Nutrition can be daunting because of its importance not only in overall health, but in the complexities it takes when trying to determine what is right for your body. Simply, each diet yields different results for each person since internal chemistry, environmental factors, and the genetics that affect it are different.
There are many horror stories of how a diet had no effect on a person’s weight or muscle. Well, something important to note is that diet deals with your health and exercise deals with your weight. However, diet can have an effect on the successfulness of weight loss or muscle gain. For those of you who know my boyfriend, devout BJJ Revolution team member, Parker, will know that he had plenty of issues trying to find the right combination of nutrients to put in his body. He works out so much, that seven hours is a light workout for him.
Obviously normal dieting did not suit his needs. He tried everything from the Zone Diet to a special diet program designed just for him by a nutritionist. Nothing worked quite so well as his tweaked diet program. He had to practically triple any normal intake in order for his body to function properly.
There are also many diets that are harmful to your body, but people use them anyway because they think they are gaining some ground in their health battle by participating. One of the worst ones I have heard of is the Water Diet. (Do not try this diet. It is very dangerous and potentially deadly.)
In this diet, a person drinks plenty of water all day and instead of meals, takes vitamins. The reason this is so bad is that while the body does need vitamins and minerals, it also needs proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in order to have energy for daily function.
The simplest way to go about nutrition is making a bullet list of guidelines and following them. The list here goes from basic to more organic for those who want a completely pure diet.
- Consume less and move more. Basic.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, a rainbow if you will. Stop neglecting those greens and your body will thank you.
Raw is best; let out your primal side.
- Take it easy on junk foods. When you cut out something like McDonald’s
from your diet and then eat it later, it will make you sick. For proof that what you’re putting in your body is bad, watch the documentary Fast Food Nation. Enough said.
- Stay away from sodas. I have been off of soda for years and whenever I return to drink it, I can taste why it’s so awful.
- Limit sugar and sodium intake. Both are important since they affect your insulin and blood pressure.
- Be aware of genetically modified foods/organisms and what their potential effects on your body may be. Natural is safest and best. This is an argument up for debate, but baseline–how can you truly know how it will affect you?
- Do not skip meals, ever. Even if you do not feel hunger. Depriving your body of essential nutrients needed to perform exercise and much less, basic function, is a no-go. No one likes the hungry snack moocher. Also, the feeling of hunger can be confused
with thirst. Drink now, eat later.
- The fewer ingredients listed the better.
- Foods that are whole, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal, and unprocessed are best. Not as complicated as it sounds.
- Eliminate consumption of highly processed foods and stay away from:
artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners, hydrogenated fats, any kind of corn syrup, and cornstarch.
Look up where food coloring comes from.
Yeah, you are ingesting that. Yum.
- Check out the new food pyramid! Nothing says simple like a diagram.
- Never prepare just one meal at a time. Save time and money by preparing multiples.
- Vitamins help fulfill missing holes left by an unsatisfying diet.
- Say no to steroids.
So now that you have the list, let’s think about this a bit more. So far as diet and health food goes, be realistic. America is a capitalist society and is all about making the sale. Don’t believe me? Go back to your eighth grade government class, or the vitamin store. Again, stores are all about making the sale. Some advertising and labeling will try to mislead you on its nutritious state. Be informed and careful of the “easy fix”. Avoid the easy fix by reading labels, not only do you see ingredients, but you also see the serving size and how much of the Recommended Dietary Allowance the food contains. Or avoid labels all together and eat raw food. It saves time and nutrients. But buy locally to get the freshest food possible; “fresh” meaning foods that spoil more quickly than others.
Fact: your mind plays a big role in diet. The more food that is on your plate, the more you will eat. The eyes like to play tricks and see illusions. Mind over matter: if food is close by and easily seen, you will eat more than if it is hidden or hard to get to. So do not leave a bowl of chocolate sittingin the living room where you can see it and absent-mindedly munch away. If you already ate and you’re still hungry then your body is telling you something.
