Why Should You Care About Nutrition?
Eating is an essential part of life. Food fuels our daily activities, is the focal point of many social gatherings, and surrounds us wherever we turn. It makes sense that we ought to pay it some attention if it is going to take up such a significant role in our lives. As many people are in the throws of the Lurong Challenge or thinking about how to get that beach bod they always wanted, it seemed time to give you some information on nutrition. Keep your eyes peeled for more in the coming weeks on balancing nutrition with your lifestyle, fueling for performance and recovery, and not turning into a crazy person. To kick things off, we will start with why the heck you should care about your nutrition in the first place.
Lists are fun and 3 is my favorite number so here it goes, the 3 reasons you should care about your nutrition:
1. Food is all around us.
First and foremost, you cannot escape food. We are biologically programmed to get hungry, some more than others (I will never understand those who forget to eat…), because we need food to survive. That is what we are best at, surviving. Even when our minds may tell us we don’t want something, our biological instincts will kick in to force us to get the thing we need to survive. Thank you evolution. Food is right up there with sleep and water as one of the essentials.
Society for the most part has moved beyond the days of hunting and gathering. We no longer have to fight for our food by chasing it down or searching for it in the wilderness. Now food is just up the road at the nearest grocery store or marketplace. It is almost impossible to miss thanks to the billions spent on advertising by fast food companies (McDonalds, Subway etc.) prepared food companies (Kraft, Tyson etc.), restaurants (T.G.I. Fridays, Olive Garden, etc), and beverage companies (Pepsi Co, Coco -Cola etc.). Food is everywhere and very rarely is the quick, convenient choice also good, healthy choice.
2. You cannot outwork a bad diet
If you are reading this, then you are at least somewhat interested (or perhaps thinking about becoming interested) in health and fitness. Nutrition is the bedrock of our health. The saying is told time and time again, “you cannot outwork a bad diet.” For years, the government has been telling us that a calorie in is equal to a calorie out. We workout for an hour, burn x amount of calories, go home and eat y amount of calories, and if x is greater than y, then we lose weight. If only it were so simple! There is so much more that goes into the equation than simply work and consumption of food. Genetics has a role to play (you know those people who never workout, eat whatever they want, and look like chiseled marble?) that we have yet to really figure out. What we do know is that what you are eating matters a whole lot. Your food is made up of one of three macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (alcohol is its own special fourth macronutrient that is nonessential, sorry). How much you eat of each of these will largely determine your body composition or how much fat you have and where it is distributed. On top of that, our food is full of micronutrients that we need to be healthy, vitamins and minerals that give us that warm glow. All foods have macronutrients but not all of them are as rich in these micronutrients.
3. Everyone is different, find what works for you and keep reading
Here it gets tricky. Everyone is different. Our stress levels, hormones, and genetics play a significant part in how we will carry fat, regardless of the percentages we are eating of a particular food. That is the reason why two different humans could eat entirely different diets and end up with the same incredible results that they were looking for (think chiseled abs and biceps for days). The good news is that you have the ability to try many different things and see what works for you. The bad news is that most of us will find that what works for us is not eating whatever we want (those lucky genetic anomalies). In the CrossFit community, we largely support the Paleolithic diet. Fitness in 100 words begins like this:
Eat meats and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.
This is just one of many diets that is on the scene these days and one of many that may or may not work for you as an individual. There is also zone dieting, where every meal is weighed and measured to get a particular percentage from each of the macronutrients. There is macro counting that uses magic formulas (not magical, I just don’t know much about them and every site or individual you go to may spit out a different number) to calculate an individual’s exact macronutrient needs for gaining, losing, or maintaining weight and muscle. There are vegetarian and vegan diets and the Mediterranean diet. There are diets that tell you to eat a bunch of apples and “diets” that tell you to drink cayenne pepper and lemonade.
How are we supposed to make any sense of this? No one has the time or gut to try all of these diets/lifestyles, so where do you start? My advice is this. Start small. Do a little bit of research or ask someone who may be a little more knowledgeable than you. You can try to make a wholesale lifestyle change but typically that becomes unsustainable and you may see your weight and performances start to “yo-yo” Making a small change each week, subbing out your breakfast toast for a piece of fruit, your soda for a sparkling water, or your pasta side for a veggie, may be just the little kick start you need to continue to make changes to find your ideal lifestyle over time rather than in one incredibly challenging leap.
The last message I will leave with you for today is this: eat to thrive rather than eating to survive. Food should enhance and improve our lives, at times that will mean making good decisions that will leave you feeling energized and ready to take on whatever the day throws at you. At other times, that may mean cutting yourself some slack, throwing the rules out the window, and letting yourself LET GO. No one should be bringing broccoli to his or her own birthday party.