Improve Your Diet and Nutrition!
Death of the Diet:
Diets are dying. Not because they do not work. In fact, many of them work very well. The problem has always been what comes after the diet ends.
Just by stating that you are on a diet implies that there will be some end to your current eating habits. This does not mean that you will break the guidelines of your diet for a short period of time but rather that at some point you will either adopt a new set of dietary guidelines or have none at all. Diets are only temporary and dieting needs to end!
A better, more long-lasting way of staying healthy through dietary means is to stick to a set of principles that become a way of life. These are principles that will look out for your body’s health no matter what diet plan you temporarily follow. The following are nutrition principles that help to promote physical performance while maintaining a healthy body over time.
Check Out Some of Our Nutrition Articles:
Diet & Nutrition Principles
These diet and nutrition principles are presented to help maintain optimal performance through training and encourage health. These principles can be adapted to many diets, but if any of them are broken performance and health will likely hinder. Though they are valuable principles to follow, they are merely guidelines rather than strict rules.
If you are not currently following these principles then you should try to work towards them in order to perform your best and maintain a healthy body. May they help you gain strength you need to change your world!
Note: To succeed in some sports or reach certain goals these guidelines may need to be broken but should be followed as often as possible to maintain health.
- Do you drink enough WATER?
- Don’t be afraid of FATS!
- Regulate your CARBOHYDRATES!
- What is the right amount of PROTEIN for me?
- Do you eat your VITAMINS and MINERALS?
- What you need to know about ELECTROLYTE balance?
- What is the right amount of CAFFEINE to increase performance?
- What are considered NUTRIENT Dense Foods?
- How to Improve Your METABOLISM?
- THINK Before You Eat!
- What it takes to be CONSISTENT!
- Can I workout and drink ALCOHOL?
- Why you need too limit DAIRY, after turning 20!
- How to manage CRAVINGS!
“Do what is difficult, because difficult things make us better.”
Don’t avoid what is hard. This is not supposed to be easy. Destroy Challenges. Conquer Fears. Let nothing stand in your way! This is your life! Own It!
Drink at Least 0.7oz of WATER per Pound of Bodyweight Daily:
Water is one of the most valuable nutrients for our body to be healthy and perform optimally. Even a slight amount of dehydration (2-3%) can greatly affect performance. To maintain health and avoid the negative effects of dehydration, drink at least 0.7oz of water per pound of body weight daily.
Realize that this is only the minimum requirement and, especially on highly active days, more fluids should be consumed. This should not occur all at once but be accumulated throughout the day. One liter or 33.2oz should be consumed within the first hour after waking up and a large percentage should be consumed just before, during and after exercise. If you are not used to consuming an adequate amount of water, start by increasing your intake by 0.5 liters or about 16oz per 1 week until an optimal amount is reached.
To learn more about hydration read our Hydration Article by Ryan J. Mathias.
Lipids, or fats, are valuable sources of long-lasting energy consumed in the diet, and if not used for energy, stored as body fat. Body fat is important for optimal body function as well as fat-soluble vitamin storage. To ensure an adequate amount of essential fats are consumed for optimal function, consume foods rich in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat, such as nuts, avocados, olive oil, fish and lean meats.
There are three types of lipids; saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and cholesterol. First, saturated fat is known as the “bad” fat due to its properties linking it to many heart illnesses. One important thing to remember about saturated fat is that it is created in the body. For fat to be stored in the body it must be saturated fat so that it can be solidified at normal temperatures. This means that saturated fat does not need to be in the diet. This, however, tends to steer people away from eating foods that have saturated fat in them. Generally, natural meats that have a good amount of saturated fat also have more valuable nutrients in them as well. To avoid excess saturated fat just simply do not eat the fat that you see on meat and avoid foods that have an abundance of saturated fat in them, with few other key nutrients.
Next, there are two types of unsaturated fat; polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Both forms of unsaturated fats are essential and must be consumed to maintain a healthy body. Each type performs certain functions that better enable the body to perform. To ensure an adequate amount of essential fats are consumed for optimal function, consume foods rich in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat, such as nuts, avocados, olive oil, fish and lean meats.
