No matter what age we are, Good nutrition is vital to your health. It's so important to understand the foods that we eat fuel our bodies, our overall health and even affect our mental and emotional states. Trust me. I've experienced this first hand.
After eating healthy for so long, when I even eat a piece of cake during a birthday celebration, or even country fried steak for breakfast - I can tell my mood changes, I feel uncomfortable and just yuck. Compared to when I eat healthy, say veggies, fruit and my Shakeology for breakfast - I feel energized, ready to take on the day and surprisingly leaner. Not to mention, when I eat healthier, I feel like my fitness goals are more within reach than when I eat junk food.
Even though food will be able to give you calories, it's important to understand not all calories are equal. This is especially important to be able to understand this as you are on your weight loss journey, fitness journey or even just trying to make healthier choices to reach your own fitness goals.
Let’s explore exactly what that means and the difference between filling and fueling our bodies.
Filling versus fueling your body
As I mentioned, nutrition is really about giving your body the nutrients that it needs to function well rather than just eating because you are hungry. - Been here too! I love to eat sweet treats because I wanted a sweet snack before dinner. But, I wasn't thinking about what my body actually needed. I was thinking "I need a sweet treat before dinner and this piece of chocolate will be satisfying". In reality, these types of sweet treats were just detrimental for my training sessions and fitness goals.
I know my food choices weren't exactly ideal because I wasn't making the right food choices based on what my body needed. The same will go for any unhealthy food. For example, my husband loves Taco Bell. He goes out to the drive thru most of the time after work because he is hungry and wants to stop the hunger. He isn't making food choices based on what's healthy for his body either.
Making choices like these won't give us the same nutrients and benefits as a homecooked meal, or a healthy snack such as a apple or bananas.
Eat nutrient-dense foods
When we talk about nutrient density, what we are referring to is the amount of nutrients a certain food contains per calorie. Nutrient-dense foods provide higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds per gram than less nutrient-dense foods. Your goal should be to have plenty of nutrient-dense foods in your diet. It's not only important for your fitness goals, but also just important for your health.
Examples of nutrient-dense foods include:
Fruits and vegetables
Whole grains and legumes
Fish, poultry, and meat
Nuts and seeds
There's a lot of temptation out there when we go to the store for our weekly shopping needs. An we for sure want to avoid foods that have a low nutrient density. It's totally okay if you want to eat them in moderation, so you don't have to exclude them in your diet.
Some foods in this category are:
Pasta, bread, and crackers
Cookies, pies, and cakes
Bacon, sausage, and deli meats
Creating a well-balanced nutritional plan
I think I had mentioned this above, but the foods that we eat will affect our mood, energy level and basically our health all around. That is one reason why it's so important to be able to eat the right foods in our diets. We can do this by developing a plan with our own personalized goals and health needs.
During my time studying nutrition when I was studying for my Personal Training Certification, I had learned a lot about myself in the process and how to obtain and crush my fitness goals. I had learned that now matter what I had read about recommended diets and how important it was to consume carbs, my body didn't allow me to eat much carbs.
If I ate more than 1 cup of carbs a day my body would turn on me and become very sluggish, I would feel like I had brain fog all day and most importantly I didn't have the energy I needed to function on a daily basis. This way of eating really killed my motivation to crush my fitness goals and loose the weight I wanted. I had learned that my nutrition needs were different than the typical diet that was recommended out there.
I had to learn that it was okay for me to adjust my diet and the way that I ate to fit my own personal needs. If you have experimented with certain diets and eating habits and you feel like they aren't working for you, it's okay to change it up and personalize it for you. After all, you are the one who is wanting to see results, you are the one living in your body and you are the one in control.
If you are ever unsure of what foods that you need to eat, or if you are getting the right nutrition, you can always consult a registered dietician to point you in the right direction.
Importance of Macro Nutrients
When we talk about nutrients, it's so important to be able to be aware of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and focus on that for optimum health.
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for most cells in the body. Carbs are our main energy source and are so important for fueling the body and brain, protecting our muscles and feeding the bacteria in the gut.
Carbohydrate-rich foods include starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes), breads, pasta, rice and other grains
Healthier carbohydrates are in whole, unprocessed versions of these foods: veggies and fruit.
Proteins are so important for our bodies. There are Proteins in every one of our cells. Proteins are also used to build and repair muscle. This is why it's so important to be able to have a good post-workout meal or shake after a hard workout.
Protein-rich foods include meat, chicken and fish; tofu; eggs; dairy products; nuts; and beans
Healthier protein foods are the above foods in their most whole, natural forms.
Fats are also necessary for every cell in our bodies. Sometimes fats get a bad reputation, but in reality, they help us absorb some vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) and help regulate hormones.
Fats are found in meat, fish, chicken and dairy; oils; spreads; and nuts and seeds.
Healthier fats are olive, avocado and seed oils; nuts; seeds; and some dairy.
We also need some micronutrients from our food. It's so important not to be able to be so hung up on getting the right macros that you forget about mico nutrients. In order to help you track, I would suggest using an app like MyFitnessPal. I've used MyFitnessPal for oh so many years. I love this app and wouldn't think about switching to another one. They make food logging super easy. There are really so many benefits to using this app that there's just too many to list. You can try it out for yourself!- Trust me, you won't be disappointed!
Food As Fuel
You fuel your body with every kind of food. And the great part about it is that YOU get to choose the types of foods you use as fuel, YOU get to choose how you feel. The foods that we put into our body is more than "just food" - it affects our mood, our personality and performance. The more we pay attention to the food that we put into our bodies, the better food choices that we can make, the better we will feel and the more energy we will have.
The best fuel for you may not be the same as your best friend’s or your mom. If you don't know what kinds of foods your body does well on, you can always experiment with different diet types. Some people do great with less carbs, some people do great with more fats and proteins and some do well if they eat small meals every few hours.
All in all, it's so important to remember that there are so many foods that are labeled as "unhealthy" and can make you gain weight or slow down your energy level. Most foods that do this are highly processed, packaged or high in salt. Really, the best way to break away from these unhealthy foods is to make slow switches, practice mindful eating and even quite cold turkey.
No matter what route you take, remember YOU can do it. YOU can be on the road to making healthier eating choices and really crush your fitness goals.
Learning how to complete exercises with proper form and getting the proper nutrition is so essential to building the body you want. Weather you are a seasoned gym goer, or a newbie, we have tips and trick for everyone on their fitness and health journey.
That’s why we send out weekly fitness and nutrition tips in our newsletter.
You can subscribe easily, right here!