My Guide to Nutrition.

Day 22

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22.
The learners in one of my music groups told me Taylor Swift is old news. I
guess I’m becoming old news too.

I went to my Nans for dinner last night,
usual for a Wednesday. Nan and I always have a nice meal and a good chat,
followed by a delightful pudding. Last night we had Lasagna followed by apple
strudels and ice cream (my favourite). It got me thinking about nutrition and
the fact that I should probably post something about it on the blog. 

(My work lunch wrap’s meal prep situation: I do this every Sunday.) 


Last year I made the decision to do extensive research into nutrition and
educate myself, it’s something that goes along nicely with being a fitness
addict and most would probably argue that it’s a crucial factor to it all. I’d
go as far to say that I think absolutely everybody should be taught the basics
of nutrition; it should sit in the school curriculum alongside Maths and
English.

The truth is, regardless of if you’re a training athlete or a completely
sedentary unit, nutrition is one of the biggest contributing factors to your
everyday wellbeing. It should be no surprise to anyone that if you eat right
you feel good, you sleep better, you have more energy, your mental health stays
more intact, you look better, your brain functions more coherently, the list
goes on and on. You quite literally are what you eat.

DISCLAIMER: When I say I decided to
research and educate myself, I refer to reading accredited sports science
journals and books that have a long list of appendices to back up the facts.
Instagram and the internet are full of ‘nutrition guides’ that include a lot of
false/non-science backed theories. Don’t believe everything you read on the
internet. Rule number one of life. The second disclaimer is that, once you do
educate yourself on nutrition you become more aware of how wrong a lot of
people have it; this can become incredibly frustrating in day to day
conversation.

(What a vast majority of my meals look like)


Nutrition basics – Benedict’s version:

Now, the few principals below are very basic (think key-stage 2 maths rather
than university level). Remember that nutrition is a vast deep ocean with lots
of intricate details that even human beings have yet to figure out, my little
blog post is the shallowest of paddles within the vast sea of food.  

Principal number one: Calories.

Ah the Calorie, a word that gets thrown around like a wild fire these days. The
calorie was actually invented as a way to gage the use of heat energy in
relation to steam trains, or something like that? Anyway, the basic principles
of calories are this: All foods contain calories. That’s right, pretty much everything
except for water has a caloric index.

The human body does one of three things
with calories:
– it burns it – this doesn’t just happen in exercise or movement; your body
uses calories to fuel your organs, beat your heart, blink your eyelids, etc.
– it absorbs it – this relates to repair and growth, not just in your arms
after you’ve smashed dozens of bicep curls but the repair of any muscular
damage, including that back pain you keep complaining about.
– it stores it – dependent on a few factors it might store it in the overhead
locker of the cabin for quick and easy access or maybe it will go with the
checked baggage for use later on. Yes, I’m comparing the body to a plane.

Depending on what you do on a day-to-day
basis, what you’ve done every day since you were born (pretty much), as well as
a few genetic/hormone factors, decides how your body uses the calories you give
it.

The calorie continued…

In regards to weight management (losing
weight or gaining weight) the simple equation is:
Consume more calories in a day than your body uses in a day = weight gain.
Consume less calories in a day than your body uses in a day = weight loss.

I use the word weight and not fat because gaining weight is exactly what you do
if you want to build muscle, gaining weight isn’t necessarily negative or
positive and it certainly doesn’t mean getting fat. To figure out how many
calories your body uses on a daily, it is just simple maths equation. You can
google search ‘calorie calculator’ and get a rough estimate or the other way is
to get a fitness watch/band that gives you a rough estimate and will even vary
depending on your heart rate and movement.

At some point in the future, I think that all human beings will most probably
be implanted with a chip that gives you your exact caloric expenditure, heart
rate and other important health related facts. We’ll all be able to adequately
fuel ourselves for the activities we want to do. Until then, your Fitbit will do.  

Okay, so that’s the very basics of calories, now the next principal breaks it
down a little further but I think it’s important to be aware that this second
principal is crucially important before you go off and consume your daily
caloric intake in breakfast cereals or whatever your food preferences are.

(I eat Porridge every single day for breakfast and have done for about 5 years.)

Principal two: Macronutrients.

This is the breakdown of calories into the 3 main food groups: Carbohydrates,
Protein and Fats. A couple of things about food groups; regardless of if you’re
an athlete, gym rat, body builder or a sedentary male that does nothing but play
Fortnite – your body requires you to
hit adequate macronutrients! The problem is, most people don’t. Which is why a
vast amount of the population are walking around with headaches, feeling tired 24/7,
stressed and full of pains and dents even when doing very little.  

A few things:
– Carbohydrates get a bad name because sugar falls into the carbohydrate
bracket. However, not all carbohydrates are high in sugar and therefore should
not be avoided just because you saw in a magazine how a low carb diet might get
rid of your midriff in 2 weeks (it won’t).