Cholesterol is also linked to many heart illnesses. This is more due to the saturated fat in our diets rather than the cholesterol consumed. Like saturated fat, cholesterol is also formed in the body. Cholesterol is used to create hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. This makes cholesterol a highly valuable nutrient. The body makes much more cholesterol then is regularly consumed each day. It has been found that only when saturated fat is high in the diet alongside a lack of exercise, so too are the dangers associated with cholesterol and heart illness. With this in mind, realize that cholesterol is not a harmful nutrient but when combined with saturated fat it can be. In all, fat is important for every diet.
Fat is a great source of energy, an insulator and allows the body to perform optimally.
Tip: Optimal body fat for athletic men is between 5-15%, with the lower end more towards endurance sports, and the higher end more towards strength sports. Optimal body fat for athletic women is between 13-23%, with the lower end more towards endurance sports, and the higher end more towards strength sports.
Regulate Your CARBOHYDRATES:
The main function of carbohydrates is to supply the body with energy. They are also the only fuel source for the brain. An optimal range of carbohydrate intake for highly active individuals is 2-4g per pound of bodyweight.
By limiting carb intake, you are starving the brain of the fuel it needs to perform optimally. Going on a low or no carb diet will not kill you but your brain and muscles will not function at their highest performance. Our bodies will adapt by creating ketone bodies as a secondary fuel source for the brain to live on. This is a survival mechanism but it can also be harmful if ketones are in the blood for extended periods of time (months). Ketone bodies are acidic and will change our blood pH which in turn puts stress on other systems in the body. To prevent these negative effects, consume a minimum of 130g of carbohydrates daily to allow the brain enough energy to perform properly while still minimizing carb storage during a low carb diet.
While carbs should not be too low, they should also not be too high. If carbohydrate intake is too high without adequate exercise, such as over 2.5g times your bodyweight, then there will likely be an excess of energy leading to fat storage. Any carbs that are not used through exercise or metabolism will be stored in your muscles, liver and then fat cells. It is easy to use carbohydrates while they are in the blood or muscles, but when they are stored as fat their function changes. Therefore carbohydrate intake needs to be regulated depending on the amount of exercise performed. A good range of carbohydrates to have daily for inactive individuals is between 1-2g per pound of body weight with a minimum of 130g to maintain optimal brain function. Intake for these individuals should be spread throughout the day in small increments.
For extreme athletes that do intense exercise exceeding 1 hour on a given day, more carbohydrates should be consumed. An optimal range of carbohydrate intake for highly active individuals is 2-4g per pound of bodyweight. During intense exercise that exceeds one hour or more, it is helpful to intake about 20-60g of carbohydrate per hour, depending upon body weight and intensity, to increase endurance. The majority of carbohydrates should be consumed before, during and after exercise. To replenish glycogen stores post exercise, carbohydrates should be consumed at a rate of 1.2g per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight every hour until stores are replenished.
Consume a Consistent Amount of PROTEIN Daily:
Protein is the building block used to create new cells. To ensure you get enough protein to maintain or gain strength, aim to consume 0.5-0.7g of protein per pound (1.2-1.6g/kg) of body weight daily.
Proteins themselves are made of amino acids linked together. Each amino acid has a distinct shape that enables it to perform a unique function. There are 20 amino acids. Most are obtained by food while some can be created in the body. However, if any of the 20 amino acids are lacking, then a protein, or new building block, cannot be made. Without complete proteins, a new cell cannot be formed and the energy obtained from the extra amino acids is used as energy, or stored as body fat. This means that a good amount of complete proteins must be present in a healthy diet, and some excess should be consumed by those trying to gain muscle size or strength.
Naturally every day we lose thousands of cells that need to be replaced with new cells. Individuals who exercise or do strenuous work, in which muscle is broken down often, need even more protein than sedentary individuals, to again replace the lost cells. However, there is a limit to how much protein should be present in a diet because it has been discovered that taking too much protein (over 1.5g/lb or 3.3g/kg of body weight) can put an unnecessary, and potentially harmful, strain on your body’s systems. Therefore, it is best to consume only what is needed to recover and use carbohydrates and fats as your main fuel sources. To ensure you get enough protein to maintain or gain strength, aim to consume 0.5-0.7g of protein per pound (1.2-1.6g/kg) of body weight daily.