Your body needs some nutrient that you have not provided and no, it’snot chocolate. It is important to understand the nutritional requirements your body needs and abide by them. The needs of your body consistently change. Listen. Be flexible. And be willing to alter your intake in order to meet those needs when they change. That being said, the semi-complex formulas I provided at the end are rough guidelines. They are part of how Navy SEALs determine their dietary intakes. Remember that.
Organic and health foods are a big deal and not just some passing fad. In order to be certified organic, farmers must meet a certain standard. Organic farmers must follow strict rules about the use of manure to be certain that harmful microbes are killed. Products are inspected to be sure of this. Pesticide-using farmers do not have to do this. Bottom line: organic foods areinspected. Also, meats sellers like to play mind games. It is known that lean meats are best and red meats are to be limited, but it’s time for a bit of math. If a meat is 80% lean, then that means it is 20% fat by weight. That’s still a significant amount of fat. Don’t be misled though; fats are good and are needed by the body. They alleviate hunger. The difference is that you want healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Overall, the best foods/meals
have a large variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Points for a nutrient dense food. Also, mini meals throughout the day can help leave you more satisfied.
Water and snacking have a significant effect in a nutritious diet. Water serves the body many important roles:
- Participates in absorption and digestion or nutrients.
- Participates in excretion of wastes.
- Essential for maintaining blood circulation throughout the body.
- Maintains body temperature.
Lean body/muscle mass requires more water than fat, the leaner you are, the more body water you have. Weigh yourself before and after an event to determine how much fluid you have lost-for every pound of weight lost, you should drink 16 oz of fluid (2 cups of 500 ml).
It’s important to also drink 1-2 cups of water about an hour before a training session as well as have a snack either 3 hours before or 30-60 minutes before a session. Eating before a workout improves training. However, also consider the digestive ability of your body as well as the tolerance of your stomach. Both play an important role in planning your timing, nutrition, and food choice. Snacking can be extremely important when it comes to performing your duties and assignments. Snacking is only unhealthy and leads to weight gain if you eat unhealthy snacks. So, here are some helpful snacking tips straight from The U.S. Navy SEAL Guide to Fitness and Nutrition:
- “Stock your cupboards and refrigerator with plain popcorn, whole grain crackers, Dutch pretzels, unsweetened fruit juices, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low fat yogurts and cheeses.”
- “Carry naturally sweet fresh fruits, such as grapes, a pear, apple, or watermelon, for a snack rather than candy or cookies.”
- “Limit the amount eaten so your snack does NOT replace a meal. If it is taking the place of a meal, choose a salad or healthy sandwich.”
- “Choose a snack that provides dietary fiber as well as other nutrients. Fresh
fruits with edible seeds (berries) or skins (apples, peaches, plums, pears), raw vegetables, and whole grain pretzels or crackers are all good sources of fiber.”
- “Try eating dried apricots, bananas, apples, figs, dates, pineapples, and prunes.”
- “Make a snack mix with wheat, rice, and corn ready-to-eat cereals.”
- “Eat raw vegetables such as celery with low fat cheese spreads.”
There are three main sources of energy for the body: carbohydrates (CHO), fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates are good for endurance activities, competitive athletic events, and healthy living. They are a basic source of energy for the human body. They are a fuel in the form of glucose, repair body structures, and are used to make chemicals needed by cells. Starches leading to weight gain is a myth. High fat toppings and sauces are to blame. “Eat high CHO snacks in between training sessions to replace your glycogen stores. Consume at least 50 grams of CHO immediately after completing your training session,” according to The U.S. Navy SEAL Guide to Fitness and Nutrition. Also be aware that carbohydrate loading will impair performance in activities lasting less than an hour and those that require short spurts of maximum effort. This is because your body will weigh more from the extra water stored.
