.  Water is the largest component of the body, comprising of nearly 70% of a person's body weight.  Did you know the body can survive up to 30 days without food, but only 4-10 days without water.

                                    Fluid intake guidelines around training:
                                    Before training - approximately 16oz 2 hours prior to exercise
                                    During training - 6-8oz every 15 minutes
                                    After training - approximately 15-20oz for every pound of body weight lost

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