For individuals who do not break down muscle often, it is recommended that they consume only 0.4-0.5g per pound (0.8-1g/kg) of body weight daily. In either case, any excess protein that is not used to build new cells will then be used for energy or fat storage. Protein is not a bad source of energy, but it is not optimal either. It is much slower to break down and uses the most amount of water during metabolism. By maintaining a constant level of protein daily, based on your needs, then the better energy sources, carbs and fats, can fluctuate depending on your daily activities. Carbs are fast digesting while fats are slow digesting. So on days that you have a lot of intense activity consume more carbs while on less intense activity days you should rely more on your fat intake for energy. Good protein sources are meats, beans, legumes and dairy products. Protein supplements can help to accumulate more protein in a diet but should be used sparingly.
Tip: Supplementing with BCAA’s, or branch chain amino acids, can be effective, but only if you are lacking one of the 8 essential, or 2 semi-essential, amino acids. Any excess amino acid that cannot be used to make a complete protein will be used for energy or stored as fat.
Eat Your VITAMINS and MINERALS:
Vitamins and minerals are key nutrients that our bodies need to survive. These vital nutrients are supplied by our diet to help our body function properly.
If any one nutrient is deficient or consumed in extreme excess it can have tremendous negative effects on your health and performance.
Taking a multi-vitamin supplement can help make sure that you do not become deficient, but most of your vitamins and minerals should come from food.
Vitamins and minerals help your body to function properly. If anyone nutrient is deficient it can have tremendous negative effects on your health and performance.
Also, if any nutrient is consumed in excess it can be harmful and even deadly.
To avoid becoming deficient or even over consuming any one nutrient, consume a variety of foods including:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Meats and Fish
- Nuts and Seeds
- Beans and Legumes
Each category of food listed above provides vital nutrients our bodies need to survive. If eating a variety of foods is not permitted due to your diet, or you have some food allergies preventing certain food groups, you will need to take a multivitamin or supplement to get these vital nutrients.
To make it simpler, just eat a variety of natural foods, regularly. Even if you choose just one item from each group to include in your diet, it can make a big difference.
Add a handful of spinach to your breakfast eggs, have some fish once a week, eat more cheese, snack on some nuts and join in a chili eating contest! Find what works for you and stick to it, for your health!
Some nutrients are more important than others for men and women. For example, women need a lot more calcium, vitamin D and iron, to account for blood loss and because they lose the ability to absorb calcium after age 30. It is vital for women to get a lot of these key nutrients during puberty and especially as they age. Men, on the other hand, need more magnesium and zinc to help with testosterone production throughout their lives.
Though it is important to get all of our vital nutrients in, more does not mean better. If you take too much of any one nutrient it can have harmful, and even deadly effects.
Though it is difficult, if you eat too much of one thing or add in a lot of supplements, you can start to feel negative symptoms. So be conscious of how you feel on a normal basis, and if anything starts to change, you may want to look at your diet.
When choosing a multivitamin look for one that supplies only about 50% or less of the daily value for each nutrient. This will ensure that you are not greatly deficient in any nutrient and leaves room for an abundance of nutrients to come from food, as they should.
Note: Generally men should have little to no iron in their multivitamin but women need to have some.
Now ask yourself…do you have an incomplete diet that lacks a variety of foods? Do you often feel fatigued, weak or have any skin or eye discoloration? If so, you may need to rethink your diet and start making changes to improve your health and well being.
Maintain ELECTROLYTE Balance:
Electrolytes are an important part of our diets, but if you think that drinking some Coconut water or eating a banana helps cure or prevent cramping, then you need to think again. Here is what you need to know about electrolytes…
There are 4 main electrolytes we will focus on:
- Sodium (Na+),
- Potassium (K+),
- Calcium (Ca++), and
- Magnesium (Mg++).
Each electrolyte has a distinct function but they work in unison to create optimal cell performance. If our electrolytes get too far out of balance they can counteract each other and hinder performance.
It is important to keep adequate amounts of electrolytes in the diet, but it is more important to keep them in balance.
Electrolytes are charged particles within the body that maintain proper cell function. One common mistake is that those who regularly exercise believe that they need to constantly replenish their electrolytes due to the loss in sweat.
It is true that these electrolytes are lost through sweat, among other things, but we should keep in mind that our body is smart. Our body wants to hold onto these valuable nutrients as long as it can. With this in mind, our body attempts to retain the electrolytes which are low in the system and releases the ones which are in excess.