Fat is essential for a diet, but in excess is bad. There are three major types: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature because there is no additional room for H+ atoms. They are found in animal foods. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats have room for one H+ atom and are found in olives, avocados, peanuts, and olive oil Polyunsaturated fats have room for more than one H+ atom and are found in fish, corn, wheat, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils (peanut, sunflower, corn, and safflower oils). Fats are a major form of stored energy. They provide energy during exercise, in cold environments, when not enough to eat, insulate the body, help carry other nutrients to places in the body, protect organs, and serve as a structural role in cells. Too much fat is not only the primary dietary problem of our country (adds flavor to food), the high intake is associated with many diseases, including: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Paula Deen, anyone? The best sources of essential fatty acid are:
- Seeds and their oils: flax, hemp seed, coconut, and pumpkin
- Nuts: walnuts, almonds, and cashews
- Deep-sea fish: mackerel, blue fish, and fish oils
- Blue-green algae: chlorella, spirulina, and leafy green vegetables
Reasons that EFAs are important:
- Less joint and muscle inflammation
- Less cholesterol and triglycerides in blood stream
- Aid in prevention of cancer cell growth
- Lower risk of high blood pressure
- Regulate food intake, body weight, and metabolism
Proteins are eaten to obtain essential amino acids (building blocks) that the body is incapable of producing. Proteins can provide energy but are not a main source of energy like CHOs and fats. Proteins form muscle, hair, nails, skin, and other tissues. They direct energy production, repair injuries, carry fats, vitamins, and minerals to different parts of the body, muscle contraction, and serve a structural role for every part of the body. For workout fiends, you want a high protein diet with proper calorie intake. There are also concerns with very high protein intakes, so be wary:
- Increases kidney work load and worst casecan result in kidney failure. In some people, high protein intake has resulted in hypertension.
- Can dehydrate, especially during endurance activities if there is not higher fluid intake.
- May cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea due to free amino acids.
- Essential amino acids are imbalanced.
Micronutrients are also a huge part of nutrition. They are substances required or essential to the body in very small amounts, this includes both vitamins and minerals. Too much or too little interferes with normal bodily functions. It is difficult to consume excessive amounts through a typical diet, but it is possible to obtain too little. Vitamins are organic compounds that do not provide calories. There are two categories:
- Fat soluble vitamins-A, D, E, K; absorbed with dietary fat, stored in tissues, not excreted.
- Water soluble vitamins-all B, C; not stored in appreciable amounts, small amounts excreted each day.
Vitamins release energy from macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins), aid in tissue growth and repair, maintain and support reproductive function, and produce an immune response. While some functions are specific to one vitamin, other functions require several vitamins. Food preparation styles change the final amount of a vitamin in a food. This rings most true when cooking vegetables.
Vitamin C is most easily destroyed during cooking. Steps to increase vitamin retention:
- Avoid soaking veggies in water.
- Cook veggies in just enough water to prevent burning.
- Use shortest cooking time by cooking to a crisp and tender stage.
- Steaming and stir frying result in best vitamin retention.
- Use leftover cooking water in soups and sauces whenever possible to use the water soluble vitamins that were leached out.
- Cut and cook veggies shortly before serving or refrigerate in an air-tight storage container.
Minerals are inorganic compounds found in all body tissues. They account for 4-5% of a person’s total body weight. They are responsible for a variety of important physiological functions, such as regulation of fluid balance, conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and so on.
- Minerals-calcium, magnesium
- Trace minerals-zinc, copper, and iron—the body contains small amounts of them
- Electrolytes-sodium, potassium, and chloride (primary electrolytes)
The absorption of minerals can be influenced by: medications, body’s need for the mineral, chemical form of the mineral, amount of other minerals in diet, integrity of the intestinal tract, and other dietary constituents, such as dietary fiber, oxalates and phytates (bind minerals to make them less available for absorption; iron, calcium, and zinc). Vitamin C improves the absorption of calcium, iron, and zinc. The biggest things that cause the loss of vitamins and minerals are caffeine, aspirin, tobacco, alcohol, antibiotics, and stress. For a little more clarity on their importance, here’s a list on the functions related to physical activity that they are involved in:
- Production of energy from CHOs, fats,
- Formation of red blood cells, which
carry oxygen throughout the body to exercising muscles.
- Maintenance of healthy muscles and
- Recovery from exercise.
