Yesterday we looked at training and how it can impact our general health both physically and mentally. In combination with this we need to consider our Nutrition and our day to day habits around what we eat and drink.
Nutrition is even more important than training itself. We need to know what we should be eating and when. However it’s not just a case of learning what is good for us and what is not because in most cases we already know this. The most important thing is knowing how to actually implement these changes into our day to day lives and busy schedules. It needs to be easy and enjoyable. If it is too complicated or boring then we will soon revert back to old ways.
So let’s look at the Why? first. Why is Nutrition so important when it comes our general health and well-being. Nutrition literally is;
We need to eat the right combination of ‘food’ in order for us to grow and remain healthy. Immediately some people may think that this is a boring subject whereas others are genuinely interested. Whichever category you fall into it is imperative that you assess your day to day nutritional intake and at least have an idea of how you can improve it for the longterm.
It is difficult to look at Nutrition and not at least have an understanding of how the basics are made up. When you consider what Nutrition is and how it provides us with what we need we must look at our Macronutrients and Micronutrients;
The Macronutrients are;
The Micronutrients are;
What are Macro-nutrients?
Macronutrients are our main source of energy from foods. It also makes up the majority of our diet. Macronutrients contain vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) essential to our well-being.
There are two types of carbs: simple and complex.
Simple carbs are broken down fast, but because of this your blood sugar rises quickly and can result in that “crash” we feel after eating a delicious cinnamon roll or whatever your favorite sugary snack is. That’s because the sugar is burned so fast that the energy we feel from it fades quickly. Simple sugars also provide very little if any nutritional value. Some examples of these sugars include:
Fructose (found in fruit)
Galactose (found in dairy products)
Lactose (found in milk and dairy products)
Maltose (found in fermented foods)
Complex carbohydrates take more time to break down, and are what you should be eating the most of. Since it takes them a while to break down, they provide steady energy, with no blood sugar spikes. Complex carbs also have fibre in them, which is good for your digestive and heart health. Some examples include:
Starches like legumes, grains, peas, and potatoes
Dietary fiber like veggies and whole grains
Proteins are used to repair and build muscles and tissue. It also regulates your hormones and digestive enzymes. Some examples include:
Meats like beef, pork, chicken, lamb
Fish or seafood
Dairy like milk and yogurt
Everyone gives fat a hard time, but it can actually be a good thing. Fats are used for energy now and can also be stored for energy later. It also stores vitamins, regulates hormone production, and protects your organs. There are two types of fats: Saturated and unsaturated.
Your intake of saturated fats needs to be limited, because this isn’t the good fat. Some examples include meat fat, butter, full fat dairy products, chips, biscuits, and cakes.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, should play a bigger role in your diet. Some examples of these include fish, nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils like olive, canola and sunflower.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what macro-nutrients are and why they play such a big role in your overall health.
What Are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients is a term used to describe minerals and vitamins in general. Relative to your body’s macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates), your body needs vitamins and minerals in a smaller amount, hence the name, “micro”. Micronutrients is also referred to as an essential nutrient because your body cannot produce vitamins and minerals from the inside. This means that all of your vitamins and minerals have to come from your diet.
Vitamins are compounds that are made by plants and animals which are broken down by a variety of materials, such as acid or heat. Minerals exist in water or soil, and they cannot be broken down. This makes them inorganic. It can be difficult to discern which food items contain the most amount of micronutrients, so it is recommended to eat a variety of foods to be on the safe side.
What is the final piece of the puzzle?
Hydration is so important and should not be overlooked. There are guidelines on how much you should drink. My thoughts are that you should just drink water all day. Keep a bottle with you anywhere you go (within reason). In the car, in the house, at work, at play. Sip all day long and keep a check of your urine when you go to the loo. Always have a little look at check the colour. If it is not basically see-through like fresh water then you are not drinking enough. That’s how I gauge hydration levels for me.
Try not to get to the point when you are thirsty and have to guzzle water as by that point your body is already going into a level of de-hydration and this can effect us in so many ways. We may feel hungry, lethargic, irate, stressed. All this could be simply because we are becoming de-hydrated.
Thirst is also often disguised as hunger. So when you feel hungry in the afternoon and crave a snack have a drink of water first and see if that helps put the craving to bed.
When it comes to what to drink and can you add flavours to your water. Obviously if you have to then try and add the sugar free variety but if at all possible le just drink water. Plain old fashioned water. If I am training I drink….water. I don’t drink sports drinks or isotonic drinks or special training drinks. I drink water and only water. It is the best thing for your body and to my knowledge nothing else even comes close.
There may be an argument for adding certain salts and electrolytes in extreme cases but that is more for athletes competing in high level sports and activities and not for the majority of us going about our day to day lives.
So, Why Is Nutrition So Important?
It is what makes us who we are. It provides us with our energy for the day, our micronutrients for our internal health and well-being and allows us to stay strong and healthy. What we put in our bodies is up to each of us. Every time you eat or drink ANYTHING think about what is in it. Then make a conscious decision wether or not you want to put it in your mouth.