Sodium (Na+) is always present in sweat while the other electrolytes are in much lesser amounts. Due to this, water is the only necessary nutrient that needs to be replenished if exercise lasts less than one hour.
Don’t go around thinking that you need a calorie filled sports drink or Coconut Water just because you did some light activity for 30 minutes.
For events lasting longer than one hour, some electrolytes need to be restored. Just avoid overindulging on added sugars while replenishing your electrolytes, unless needed due to your daily energy expenditure. Remember, you don’t need it unless you have been continuously sweating for at least 60 minutes, not including breaks.
Sodium (Na+) is an electrolyte that commonly works with potassium (K+).
Its main functions are to:
- maintain our body’s fluid balance,
- send nerve impulses and
- allow for muscle contraction.
These functions are actually what stop cramping! Sodium (Na+) helps our cells to maintain hydration, but, more importantly, it prevents cramping through sending signals to our muscle to turn on and off. When we do not have enough Sodium (Na+), then our muscles cramp as our body turns a muscle on and saves Sodium (Na+) by not sending the signal to turn it off. This creates cramping.
While these are important functions, too much Sodium (Na+) causes high blood pressure, filtering systems dysfunction and potassium (K+) deficiency.
Sodium (Na+) works with potassium (K+) but has the opposite effect. If one gets too high in balance, it will prevent the other nutrient from performing its job.
Sodium (Na+) is a hard nutrient to avoid, being found in salt along with most everything processed. For those that exercise regularly, this is not commonly a concern due to sweat rates and the amount used for muscle contraction. However, those that are sedentary, or who have known heart problems, should avoid excess sodium (Na+) intake due to the increased stress it places on your heart.
Though it should not be banned entirely, sedentary individuals should avoid large amounts by limiting the number of processed foods consumed. Generally, anything edible within a package has some amount of salt, so be smart about your consumption.
Overall, to improve overall performance and health, a greater concern should be placed upon the intake of potassium (K+) relative to sodium (Na+).
Potassium (K+) works with Sodium (Na+) in our cells to maintain an equal charge balance.
Other functions include:
- maintaining osmotic pressure within the cell,
- blood pressure regulation and
- it is necessary for muscle strength and contraction.
Due to the large amounts of sodium (Na+) commonly consumed, and the lack of a proper diet, potassium (K+) is commonly overrun.
To keep your muscles in an optimal state of performance, try to get a good amount of potassium (K+) through your regular diet. Good food sources are avocados, tomatoes, coconut water, dark green vegetables and, of course, bananas.
If you have a low Sodium (Na+) Diet due to health-related issues, then avoid having an excess of Potassium (K+) which will actually cause more issues by throwing off your Sodium-Potassium Electrolyte balance.
Also, avoid an excessive amount of sugars that generally come along with potassium sources unless intense exercise proceeds.
Calcium (Ca++) is one of the most important nutrients and electrolytes in the body; especially for active individuals.
Calcium’s (Ca++) main function is initiating muscle contraction. Without calcium (Ca++), our muscles cannot contract.
Though this is important for our skeletal muscles, it is most important for our heart or cardiac muscles.
Without calcium (Ca++) in the blood being brought to our cardiac muscle cells, they will no longer be able to contract and our heart will stop. This is not very common due to our large calcium (Ca++) stores we call bones but can happen with too much exercise within a short period.
Our body would much rather break down our bone tissue so our heart can work rather than let our heart stop beating even once.
Remember, our bodies are smart. The only thing our bodies care about is survival. With this backup system in place, we do not have to worry much about our heart-stopping. However, if we want to keep our bones strong and increase our muscle contraction ability to become stronger, then we need a good amount of Calcium (Ca++) in our diet.
Good sources include dairy products, dark green vegetables, and bony fish.
Note: Calcium (Ca++) intake is most important for women, especially during puberty. This is because women’s ability to absorb Calcium (Ca++) greatly slows post-puberty and nearly stops around age 30. Therefore, women have to consume an entire lifetime worth of Calcium (Ca++) before the age of 30.
*Be careful not to over-consume large amounts all at once.
Magnesium (Mg++) is an electrolyte that is commonly overlooked.
