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SERIES 1: ‘THE BASICS’

What is Food and Good Nutrition? Why should we be worried about what we eat and drink?

Okay so this might sound like a bit of a silly question with an obvious answer. Food is the stuff we eat that fuels our body, well that is one way to look at it but food also includes vital macro and micronutrients essential for our bodies to function correctly.
Macronutrients are a nutrient that the body requires a large amount of and are generally categorised into three Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates (Carbs)
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function properly, without them the body starts to break down.
Good nutrition controls energy balance. Without enough energy coming into our bodies they just don’t work right. Our bodies start to shut down processes that we don’t absolutely need to survive such as reproduction, some aspects of metabolism and brain function. Too much energy coming into the body also causes issues. We can become resistant to some hormones, inflammation may increase, blood pressure can go up and it can increase our risk of chronic diseases. So it’s about creating the right balance!
Good nutrition helps to control energy balance. We don’t eat too much or too little. This means we can stay healthy and strong. We feel good and our bodies show it.
Good nutrition also gives us nutrients. Each food has a certain nutrient density, or nutrients per amount of food. Since we want to eat the right amount of food for our needs, we want to make sure that the food we eat is loaded with nutrients.
For example in a plate of biscuits there are lots of calories but very few nutrients – that’s called low nutrient density. In a plate of Spinach, there are lots of nutrients but very few calories – that’s called high nutrient density.
We need nutrients to live, thrive and perform at our best both inside and outside for the gym.

MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES IN MORE DETAIL

marconutrients
We know that macronutrients are a type of food (fat, protein and carbs) that are required in large amounts in the body. These three macronutrients make up our food (not forgetting micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)). Hardly any food contains just one macronutrient, most are a combination, of varying amounts.
Marco nutrients can affect many processes in our body including;
– ability to digest our food and absorb nutrients
– hormone production
– immune system health
– cell structure and function
– body composition (i.e. how much lean mass and body fat we have)
– metabolic function
Carbohydrates.
Without going into too much science around cell structure, saccharides and absorption at this stage, carbohydrates provide us with energy and are a key source of fuel for the body to perform providing 4 calories per gram. Your muscles rely on Carbohydrates as their main source of fuel when you exercise.
Sugars, starches and fibre are all forms of Carbohydrates and are all important in our bodies functioning the best they can.
Carbohydrates are a broad category and not all carbs are the same. It’s the type, quality and quantity in our diets that’s important.
How many carbs you should eat is dependent on the energy your body uses – for example a 18 year old weightlifting training 5 times per week with an active job is going to require a lot more carbs than a 50 year old office worker who does their garden on the weekend.
As a recommendation just under a third of your diet should be made up of starchy foods, such as rice, potatoes, pasta and the other third from manly vegetables and some fruit.
This means that just over half of your daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates.
Proteins.
Protein allows your body to grow, build and repair tissue, and protect lean body mass (your muscle mass). Protein is composed of Amino Acids and these are the building blocks of protein. There are two types of Amino Acids: non essential and essential. Non-essential are not actually required in your diet as the body can make these, essential Amino Acids are required to be consumed in your diet.
Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt and meat are all great sources of proteins which are essential for the body to grow and repair itself. Protein provides 4 calories of energy per 100g consumed.
Meat is a good source of protein but also some key vitamins and minerals too including iron, zinc and B vitamins including B12. Eggs and fish are also great sources of protein and contain high levels of vitamins and minerals. Oily fish is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acid and is recommended to be included in your diet once a week, with one other portion of non oily fish.
Pulses, including beans, peas, nuts, soy and lentils, are naturally low in fat and high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals and essential for people who live on a plant based diet.

Fats.

Before we start this chapter we want to get one thing straight. FAT IS NOT BAD!! Fats allow you to store energy, cushion organs, make certain hormones, absorb fat soluble vitamins and helps with cell membrane integrity.
A small amount of fat is essential in your diet as fat is a source of fatty acids, which the body can not make by itself. Fat helps to absorb vitamins A, D and E as these vitamins are fat soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed into our bodies with the help of fats – see fats are good!
However any fat not used by your body and turned into energy will be stored as, yep you guessed it, fat but this is also true of Carbs and Proteins, which if not used by the body as energy are also stored as fat.
All types of fat are high in energy, providing 9 calories per gram, versus carbs and protein at 4 per gram. The two main fats found in food are Saturated and Unsaturated fats. Most fats and oils contain both of these fats in different proportions.
As part of a healthy diet, you should be limiting food and drinks that are high in saturated fats and replacing them with food and drinks higher in unsaturated fats.
Foods high in saturated fats include fatty cuts of meat, meat products such as sausages and pies, butter, ghee, lard, cheese, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, palm oil and coconut oil.
Too much saturated fat in your diet can increase your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
If you want to reduce the amount of saturated fats in your diet a good swap can be to look to unsaturated fats such as olive and rapeseed oil, avocados, almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts and oily fish.
Fat gets a bad reputation because it’s the highest in calories and certain types of fat are not good for us, but if you can focus on the type of fat and the amount of fat, it’s instrumental to a healthy diet.

MICRONUTRIENTS

MICRO

Micronutrients are one of the major groups of nutrients your body needs. They include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.

 

Micronutrients can be divided into four categories: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, microminerals, and trace minerals.

 

Fruits and vegetables naturally are low in fat. They add micronutrients, flavour, and variety to your diet. Look for colourful fruits and vegetables, especially orange and dark green.

 

Choosing these foods would certainly help your micronutrient intake:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Leafy greens, such as chard, cabbage and romaine.
  • Dark, leafy greens, such as spinach and kale.
  • Squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, and pumpkin.
  • Snap peas, green beans, bell peppers, and asparagus.
  • Apples, plums, mangos, papaya, pineapple, and bananas.
  • Blueberries, strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, and grapes.
  • Citrus fruits, such as grapefruits and oranges.
  • Peaches, pears, and melons.
  • Tomatoes and avocados.

HYDRATION

Hydration Water Bottle

What is Hydration and why is it important?

Ever felt so thirsty that when you drank some water it was best thing you ever had to drink in your life? You just couldn’t get enough water. Well this was likely due to you being dehydrated, which means that your body is in a state of not having enough water for it to function optimally. Signs that you are dehydrated include muscle cramps, confusion, rapid pulse, thirst and headaches. In order to get your body back into its normal state, you had to go through the process of replacing the missing water or hydration. One way to know that you are no longer dehydrated, is that the signs of dehydration will disappear rather promptly.

 

How do we become hydrated?

Hydration can be accomplished through a few different ways. One way is simply drinking water. Consumable other liquids provide water to help with hydration too. These would include drinks like coffee and tea, fizzy water etc. Even the foods that we eat contain some amount of water. Some foods contain more water than others. Foods such as lettuce, some vegetables, and most fruits are mostly composed of water. So, eating is another way to hydrate.

 

How much water is enough?

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a set amount of water that everybody should drink in a given period of time. The amount that it takes to hydrate one person is different from the amount that it would take to hydrate another person. Factors that determine how much water we should drink include body composition, activity level, and the amount of water lost through sweating and breathing. As a rule of thumb it would be ideal to look to drink at least 2 litres of fluid per day as a baseline and increase this in heat or during and after exercise.

 

How can you tell if you are dehydrated?

You may be able to tell if you’re dehydrated by looking at your urine. Dark yellow to amber urine means you may have mild to severe dehydration. You can usually tell you have healthy hydration levels if your urine is very light in colour. You may also urinate less than normal when dehydrated. If you can’t remember the last time you had a glass of water – get drinking!

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