How To Optimizing Your Diet
Dietary intake is constant and vital for daily energy. Without a constant supply of energy and nutrients we will soon become depleted and lose our body function. It is vital for our survival that we maintain a nutritious diet that will optimize our health and allow us to perform at our best daily. Our diet is one of the key factors in making ourselves stronger! Here is how to get stronger through nutrition.
Exercise Is Key
One big mistake made by those seeking to use their diet to lose weight, is the belief that weight loss is 70-90% diet and only 10-30% exercise. This is very far from the truth. How can diet be the biggest influence in weight loss? Dietary intake only increases your caloric intake. Its exercise that removes the excess calories, and often in a large amount.
Of course, diet does play a role, but it is more like only a 10-30% role versus exercise. Exercise changes our bodies in numerous ways that optimize our health and metabolism, in which diet alone cannot do. Our diet alone does not modify our bone density, muscle tissues, fat metabolism, hormones, or energy expenditure. But exercise does. Exercise also increases your overall health, hormonal regulation, brain function, metabolism and immune function. Exercise turns our body into a regulating machine.
Therefore, those that exercise will always be healthier than those that do not, assuming their diet is the same. Therefore if you are looking to be healthy and lose weight, maintain a constant diet and exercise often.
Proper Nutrition for Performance
Though diet is not the main piece to any training program, it is very important and can absolutely make you stronger. Without a proper diet you will not be able to perform optimally, or at your highest level, and may miss out on a lot of your strength potential.
For a diet to be complete it must be consistent and give you all the nutrients needed to perform well. There must be a regular amount of nutrients consumed with only slight fluctuation depending upon activity levels. The most essential nutrients are water, macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, protein), vitamins and minerals. If any of these nutrients are lacking then so too will your progress. Here are some details that you need to know about each aspect of your diet to get stronger…
Consistency is one of the most important factors to any diet or training program. 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 or training, it can have adverse effects. 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.
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 total daily calories each week should be enough to help increase muscle mass.
By doing the opposite, decreasing overall daily caloric intake by 200-500 calories each week, you are more likely to lose body fat than hard earned muscle mass.
Start small and be consistent. If you raise your caloric intake too much too fast you will likely cause gastrointestinal stress and increase fat storage. To allow your body to perform optimally, be consistent with the foods you eat, time of day you eat, calories you eat, fluid you intake and stress you put on your body.
Water is one of the most valuable nutrients for our body to be healthy and perform optimally. Water is the main part of any diet. Without enough fluids your body cannot metabolize, regulate nutrients, or function properly.
Even a low amount of dehydration can greatly affect performance and overall health. To avoid these negative effects drink at least 0.7oz of water per pound of bodyweight daily, while on an exercise plan. Realize that this is only the minimum requirement, and especially on highly active days, more fluids should be consumed.
Most of your fluids 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 week until an optimal amount is reached.
For exercise lasting 1 hour or less it is best to just stick to water. For exercise exceeding 1 hour, an electrolyte and carbohydrate solution is optimal for hydration. A 6%, or 6g of carbohydrate per 100mL of water, solution is optimal for rehydration during activity. This can be easily measured and mixed with water and table sugar.
Adding in electrolytes such as sodium (table salt) and potassium (found in sport drink mixes) also is beneficial to this solution. You can add in salt and potassium to taste or just follow the sport drink mix instructions as long as they do not exceed the 6% solution maximum.
Lipids or fats, are valuable sources of long lasting energy consumed in the diet, and if not used for energy, stored in the body. 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 can be created in the body. And for fat to be stored in the body it must be saturated. This means that saturated fat does not need to be in our diets.
However, this 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. 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.
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.
Also, our bodies make way more cholesterol than is regularly consumed each day. It has been found that only when saturated fat is high in the diet, 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.
Carbs For Fuel
The main function of carbohydrates is to supply the body with energy. They are also the only fuel source for the brain. 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. To prevent 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 carbs are too high, such as over 2.5g times your bodyweight without long bouts of vigorous exercise, 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.
A good range of carbohydrates to have daily for inactive individuals is between 1-2g per pound of bodyweight with a minimum of 130g to maintain optimal brain function. Intake for these individuals should be spread throughout the day in small increments.
Carbs For Athletes
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 bodyweight 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 bodyweight every hour until stores are replenished.
Protein For Muscle
Protein is the building block used to create new cells. 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. This means that a good amount of protein 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 train or do strenuous work in which muscle is broken down often need even more protein, to again replace the lost cells. However, there is still a limit to how much protein should be present in a diet.
How Much Protein
It has been discovered that taking too much protein (over 1.5g/lb or 3.3g/kg of bodyweight) can put an unnecessary, and potentially harmful, strain on your body’s systems. To ensure you get enough protein to maintain or gain strength, aim to consume 0.8-1g of protein per pound (1.7-2.2g/kg) of bodyweight 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 bodyweight daily.
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.
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 on your fat intake for energy.
Good Protein Sources
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.
If you don’t have time during the day and you still want to add a healthy amount of protein into your body you can try protein shakes such as Kachava, Shakeology, Garden of Life, or any other well-known protein shakes on the market, many sources praise Kachava for its taste though, I’m yet to try it but I’m really tempted to.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are key nutrients supplied by our diet that help our body to function properly. If any one nutrient is deficient it can have tremendous negative effects on your health and performance.
Also, if any nutrient is consumed too much it can be harmful and even deadly. To become deficient or overdose on a nutrient is somewhat difficult and should not be a major concern unless you start to feel negative symptoms. And to avoid becoming deficient or even over consuming any one nutrient, consume a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, beans and legumes.
To make it simpler, just do not leave out any natural foods. Each category listed above has vital nutrients in it that are in abundance to them compared to the others, and lack some nutrients as well.
If eating a variety of foods is not permitted due to your diet or you have some food allergies preventing some food groups, an easier way to get these nutrients is through a multivitamin. 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 deficient in any nutrient as well as leaves room for an abundance of nutrients to come from food as they should.
Also, generally men should have little to no iron in their vitamin, but women need to have some.
Watch What You Eat
Along with obtaining enough nutrients it is also important that you watch what you eat to get those nutrients. It is much easier for most people to consume all their fats from fast foods, carbohydrates from treats and protein from supplements, but that is not optimal for health or performance. It is always better to get your nutrients in with whole foods and use supplements sparingly. This will help you stay more satisfied and live a healthier lifestyle.
Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
When seeking nutrition for a healthy diet, look for 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.
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 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. They were originally designed to aid people with illnesses that needed more of specific nutrients. 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 do 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.
Be Careful of Cravings
Think about if you are actually hungry, or just eating because you are bored. 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 fight off cravings while still maintaining a healthy diet. If that does not work, you can try having flavorful tea. Each time before you eat, think of what your goals are and if this meal choice will help or hinder your progress.
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 eat. Think of why you started a specific diet. And think if this meal will help you reach your goals.
Stronger Nutrition Conclusion
Overall, your diet is not the main piece to your training program, but it can greatly increase your results. Your diet alone cannot keep you healthy or make you fit. It can only improve upon your daily activity. Just like training, it is something that must be consistent and well maintained. It must grow and change as you change. It must contain all the vital nutrients required for daily energy and proper function. Make sure to get enough of all the differing nutrients so that you can perform at your best.
Also, try to eat as much whole food as you can, and limit your cravings as much as possible. Remember what motivates you, and make sure that what you eat is leading you towards your goals.
Be consistent, eat well, and get stronger!