Its common functions are:
- as a structural component in our muscle cells,
- to help lower blood pressure and
- prevent heart arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats.
Also, Magnesium (Mg++) levels help to control the functions of Calcium (Ca++) in the body. If Magnesium (Mg++) is too low, then our Calcium (Ca++) metabolism will not be optimized.
To maintain a healthy heart and be able to gain new muscle cells keep an adequate amount of Magnesium (Mg++) in your diet. Just don’t take Magnesium (Mg++) and Calcium (Ca++) supplements together, as they compete for absorption within the body.
Some good sources are green vegetables, potatoes, nuts, and seeds.
The Bottom Line
Electrolytes are vital for our health but do not believe the new fad drinks that have you loading up on one nutrient without considering the effects it has on the rest of your body.
Know your nutrients, and know your body. Get what you need and not too much of one electrolyte versus another.
Now go salt your bananas, and have some nuts in your milk!
How Much CAFFEINE Is Right For You:
Caffeine is an effective tool used to increase performance during intense exercise, and it can even make you stronger!
We all love coffee, don’t we?
Coffee is great, but it has been given a bad reputation by those that do not understand its uses and effects. Let me help out with that…
Caffeine is mainly known to be a heart stimulating drug commonly found in supplements, coffee, soda, and many energy drinks.
Caffeine is a great stimulator, both for the brain and the body. It increases our focus, improves blood flow, and can even make us stronger!
The thing is, it needs to used properly to get these great effects and not overused to where the effects fade until they are nearly useless.
Coffee for Everyone:
It is almost a daily ritual for many people to wake up and then almost immediately consume a cup of coffee to get their day started.
Though this may be common, this is NOT a good practice because it prevents our body’s natural waking systems from functioning properly.
To prevent this negative effect, and improve the effects of caffeine use, allow for at least an hour for your body to naturally awaken before consuming caffeine. This will allow enough time for your body to go through its natural hormone release to prepare your body for the day ahead.
If you are guilty of this daily ritual, like most people, don’t worry, I can help correct it for you!
Simply start by having your morning coffee 10 minutes later than usual on the first day, 20 minutes later on the second, and so on until you have reached an hour or more before you have caffeine upon waking.
If this is too fast for you, you can add 5 minutes per day instead, or increase the time every other day.
You shouldn’t feel any negative symptoms by doing it this way, but if you do, just know that they will go away after a week or so and you will start feeling better than ever soon enough!
It would be more beneficial for you to try drinking 1 Liter (32oz) of water within your first hour upon waking to improve your metabolism and start your day off right!
For those of you that enjoy having coffee throughout the day, make sure that you take time to read the effects of caffeine below and what the safe daily limit is for regular use.
Coffee for the Athlete:
The goal of caffeine being present in an athlete’s diet should be to increase performance. If it is being overused than it will become almost useless as a performance enhancing tool.
So to gain the greatest results from the use of caffeine limit intake to only when it is beneficial, such as just before strength training or a strength-related competition.
By limiting your caffeine intake to only before strength related events, you will greatly increase its effects leading to an overall improved performance.
You will not only feel stronger, you will be stronger!
So don’t ruin the effects by taking too much too often. Use it as an extra tool in your arsenal for when you need to hit a new PR or just improve your performance!
The effects of caffeine include:
- Decreased sodium (Na+) re-absorption in the kidneys leading to increased urine output,
- Increased heart rate which temporarily raises blood pressure,
- Opens up fat cells for the release of stored fats,
- Increased pain tolerance,
- Improved blood flow,
- Hunger suppression,
- Increased focus and awareness.
The effects of caffeine last about 5-7 hours so keep at least this much time between consumptions and before you go to bed.
How much Coffee is Best for me?
Taking 1.3-2.7 mg per pound of body weight (3-6 mg/kg of caffeine) per day is believed to be safe for athletes and has the most optimal effect on exercise performance.
However, for most individuals who enjoy using coffee to “wake-up” throughout the day, a safe and effective caffeine limit is to consume no more than 200mg of caffeine (12oz coffee) at one time and no more often than 1-2 times per day.
This is a good amount that will stimulate your system and will likely not cause any overload or negative effects.
For easy reference, a 12oz. cup of coffee has about 200mg of caffeine.