– Dietary fat (as in the macronutrient) is not the same as fat stored in the
human body. Fat stored in the body is excess glycogen that can come from any of
the food groups. If you eat foods high in fats, they aren’t necessarily bad for
you. Yes, that’s right, high fat ice cream or foods with loads of butter in
them won’t make you fat – eating excessive amounts of any food group (going
above your daily caloric expenditure) will mean your body stores the excess
foods in your glycogen stores i.e. body fat.

– Protein: foods high in protein are the new trend; every other wrapper has
‘high protein’ on it. Whilst it is important for everybody to eat adequate
amounts of protein, it should be noted that foods high in protein (such as
meats, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds) don’t need to state that they’re high in
protein – don’t be fooled by marketing. Some of these ‘high protein’ treats
might be super high in sugar and processed foods that will leave you with
nothing but a stomach ache.

I use MyFitnessPal daily to measure my macronutrients and make sure I’m eating
adequate amounts of everything. It’s a very useful app and I would recommend it
– even if you just trial it to see if you’re eating what you think you’re
eating. I think most people would be surprised what a lot of foods are made up
of.

After tallying your macronutrients for a while, you start realizing how
misunderstood a lot of foods are. Foods that you’ve been replacing with what
you thought were ‘healthy’ options you suddenly realise are quite functional
and foods that you consume in excess because they appear ‘good for you’ aren’t
necessarily doing a lot for your body. Power is in the hands of the individual
who has the knowledge, or something like that. 

(I gave up Diet Coke recently)



Principal 3: Food = Function.

My number one rule with food is to look it as function. You eat to fuel
yourself. My body takes a beating everyday from running between 8 and 12 miles
6 times a week. My strength training means I benefit from a dinner high in lean
proteins after my workout. It is important that I fuel right in order to stay
free of injury and function as the athlete I am. Furthermore, I am a human
being who needs to keep my immune system operational, my mental health balanced
and my internal organs pinky-fresh. Functional whole foods will do this for me,
highly processed nutritionally hollow foods won’t – simple as.

On a more basic level, I look at food and how it can benefit me. If it’s not
got a lot of nutritional benefactors then I’m not that interested. Let’s take a
burger for example; a lot of people would say a burger is ‘unhealthy’ or a
‘cheat’ meal. However, I’d argue that a burger is just a normal functional food:
The bun gives you adequate carbohydrates, the meat is a source of protein,
cheese and/or sauce for fats and then the salad elements make up micronutrients
(which is posh for vitamins and minerals). Granted, if the burger comes with
deep fried meat or lavished in oils then it’s caloric content will be higher
but it still doesn’t mean my body can’t use it to aid in my everyday
functionality. You could feasibly eat a burger for every meal of the day, every
day and you could hit your macro-nutritional and caloric needs, no problem.

Foods that I would argue are pointless and have no functionality are as
follows:
Sugary drinks – during a marathon coca-cola can be an ideal way to keep your
glycogen levels up whilst you plaster through all your deposits – it’s a good
way to get quick release sugars into your system. So, unless you’re in a hypoglycemic
state then I would argue that coca-cola is pretty pointless and shouldn’t be
included in the everyday diet.

Biscuits: Again, made up of quick release sugar that unless your body is in
dyer need of a glycogen hit, then there are no nutritional benefactors to a
biscuit. You can eat an entire chicken breast for what 3 digestives give you in
calories and that chicken breast will give you loads more nutritional
benefactors.

Nibbles: This is a personal preference but
I really don’t enjoy nibbles or ‘picky’ snacks. Simply because, if you spend
your day snacking through share-bag crisp packets and then you tally up the
caloric intake – more often than not you’ll find that it’s not done a lot for
your macronutrients and the caloric intake is the same as another full meal. I’d
rather eat the additional meal i.e. the apple strudel and ice cream.

I am by no means qualified in nutrition and
might even have got a few things wrong myself but I do exist with a healthy
relationship towards food. I eat 5 servings of lasagna and 1.5 apple strudels
and maintain abdominal muscles but more importantly I also feel no remorse when
I do indulge. I don’t eat like a hamster the rest of the time; I eat big meals
full of wholesome and good ingredients, which means I stay fit and healthy, I
have a good mental health balance, I’m not full of aches and pains, getting
daily headaches and I sleep like a log almost every night. It is a shame we
live in a society that hasn’t got much of a clue about food and I am forever
getting frustrated when I hear people feeling guilty when they have a nice
dessert or go for pizza. That said, I’m not going to tell you what to do and I
do believe that if you’ve found a system that works for you then stick to it.
Do what makes you happy.

Anyway, I’m bored of talking about it.

See ya tomorrow.
BG.

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