When it comes to training, the QUALITY of the foods we eat matter. This means eating foods that arenâ€™t engineered in a lab or covered with harmful pesticides, and finding foods that have the most nutrient bang per calorie to ensure we are getting all of our nutrient needs met while also not overeating calories.
Why focus on quality?
Iâ€™m not a huge fan of having people focus on calories, because although it is a piece of the dietary guidelines, most people struggle to eat ENOUGH calories when they are eating nutrient dense foods. In fact, thereâ€™s been research studies comparing people eating a whole food based diet vs the standard american diet in which they were trying to see exactly how much both groups would have to eat to maintain their weight. The funny part of this study is that many of the participants in the whole foods group dropped out of the study because they were struggling to reach the calorie requirements per day to maintain their weight. (Studies linking nutrient density toÂ athletic performanceÂ or weight loss).
Needless to say for most athletes, itâ€™s more important to focus on getting enough NUTRIENTS than focusing on calories.
How do you do this?
Eating a diet of mostly whole foods.
What exactly IS a whole food?
A whole food defined is a, â€œfood that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.â€
In simpler terms, look for things that arenâ€™t in boxes. Nothing with multiple ingredients (especially foreign ingredients) is going to be as nutrient dense as creating your meals from scratch. Whole foods include things like produce (fruits and veggies), meats (that arenâ€™t pre-seasoned), herbs, nuts without added oils, and starches that arenâ€™t super refined (whole white rice, brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole oats, quinoa, etc.).
How do you add more whole foods to your diet?
-Shop on the outside areas of the supermarket.
-Pick foods that are perishable.
-Avoid Fast Food when possible.
-Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep.
Some processed foods you may want to eliminate from your diet altogether:
-Sugar.Â Although sugar used around workouts can provide benefits for athletes, it wreaks havoc on the body and hormone systems most other times and is one of the biggest contributors to weight gain (especially around the belly).
–Dairy. Experiment with this. While about half of the population can tolerate dairy (and Iâ€™d recommend the organic, raw kind when possible) — many people suffer with symptoms of lactose intolerance without realizing it bc they seem â€œnormalâ€ or have gotten used to feeling crummy. Â For athletes, it is important to remember that this includes your WHEY or CASEIN protein. Iâ€™d recommend experimenting with rice or hemp/plant based proteins if the iso-whey pure brands still cause you to feel gassy or bloated.
–Gluten. For similar reasons as dairy, you may want to experiment with eliminating this to see if you notice any changes in your energy levels, inflammation, hormones, or in your digestion. Because of the way itâ€™s genetically modified today, more and more people are suffering issues due to gluten than they realize.
Overall, itâ€™s OKAY to have a few processed foods in your day. Moderation is keyâ€¦ but donâ€™t let it be the rule, let it be the exception. Processed foods can really inhibit an athlete from reaching their full potential. While your body is detoxing from all of the â€œforeign chemicalsâ€ and not benefiting from the nutrients from whole foods, your body is missing out on having the building blocks AND energy to improve your energy levels in the gym and increase your ability to make and keep lean muscle.
This week, focus on eliminating these foods as much as possible. I typically recommend aiming for a diet thatâ€™s about 70-80% whole food, and 20-30% processed food. Enough nutrient dense foods to keep your body well fueled, and enough flexibility to decrease stress and let you relax in the real life situations when whole foods simply arenâ€™t an (appealing) option.
*** The information above is not to be replaced by medical advice. If you have any qâ€™s or feedback please e-mail Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org***