Overall, the less often you use caffeine, the more effective it will be when you need it!
The same principle applies to any supplement you may want to take. You want to get the most out of supplements by taking the least. If you only need a small dose of something or can do without, to get the desired effect, then take only what you need.
Always talk to a qualified physician and someone who has actually taken the supplement you are planning to try before consuming.
Coffee Pro Tip: Different roasts of coffee have different caffeine levels and acidity. Light roast has the most caffeine, with about 100mg per 6oz, and the least acidity while deep or dark roast coffee has the least amount of caffeine, at about 100mg per 8oz, and the highest acidity.
Only Eat NUTRIENT Dense Foods:
Nutrient dense foods are those which have multiple essential nutrients in them, such as phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This includes, but is not limited to, natural whole foods. By only eating foods that contain a good amount of valuable nutrients your body will be healthier and run at a high level of performance.
Some processed foods and supplements also contain numerous essential nutrients that can make it easier to reach your daily needs. To be a nutrient dense processed food there should be minimal processing, a reasonably low sodium (Na+) content, multiple essential nutrients present, and have no engineered substance in them such as high fructose corn syrup or unnatural Trans fat. Even with these stipulations, it is relatively easy to find packaged foods that have good nutrient content. To make sure a food has valuable nutrients and not unnatural substances, quickly read the ingredient list and nutrition facts. Some common foods to avoid are most bread or wheat products, canned foods, processed meats, fried foods, desserts, and candies.
Supplements can also be valuable but are not necessary. Supplements were designed to aid people with illnesses that needed more specific nutrients. As supplements were seen to be effective, they are now presented to the world. Most people, who do not have a nutrient deficient illness, do not need any supplements to be healthy or perform well, but they can be helpful. Before taking any supplement, you should consult with someone who knows about the effects of each of its ingredients, such as a medical practitioner and does research from a knowledgeable source. By only eating foods that contain a good amount of valuable nutrients your body will be healthier and run at a high level of performance.
Tip: Organic does not mean healthy. Organic products have the potential to carry more nutrients but may be just as bad for you as the processed version. Think and read the labels before making a logical decision about if any food is healthy in your opinion and towards your goals.
How To Improve Your METABOLISM:
Improving your metabolism comes down to being able to manage your Metabolic Rate at a healthy level. You should be able to consume enough nutrients for your body’s dietary needs while allowing for optimal performance and recovery with your daily activities.
Your Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of energy or calories, your body uses just to survive throughout the day by maintaining its current state. The greater this number is the more calories your body needs to survive daily. The more it is raised, the more calories you can afford to eat each day.
With a high metabolic rate, there is less effect on your body through overeating and under eating. By having a high metabolic rate, or increased metabolism, it is harder to gain weight while being easier to lose weight.
If you love donuts, then you might want to consider increasing your Metabolism so you can splurge a little more often.
2 Ways To Increase Your Metabolic Rate:
Two ways to increase your basal metabolic rate are:
These two can work together when increasing the training stimulus. Your body wants to do what is best for survival, so it does not care to build unnecessary muscle mass unless it needs too. Muscle is calorically expensive to maintain compared to other tissues so there must be a reason for your body to build muscle or maintain it for survival. As long as you create enough stress for your body to need muscle growth for healthy survival, it will.
An important thing to remember about calorie expenditure is cardio burns calories today, while muscle burns calories forever. It is a caloric investment to build muscle. To maintain your investment you must have enough activity to stimulate its use. This is where increasing daily activity comes in to play.
Increased activity, or exercise, helps to build and maintain muscle. This will increase the number of calories needed both to repair and maintain the newly accumulated muscle, raising your Basal Metabolic Rate.
To build muscle it is important that you eat more nutrients and total calories than normal. With an increased nutrient intake along with increased activity levels, your body will be able to grow more muscle and raise your Basal Metabolic Rate.
How To Decrease Your Metabolic Rate:
To decrease your metabolic rate you must do the opposite; decreasing activity levels and consuming fewer nutrients. This will make it easier for your body to gain weight while decreasing its ability to lose weight.
This can be very dangerous and unhealthy if not monitored.
Remember, the goal is to manage your metabolic rate to a healthy level. You should be able to consume enough nutrients for your body’s dietary needs while allowing for optimal performance and recovery with your daily activities.
