Ever feel like there is a lot of contradicting information about eating for health and fitness? There more certainly seems to be like that to me, and I don’t want to add to the confusion. Instead, I am here today to teach you a few things I have learned along my journey. I am going to start with the fact that everyone is different. I cannot come here and say, You must eat this and avoid that, because it is not that simple. I am going to give you some of the basic nutrition information that I believe to be true.
Let’s start with protein. Protein is the building block of our muscles, which is one reason some people push its consumption. In the average person, with a typical diet, the body cannot actually store excess protein. It spends its time out in the colon, until you have ingested enough fiber to push through the excretion process. Your body has optimal times to absorb various nutrients, which is why people often tell you to eat your protein 30-60 minutes post work out, that is when your body is best primed to absorb and utilize protein.
Now about the current “bad guy” carbohydrates. Did you know that vegetables and fruits are carbs? I think a lot of the bad rap carbs get is because people think of cakes, breads, and pastas. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your body, which your body then uses as energy. If unused, somewhere around the 12 hour mark, glycogen stores are turned into adipose tissue. While some people experience a brain fog from too much over-processed carbs, your brain gets it’s energy for thinking power from carbs. This is why body builders are often crabby before a show, not only are they hungry and dehydrated, they are starting their brain of its ability to focus efficiently.
The original bad guy is fat. There are many kinds of fat though, and not all of them are bad. The truly bad fat is trans fat (trans-unsaturated fatty acids), and it has been removed from the overwhelming majority of food these days. Saturated fat is still deemed as bad by some and worshipped by others, hello coconut oil. A saturated fat can change properties based on temperature, think of the white stuff sitting on the top of your left over stew or the coconut oil in the jar on your counter; they both melt when brought to a higher temperature. I am in the camp that the more processed, the worse the saturated fat. So your coconut oil and steak, in moderation, are better for you than your potato chips. The good fats are the poly unsaturated fats and mono unsaturated fats. Think of your nuts, olive oils, eggs, and avocados. These foods are pretty close to their natural found state.
Eating would probably be a lot easier to figure out if foods fell into just one of the three categories. Take milk, for example, I have whole milk in my fridge to look at. It has 8 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein, and 12 grams of carbohydrates. I would consider it a fairly mixed food, but often people say milk is a good source of protein. When you look at eggs, they have 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat. If you are looking for a good source of protein, the fat content would be too high to be a lean source of protein.
Generally speaking, the closer to its natural state, the better the food for you. Something like an apple, that gets picked off a tree is going to be better than a potato which is peeled, diced, salted, oiled, and fried to become a chip. In 100 Days of Real Food, they have a rule about eating food with 5 ingredients or less on the label. I think this is a fantastic idea. If you are eating reasonable portions of food (I see just as many people under eating as I see over eating), and the majority of your food is minimally processed or a whole food and you do not see weight loss, then it is time to see a doctor. I think that it goes to show that some food that is generally considered healthy is not healthy for your body. The best way to determine that is to find your underlying issue.
I like to think of eating in terms of what you can eat, like whole real foods. Instead of thinking about the foods you are restricting yourself from. Rules like, I eat 5 servings a day of vegetables just sounds so much more positive than I can’t have cookies or cake. It is important to know yourself, and your body, and to set rules accordingly. I have a vegetable at every meal, I eat small meals (i.e. no snacks), and I plan meals with protein as the main attraction (i.e. no spaghetti with chicken, it is chicken with a side of spaghetti). After doing the AIP elimination, I do have foods I abstain from totally for my health. That is totally different from abstaining for fitness/scale, as I think most can be in moderation for those reasons. If you have been reading these blogs for a while, you know my non negotiable are gluten, soy, and egg. I also consciously limit tomato, onion, pepper, and dairy, as too much of any of those don’t seem to agree with me.
If you are interested in gaining a little accountability in the healthy eating department, you should look into joining the Pocket Trainer program. We are all about making informed decisions, not perfect ones. It is all a learning process, but the key is to find people that help you take positive steps, not overwhelm you with information.