Nutrition is possibly the most confusing and dangerous topics in the fitness industry, with people looking for hacks that will help them shed fat, build muscle and perform better at a faster rate. Yes there are fads out there, but most of these are grounded in science, and there are benefits to be gained from each strategy for different people, at different times with different purposes. The real focus however should be on building a solid relationship with food, understanding its purpose and using food as a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. This article is about the five basic rules you should follow to support performance.
1.View Food as Fuel.
Food fulfils many purposes, providing us with the building blocks to repair and rebuild as well as nutrients associated with improved function of the body’s systems, maintaining healthy metabolic processes and protecting against disease. The primary purpose of food is to fuel our lives, providing us with the energy necessary to perform both inside and outside of the gym. We should not be looking at food as a nemesis but a tool, eating so we can train as opposed to training so we can eat. Every nutrition plan should be built around providing the body with what it needs to perform optimally, with health at the forefront of our minds. Only when this is achieved should we look at incorporating more goal specific strategies.
2.Eat High Turnover Foods
Eating is natural, so long as we eat naturally. The human body has evolved over thousands of years consuming a wide variety of foods from omnivorous sources. In recent years there have been a number of diets vilifying particular food groups that historically have been fine. The truth of the matter is that it is not the foods, it is the food industry, latching on to trends and creating products for a mass market, changing the way they are sourced and grown, altering the chemical make-up of these foods before they are processed and refined to into something unrecognisable. We as a population need to make a shift towards eating food that looks like food again, simple ingredients, naturally and locally sourced, produced in an environmentally friendly way. There are several diet trends that push towards this, including but not limited to the paleo and plant based movements, and though I am not saying you have to stick to either of these fairly restrictive protocols, a shift in this direction is definitely useful when trying to optimise health and performance.
3.Understand Calorie Balance
Calorie balance really is as simple as calories in versus calories out, where if we burn more calories than we eat we see weight loss and vice versa. The complicated thing comes down to understanding just how many factors impact either side of the scales, stress, sleep, hormone balance, gut health etc. This explains why a simple one size fits all calculation based on body weight and predicted physical activity level doesn’t always get things right, however it does serve as a reasonable starting point. Once we have a figure in mind, we can use trial and error to establish the complex interplay between all of these factors within our bodies to establish just how much we should be eating and how we should be eating it in order to achieve a desired outcome. The key, as mentioned before, when creating a diet based on either a calorie surplus or deficit, is to ensure we provide our body with what it needs.
Hydration is a key component of nutrition, aiding in performance, improving metabolic function, and helping to maintain a healthy internal environment. This is often thrown around as a miracle cure, and for good reason, but honestly we shouldn’t wait until we need a cure to build positive habits around staying hydrated. The typical rule of thumb is that you should consume 1 litre of water for every 1000 calories you burn.
No nutrition plan should be so rigid that it stops you from living your life. Yes food is fuel, but it is also social, emotional and creative. It is not about living a perfect mistake free existence, it is about making sure that the sum of our actions still lead us towards where we want to be.