THINK Before You Eat:
Each time before you eat, think of what your goals are and if this meal choice will help or hinder your progress.
Eating is a common social pass-time, but it can stop you from reaching your goals if you don’t put some thought into what you consume. Think about if you are actually hungry, or just eating because you are bored.
Before you overindulge, think of these things…
Are you hungry, or are you actually just thirsty? Sometimes, thirst is mistaken for hunger. If you are not keeping up with your water intake, you may actually just be thirsty.
Are you craving something sweet, or are your electrolytes out of balance? In the kidneys, glucose or sugar is filtered with sodium (Na+). When your Sodium (Na+) to glucose ratio is off, which is common during weight loss or low carb diets, cravings will often occur in the form of sweet and/or salty foods.
When cravings occur, it is often helpful to have 1-2Tbs of natural peanut butter, which will help fight off cravings while still maintaining a healthy diet.
If that does not work, you can try having flavorful tea.
If you have to go off your diet…
For most diets, it is reasonable to not be completely strict all the time. It is reasonable to go off of your diet 10-15% of the time and still make progress.
Still, the stricter you are with a diet, the greater your results.
Always remember to keep your goals in mind. Think of what your meal really consist of and be accountable for what you put in your body.
Think of why you started a specific diet. Think if this meal will help you reach your goals. Each time before you eat, think of what your goals are and if this meal choice will help or hinder your progress.
If you want to learn more about managing your diet, check out our Strength Articles in which we discuss a wide variety of topics to help make you healthier and stronger!
Consistency is one of the most important factors in any diet or training program. To allow your body to perform most optimally, be consistent with the foods you eat, times of day you eat, total calories you eat, fluid you intake and stress you put on your body.
Our bodies are highly functioning machines that need to be well maintained through consistent healthy choices. If there is too much fluctuation in our diets, training or recovery, it can have adverse effects.
For example, eating too few nutrients will signal to the body it is in a starved state, decreasing metabolism and lead to fatigue while eating too many nutrients will signal the body for growth and increase your metabolic rate.
If you are looking to gain weight that is optimal for strength and performance, make small consistent caloric intake jumps over a longer rather than shorter period of time. An increase of 200-500 calories every few weeks should be enough to help increase muscle mass. If you are trying to lose weight, it would be just the opposite where you consistently cut out 200-500 calories every few weeks when progress stalls.
If you are trying to get stronger or build muscle, you would make small consistent jumps in training intensity or volume to continually build yourself up, rather than increasing too fast to where you are likely to hurt yourself.
Then for recovery, you need to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and rest periods between training sessions so that you are always ready for the next workout.
For everything in training, start small and be consistent.
Just by being consistent, you are much more likely to create and maintain results in everything that you work towards!
Tip: Keep track of your diet, keep track of your training, and keep track of your sleep schedule. Then there are no surprises when you feel exhausted and weak before a workout.
Consume NO ALCOHOL:
Alcohol is an acidic substance that can travel freely through the cells in the body creating damage. Therefore, due to its decreasing ability for the body to perform, alcohol should be avoided.
As alcohol travels through muscle cells it breaks down the tissues and decreases function. Again, the goal of these principles is to give guidelines for optimal performance and health. Alcohol negatively affects our performance.
Alcohol in small doses has been found to help in the prevention of some illnesses; however, the positive health benefits of alcohol are not general concerns for most active individuals.
Overall, it greatly decreases water reabsorption and our body’s athletic performance. Therefore, due to its decreasing ability for the body to perform, alcohol and all other harmful drugs should be avoided.
Limit DAIRY, After 20 Years of Age:
We are all born with a certain level of the lactase enzyme in our bodies but can lose it over time. To avoid any intestinal and immune distress, begin to minimize dairy intake after you turn 20 years old, or when negative symptoms are felt.
First, dairy is anything that consists of lactose or did at one-time. Lactose is a disaccharide sugar made from glucose and galactose bonded together. The only way to break this bond is with an enzyme called lactase.
If the bond between these two sugar molecules cannot be broken, then it cannot be absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream, as it is supposed too. When these sugars are not broken down to be absorbed, they continue through the GI tract as a waste product.
