Whether your goal is peak performance, weight management, or general health, there are basic nutrition guidelines that suit all situations. Without the right foundation, all the health promoting supplements and fancy nutrition schemes are irrelevant. In the words of Jillian Michaels, “Just work out, eat clean and don’t overeat. I promise you…it’s that simple.” Outlined below are three fundamental nutrition guidelines to follow regardless of your nutrition goals.
Make a Plan That Works for You
It is easy to get lost in all of the nutrition information and fads that flood the market. Nutrition fads come and go and often resurface again with different names. Proponents of each style of eating claim to have the secret to health, performance and longevity. The truth is, most sustainable nutritional approaches involve three things: they are (micro)nutrient dense, they involve a lot of variety and they are not overly dense in calories.
Nutritional trends typically do not last because their guidelines are not sustainable. Because of this, over 80% of people who engage weight loss diets are back to their previous weight, or higher, within a year of beginning the diet. The best nutritional plan for you is a plan you can stick with. Compliance is the most important component of any meal plan. This will often end up being a ‘flexible diet’ rather than an affiliation with a specific style of eating.
Eat Real Food
With the increasing ability to conveniently obtain food calories, it is important to make a conscious effort to eat ‘real food’ as often as possible. Supplements can undoubtedly serve a purpose in an effective nutrition plan, but supplements should supplement ‘real food’ rather than be a main source of nourishment. Supplements are now being made for just about every need, but the cofactors inherent in ‘real food’ are most often missing in food supplements. It is not just energy that we are trying to obtain when we eat, the cofactors involved (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, bacteria, etc.) are important for assimilating the food into our body and promoting optimal health.
A really simple example of using food instead of supplements is preparing your own snacks (nuts, fruit, veggies, etc.) instead of grabbing a snack bar the next time you’re on the run. The next time you reach for a snack bar on the store shelf, check the ingredients and where the calories are coming from. You will likely be surprised.
We all know that hydration is important for health and performance. In fact, our body needs appropriate fluid levels in order to support all of our bodily processes. Losing just 1% of your body weight in water can cause a 10-20% decrease in performance, including a significant decrease in clarity, focus, hand-eye coordination and endurance.
A general hydration guideline to follow is to always carry your water bottle with you. Sip as you see fit. If you are thirsty, it is a sign that you are below your ideal hydration level. If you are exercising, a general rehydration guideline is to consume 500-600 ml (16-20 oz) of water per pound of body weight lost after a round.
Every effective nutrition strategy begins with a simple, easy to follow plan. Once you have establish the plan for you, that follows the guidelines outlined above, you can get more detailed by tailoring your nutrition plan to best suit your health, wellness and performance goals.
If you have any questions about this or any other human performance related topics, feel free to connect with me at rmccain@.