Don’t let the last part be overwhelming. If the complexities are too much, stick with the basics (first bullet list) and you will be fine. Eating out is a huge social activity for Americans. To stick to the nutritious guidelines remember that when you are not responsible for cooking your meals, the key is to eat a variety of foods. According to The U.S. Navy SEAL Guide to Fitness and Nutrition, the best options for eating out are:
- “Order a clear soup, tomato juice or V8 juice, steamed seafood, or fruit for an appetizer.”
- “Order a green salad with light dressingon the side. Avoid salads with cheese,
eggs, meat, bacon, or croutons. Avoid coleslaw or potato salad.”
- “Order broiled, roasted or baked lean meat, poultry or fish-even if the menu does not say broiled. Avoid casseroles and foods with heavy sauces.”
- “Order baked potato or plain rice-not pasta with sauces or fried or Delmonico potatoes.”
- “Do not order dessert until you have eaten your main course. If you are still
hungry, order sorbet, sherbet, frozen yogurt, ice milk, fruit, or angel cake.”
- “Order juices-they are high in CHOs.”
- “Eat a plain roll, breadsticks, or plain crackers rather than biscuits or croissants.
Try to avoid spreads completely or use sparingly.”
- “Minimize your nibbling on nuts, buttery crackers, potato and tortilla chips.”
- “Ask the waiter to serve your salad immediately; use the dressing sparingly.”
- “Trim all visible fat off meat.”
- “Limit portions of margarine, butter or sour cream.”
- “Moderate your intake of alcoholic beverages.”
Motivation is key in keeping up both the nutrition for your health and in keeping up an exercise regimen. According to The Complete Guide to Your Emotions and Your Health: Hundreds of Proven Techniques to Harmonize Mind & Body for Happy, Healthy Living, “survivors share three specific personality traits that appear to afford them a high degree of stress resistance: they are committedto what they do; they feel in control of their lives; and they see change as a challenge rather than a threat.” Motivation has its power, but gaining it can be difficult. I will leave you with a few tricks to keep the motivation up to run your life in a healthy direction:
- You are more likely to do something if someone else is counting on you.
- Groups are one of the best generators for regular motivation.
- The body needs 21 days in order to take a new behavior. Set small realistic goals that are easy to reach so that you cannot fail. One day and one step at a time.
- Flexibility is important. Errors do occur. No regimen should be so strict that there is
no room for diversion.
- If you feel good, and feel confident about yourself, you are less likely to take up old habits.
- Rehearse in your mind a positive outcome for yourself. Picture the new version of
- Success athletically is more than just strength and skill.
- “The key to effective weight loss: Love yourself and love your body” (Padus).
- “Physical losses can result in important gains-mentally, spiritually and emotionally” (Padus).
According to the U.S. Navy Seal Guide to Fitness and Nutrition, “protein needs are determined by age, body weight, and activity
Activity Level Protein Factor
Low to Moderate 0.5 grams
Endurance Training 0.6-0.8 grams ┐
Strength/Weight Training 0.6-0.8 grams ┘ If doing both, add together.
My Protein Requirements Are:
Body Weight x Protein Factor = Grams Per Day
According to the U.S. Navy Seal Guide to Fitness and Nutrition, “you should eat 2.5 to 4 grams of CHO per pound of body weight each day.”
2.5 x Body Weight = ______ grams of carbohydrates
4 x Body Weight = ______grams of carbohydrates
Your CHO needs are between ____ and ____ grams per day.
My Plate. United States Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web.
6 March 2012. <www.choosemyplate.gov>.
Patricia A., Anita Singh, and Pierre A. Pelletier. The U.S. Navy SEAL Guide
to Fitness and Nutrition. Skyhorse
Kelinson, Adam. The Athlete’s Plate: Real Food
for High Performance. Velo Press, 2009.
Marion. What to Eat. 1st Edition. North Point Press, 2006.
Emrika. The Complete Guide to Your Emotions and Your Health: Hundreds of
Proven Techniques to Harmonize Mind & Body for Happy, Healthy Living .
Revised Edition. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1992.
Foods Market: Selling the Highest Quality Natural & Organic Products.
Whole Foods Market IP, L.P., 2012. Web. 6 March 2012.