Along the way, the body fights this sugar by creating intestinal inflammation (which can cause distension, pushing your stomach out looking like a “beer belly” or “pregnant belly”). This is the same effect you would get when eating something else that your body is allergic too, such as gluten for those that are gluten intolerant.
Also, water moves with sugar molecules which, in this case, leads to diarrhea, and increases colon discomfort. This can be constipation, an increased stench of gas or increased gas frequency. If you have any of these symptoms, it may be time to minimize your dairy intake.
For most people, this is not a problem until they finish puberty, or around the age of 20 years old.
Puberty signals the body to grow and milk, or dairy, is a natural substance that promotes growth. It has good amounts of fat, carbohydrates (lactose) and protein, along with calcium. Milk is what many growing things survive on for the first few years of life until more solid foods can be digested. It is also useful to support growth during puberty.
However, after growth is finished, dairy products are not as useful because the growth of bones and overall size does not continually occur. Our body realizes this and then begins loosing the unnecessary, or unused, lactase enzyme. When it is lost, it is slow to come back, if it does at all.
To avoid any intestinal and immune distress, begin to minimize dairy product use after 20 years of age or when negative symptoms are felt.
Many people go their entire lives with slowly increasing lactose intolerance and do not notice it until later in their life, after years of intestinal destruction have already occurred. Others are born with or become extremely lactose intolerant over time, while few have no lactose intolerance at all.
A study on lactose intolerance compared to heritage found that those who had a heritage closest to Germany were more likely to have a strong tolerance for dairy products throughout their life, while those farther from Germany had less tolerance for lactose in their diets. It was believed this was due to the fact that historically people in cold regions, such as the present day Germany, had to survive on cow’s milk year round in order to be fed while warmer regions could be satisfied by crops.
Still, it is best to heir on the side of caution when negative symptoms are felt after ingesting dairy products. Usually, low sugar dairy products like heavy cream or cheese can be digested because of the lack of lactose sugars.
Some dairy in your diet can be useful to encourage proper calcium (Ca++) supply but is not necessary.
Other products containing calcium (Ca++) are dark green vegetables and fortified products, such as almond milk or orange juice.
Overall, dairy is useful during growth but should be limited when growth is not occurring.
Though cravings can sometimes be intense, they are controllable. Overall, just keep your total food intake at a reasonably constant amount.
Cravings are similar to addiction.
Cravings, like an addiction, can start as only a small temptation but has the potential to grow to unmanageable behavior. There are two common cravings that occur in our diet; salt and sugar cravings. Though cravings can sometimes be intense, they are controllable.
First, let’s look at why cravings may occur. In the kidneys your blood is filtered to remove waste products and then what is needed is reabsorbed. During this process, glucose (blood sugar) and sodium (Salt) are filtered and reabsorbed together. If one is out of balance with the other, there can be a need or craving sensation. This is natural and good to maintain balance.
In most typical diets, there is a lot of carbohydrate intake and not so much salt, so the balance is constantly fluctuating.
Usually, when there is a high amount of glucose in the diet there is a craving for salty foods (chips, peanut butter, salted nuts, etc.) or sweet and salty foods (mainly candy bars). This can also occur during overhydration or a large fluctuation in fluid intake.
On the other hand, if there is a high amount of salty foods in the diet compared to sweet foods there is likely going to be a craving for sweet things (anything sugary) along with an increase in thirst to better balance the body’s electrolytes.
To avoid indulging in too many foods that may be less healthy than others here are some things to try to fend off cravings.
When you are craving something sweet and/or salty try having a small scoop of natural peanut butter or any nut butter. The texture and flavor commonly help the mind settle its cravings. If that does not work, you can try having a less impactful sugary food such as tea sweetened with a little honey or a piece of fruit.
Having flavored protein can also help as long as it does not over exceed your protein limit for the day (over 1.5g/lb or 3.3g/kg of body weight).
If all of that fails, you can always work sweet or salty foods into your daily diet by eating less total calories throughout the rest of your day.
For example, if you have cravings for chocolate at night or any time of the day, have some but eat less fat and carbohydrates during other meals. This will allow for your total calories for the day to stay about the same.
It is best to keep a natural diet with only few craving indulgences, but we all have our needs. With at least 90% of your diet being strict, 10% can be used for indulgences in less nutritional foods.
Overall, just keep your total food intake at a reasonably constant amount.
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