Monday, April 09, 2007

Nutrition 411

Things have been busy since returning from Arizona. There are quite a few anxious to get out there next year since we only have two slots left for 2008's Tucson camp.

I thought I'd discuss some basic nutrition in this blog. Let me preface this by saying that I consumed quite a few Reeces Peanutbutter Cups yesterday on Easter.

The past few weeks, I have had more and more questions about different diets that are out and about and how effective they are. Everyone, it seems, is still looking for that magic formula. The easy way where you can eat anything you want and take one pill and drop weight, or the exact combination of protein, carbs and fat, or the all liquid plan that’s guaranteed to shed 38 lbs in four days.


Losing fat is hard work. Yes, that’s right, it takes work! And it’s not that complex. It’s a simple math equation of calories in vs. calories out. To increase your calories out component, you need to exercise. If you are trying to lose weight without exercise, you’ll gain whatever few lbs you lose back quickly, bottom line. Exercise is simply movement. So again, don’t go looking for that magic exercise that will give you a six pack in one week. Instead, choose exercises that you like to do and do them daily. Stay consistent. The exercise plan that works the best is the one that you do consistently over time. Also, the more variety in your exercise program, the better. Finally, you need to do some strength training if you want to lose fat and keep it off! Cardiovascular exercise is not enough. Strength training increases your lean muscle tissue (not necessarily in size ladies, but in denseness) which will increase your resting metabolic rate, so that when you aren’t exercising, you’re still burning a good amount of calories. It takes fuel (calories) to maintain lean muscle tissue. Also, exercise doesn’t need to be that formal. You don’t need to be in a fancy gym, or on a fancy bike. My mother is a great example. She has been thin her entire life. She never did any formal exercise until the last 10 years or so, but as a kid, I remember that she was always busy. She loved to do yard work and would spend quite a bit of time in the garden. She wasn’t drenched in sweat like you are after a spin class, but she was active, and spent a bunch of time doing this and it also kept her away from the refrigerator.


This leads to the calories-in part. Live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, eat really well, and 20% of the time, don’t sweat it. The same people constantly ask me the same questions about diet and nutrition. They know where their weakness is here, but they want to change every other part of their daily habits so that they don’t have to address the real problem or weak area. It could be the snack on the drive home from work, or the double portions at dinner. More than likely, it’s the evening calories. It’s tough changing habits though. If you have something after dinner each evening, well then, that’s a bad habit. Cut this back to two or three nights per week. Sure, it’s a bit tough, but quit making excuses, show some will power, and just do it.

In regards to bad carbohydrates and low carbohydrate diets, here’s the skinny on this; Carbohydrates main function in the body is energy. The dietary carbohydrates are broken down in the body into glucose and stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. We use this glycogen for fuel – energy. However, we can only store so much glycogen in our bodies. Extra carbohydrates ingested through your diet that cannot be stored as glycogen or utilized right away for energy are converted into fat and stored as body fat. Are carbohydrates bad? Hell no. Do we overdo them? Hell yes. The problem is that most carbohydrate sources, especially high glycemic (fast burning) sources are quite dense in calories. Bread, pasta, sugar – these things pack a lot of calories and it’s easy to overdo these. You can easily sit at a restaurant and down 600 calories in a few pieces of bread before your dinner is even served. However, if you are extremely active, like an endurance athlete, you need more carbohydrates in your daily nutrition consumption than most. An endurance athlete on a low carbohydrate diet is setting themselves up for weak workouts and performances. Keep in mind that the more calories that you burn throughout the day, the more you need to replenish those depleted carbohydrate stores. On your easier days or days off from exercise, back off on your carb intake.

Here’s my idea of a very healthy eating day:

Breakfast #1: an 8oz yogurt and a piece of fruit,
or two eggs and some rye toast

Breakfast #2 (usually about two to three hours after breakfast 1) a small bowl of oatmeal or an apple with almond butter

Lunch: a turkey or roast beef sandwich on rye or whole grain bread w/ lettuce, tomatoe, sprouts, spicy mustard and a slice of low fat swiss cheese.
An apple or a handful of small carrots

About two hours before evening training session: some no fat cottage cheese

Dinner: a large salad, grilled vegetables like green beans, broccoli, asparagus, … a lean piece of meat like a filet, or a piece of fish like Tuna or Salmon, and a glass of wine. If I trained hard that day, I might add some rice, or have some pasta, and maybe a small bowl of low fat ice cream afterwards.

Use the scale, your clothes and your energy level to determine how to adjust your calories- in equation. If you have been trying to shed some bodyfat and it’s not happening, chances are you are not being as diligent as you could in one of the above mentioned areas.

So, to sum up, there is no secret, magic, quick fix. It takes hard work and will power. But if you stay with it, the results will speak for themselves.



1 comment:

Cliff Tam said...

Just want to give a shout out on how useful this post is. Ever since I started tri, I have a number of ppl asking me about my diet and what not.

It ain't as complicated as everyone thinks.

And are you sure there ain't some secret workout where u can get a 6 pack in three days? :)