Nutrition is one of those topics we all have an interest in. We all eat each and every day and are daily subjected to multiple media messages decrying certain foods, praising others and generally confusing us in what we really need to eat.
With this in mind we have decided to help you separate the wheat from the chaff. We want to help you understand what is really good for you, break down some common myths and get you back in control of your food choices.
Lets start with reviewing what is really important. If we are looking for improving our body composition (which 95% of us are) we need to look at our nutritional priorities. They are in this order:
- Calorie balance: This number will determine whether you gain or lose weight. It is solely responsible for around 50% of your results.
- Macronutrient ratios: This number will help you improve your athletic performance, body composition and meal choices. It is responsible for around 30% of your results
- Nutrient timing: This is when you eat either carbohydrates or fats. The easiest rule of thumb is carbs as fuel for training, fats to away from training to keep you full. It is responsible for 10% of your results
- Food quality: This revolves around things as digestabilibty, glycemic index and more. It is responsible for about 5% of your body composition results and is the subject of this article.
- Supplements: These account for 5% of your results and work best when the previous 95% is taken care of.
Have a look at some of our other articles for more information on the previous info. Some good ones include:
Now lets dive in and have a look at the most important macronutrient, protein
Protein: The most important reason protein is the most important macronutrient for body composition is that muscle is made up of it. If we want to maximise and retain our muscle mass, we need to have adequate protein. It is also essential for immune function, liver detoxification and many other processes in the body.
When we look at what is optimal intake for protein around 1gram of protein per pound of bodyweight seems to be a great starting point for most people. Here is how you calculate this:
Bodyweight x 2.2 = Weight in pounds = grams of protein needed each day
80 kg x 2.2 = 176 pounds = 176 grams of protein daily.
Now we know how much we need, lets have a look at some of the best sources. We will also go over certain benefits and drawbacks each exhibit.
Whey Protein Isolate
Benefits: Easily absorbable, high bioavailability, easy to consume, perfect for post workout
Drawbacks: Easy to overuse, can cause intolerances with multiple uses per day, low satiety
Benefits: High bioavailability, can be used as fat source with yolk, very high nutrient density
Drawbacks: Easy to overeat calories with yolks (fat calories), common food intolerance
Interesting point: Egg yolks contain choline, a substance that helps prevent accumulation of cholesterol and fat in the liver!
Red Meats (Beef, Pork and Lamb)
Benefits: Delicious, complete amino acid spectrum
Drawbacks: Different cuts can be high in fat making calorie counts excessive
Generally with these meats grass fed is the best followed by organic, free range then conventional in terms of both protein quality and animal cruelty.
Poultry (chicken, turkey)
Benefits: Complete amino acid spectrum, high quality protein, high in selenium.
Drawbacks: Nothing of note
Fish and seafood (all types)
Benefits: High I’m Omega 3 fatty acids, high quality protein, shellfish contain high amounts of Zinc
Drawbacks: Possible mercury overload with excessive consumption.
Strategically combined plant sources
One of the possible issues with a vegetarian or a vegan diet is the lack of essential amino acids in the diet. Plant based proteins don’t have the full amino acid spectrum. One way around this is food combining to get the full amino acid profile
Whole Grains and Legumes
Nuts and Seeds with Legumes or grains
If you do this you will be pretty much set up.
Now we have addressed protein lets have a look at everyone’s favourite, carbs.
With carbohydrates one thing we do at DC Health Performance is divide them into Anytime carbs and Workout Carbs. before we do that, lets look at the 3 main carbohydrate types.
Fiber rich: These carb sources have a high amount of fiber in them, making them excellent for digestive health and blood sugar control. They include but are not limited to: All vegetables, Peas, Beans, Legumes, most Fruits
Starchy Carbs: These have high amounts of starch in them. They include but are not limited to: Breads, Pasta, Quinoa, Sweet Potato, Potato, Oats and Rices
Sugary Carbs: These are very high in rapidly digested sugar. They include but are not limited to: Desserts, fruit juice, processed foods, sports drinks, dried fruits.
Once we understand this we can easily identify what our anytime and workout carbs are. Anytime carbs are fiber rich, workout carbs are sugary. Starchy carbs can be used strategically. For example, after a workout you may want to have some starchy carbs (rice) to help with recovery and glycogen replenishment. You could also have them in the meal before a particularly intense workout to fuel that particular session.
You also might have noticed that some carbs can be problematic to some people like gluten in wheat. The best way to identify whether this is an issue is to test it on yourself. There is no inherently bad food, only bad foods for certain individuals. Test and measure to see how you respond.
Now we have got carbs out of the way lets look at fats.
Fats are very difficult to get right as there is so much controversy about them. Here are the 4 main types of fats we need to be aware of.
Saturated Fats: Found mainly in animal products, they include Bacon fat, eggs, cheese, butter, meat fat and coconut and macadamia oil fats.
Monounsaturated fats: Generally from nuts and seeds they include avocado, olive oil, nuts and their butters
Polyunsaturated fats: These are vegetable oils (canola, sunflower) and Omega 3’s from fish.
Trans fats: These are generally man made (small amounts are found in nature) and are deleterious to health.
What we recommend for most people is to get a balance of the first 3 types of fats. Do not limit yourself to one fat (for example, the butter diet fad going around) and you will be ok.
Now lets talk about some other issues that come up for people quite often:
Dairy is a area of much controversy, with many conflicting opinions. Here is out take on it:
Dairy can be either a protein, carb and fat.
Dairy Proteins: Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, Full fat milk
Dairy Carbohydrates: Yoghurt, Low Fat Milk, ice Cream
Dairy Fats: Cream, Cheeses
The issue with dairy is that it is too easy to overeat. How often is it you can stick to a recommended serving of yoghurt? Never, thats when.
With lactose intolerance it is the exact same situation as gluten and other food intolerances. Test it and see how you react. Hint: If you get phlegmy, it is probably not right for you.