Nutrition is key to optimal health. But why? There were so many things that confused me about nutrition while I was trying to increase my performance in the gym. It was hard to know which nutritional plan was best for me as a lifestyle. There are so many factors that I had to consider, which most of the stuff, I didn't know anything about... or worse, had misinformation on. I mean there are the myths around calories, carbs, sugar, protein, fat, insulin levels, blood sugar and much more. Why does this stuff even matter? If I just exercise for 3 hours a day, I will get slim and cut up, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case.
First off, what on earth is a calorie? People start counting calories as soon as they start wanting to lose weight! What?! Why? A calorie is a measurement of energy. We need energy to perform basic daily functions; therefore, we need a certain amount of calories a day. As active as most of us are, before we start cutting calories, we need look at the quality of our calories and if we are getting enough or too many calories. There is a fine line between calorie reduction to lose weight and the necessary energy you need to maintain CrossFit performance in the gym.
Now we have our macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Let's start with carbohydrates; In simplified terms, all carbohydrates are broken down into sugar when we digest them. Some sugars are better than others. Example: complex carbs (primarily vegetables) include nutrients, fiber, slow digestion rate and fill our stomachs faster so we don't over eat. While grain based carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates, they are not ideal in the sense that they provide little to no nutrients, very little fiber, are quickly digestion which produces a rapid high insulin response. Depending on your energy need will determine if you need calorie dense carbohydrates or not.
Protein. Protein is the building blocks to our muscles and tissues. Protein is broken down to create enzymes that help build and repair our body's cells, tissues and muscles. Though, it should not be forgotten: they need assistance with this process from enzymes. Where do we get enzymes? Carbohydrates.
Fat. Fat is another source of energy that helps us absorb certain vitamins and nutrients. We need fat to absorb the enzymes from carbs that help us breakdown the protein. Fat is our friend, not enemy. Fat balances some hormones, insulates organs and protects nerve endings. Fat also helps keeps us full and can add flavors to our meals. Of course there are better fats than others, so make the healthier choice and go with unsaturated fats.
Insulin the hormone is also part of nutrition. Insulin is released from the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar levels that is broken down from the food we ate and then is stored in our muscles and liver for energy when needed. When our muscles and liver are full, it is then stored in adipose tissue for later use. Insulin will be released whenever we eat, though the amount will be dependent on what which macronutrient we eat and how much. Since carbohydrates tend to release more insulin, it is always best to eat carbohydrates with a fat source to slow the release of insulin and regulate our blood sugar levels. Also, adding fat while ensure we don't overeat carbohydrates as fat provides the satiation filling.
Well there are some key points to nutrition that might help you make better decisions on nutrition. Again, this is an over-simplification of the information and consult your nutritionist/physician about nutritional changes.