[Hey there, Sinead here! As some context to why I am writing a blog for you on nutrition (!) … a scientist by trade I earned my doctorate researching metabolism. After a detour into the corporate world, I returned to science and nutrition to found Feed.Fuel.Perform – a sports nutrition coaching service, working with individuals to optimise their nutrition to maximise health and performance inside and outside of the gym.]
Nutrition, does it really matter?
“Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Together you have a kingdom” (Jack LaLanne)
Eating is second nature (and something to be enjoyed!). We know we wouldn’t last long if we didn’t eat or drink. Equally, we know eating and drinking too much is bad for us. But how often do we think about what food is really for?
Food is the energy we need to do work (move, talk, think, breathe …), and the building blocks to make and maintain our bodies (and grow muscle!). Without appropriate foods, eaten in appropriate quantities, humans cannot reach their full potential. The ‘right’ nutrition is essential for getting the most out of your training, healthy career longevity, and functional fitness into old age.
But no one size fits all in nutrition. Indeed, no one size fits one. Every body is different, and the needs of every body changes over time. What your body needs now is not just driven by your training and lifestyle, it is also dependent on your age, gender, genetic background, stress and physiological state. And it is of course influenced by your goals – be they aesthetic, performance or otherwise!
“Oh wonderful” I hear you say (perhaps with an eye roll) “… if that is the case, how on earth do I know what I need to eat?”. I promise it isn’t as tricky as it sounds. There are basic principles we can all follow – and then fine tune until we find what is ‘right’ for our own individual needs and lifestyles. The amount we eat is important. But so is what we eat.
The amount …
In other words, the calories!! Eat too much, you gain weight. Eat too little, you lose weight. People typically focus on whether they are eating too much, but you might be surprised to know that sometimes your ideal calorie intake to maintain optimum weight and performance may be greater than you currently eat!! If you are undereating you may not be able to train and perform as hard, thus reducing your energy output compared to what you are capable of, and you may be experiencing what is colloquially called ‘metabolic adaptation’, where the body conserves energy by reducing energy output in non-exercise activity and metabolism – including simply fidgeting less!!
You can estimate how much energy you need based on your age, gender, height, weight and activity level, and then optimise this through trial and error – if you increase or decrease calories compared to the estimate, what is the impact on weight, energy, and performance?
The macronutrients …
Beyond total calories, how you split your total calories across protein, fats and carbohydrates (the macronutrients) is also important. The body uses these to release energy in different ways, and the role they have as the building blocks of our body also differs. Carbs typically fuel high intensity activity, and fats typically fuel lower intensity exercise. We typically avoid using protein for energy, as we need it to maintain, repair and grow our body tissue – it is an energy source when we exhaust our other fuel supplies.
To fuel effectively, you typically need a mix of all three. No macronutrient should be demonized … but there are of course more and less nutritious options for each!!
The rest of it …
As well as calories and macros, optimal health requires appropriate hydration, vitamins and minerals, and other stuff that promotes gut health.
Water, vitamins and minerals are needed for, well, pretty much everything. They are needed to release the energy from food, turn food into the building blocks for our body, keep our immune system functioning, carry oxygen … the list goes on!
And then there is the other stuff that promotes gut health. Fibre, to ensure our food passes along our digestive system smoothly and with limited harm to our gut lining, and the prebiotics and probiotics that help support a healthy gut biome (the bacteria that live in our gut and play a role in digestion, and also immunity, hunger and potentially much more).
I thought you said it wasn’t tricky …
Yes, if you get to the science there is a lot to think about. But if you follow the old adage of eating a varied diet rich in unprocessed foods, including a variety of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (with fruits and veg of every colour under the sun!) you will be well on your way to eating well!
So, what can I do for you?
I offer a range of nutrition coaching services, from in depth food diary analysis and consultations through to detailed daily menu planning. Check out the services on offer at www.feedfuelperform.com.
Most importantly, I want to give you the support you need to smash your nutrition goals and feel awesome in training and in life, so hit me up with any questions you have, any topics you’d like me to cover in future blog posts here on my website, or recipes you’d like to see on my Instagram!!