Wednesday, September 12, 2007

0 Nutrition Tip #1: And Now A Word (Finally!) On Nutrition


Since this blog is supposed to be about nutrition as well as fitness, I guess I better get writing about healthy eating & all manner of related subjects. (Yes, I know, this post is long overdue.)

So, let me first start out by saying that I've posted many healthy, low-fat recipes on my food blog, Cook. Eat. Drink. Blog. Now, while I'm not trying to cop out of writing about nutrition, I do feel that there could be a lot of possible overlap between these two sites, which I'd like to try to avoid.

So, in my running blog, I'd like to mostly focus on food/nutrition topics which enhance runners' performance. I'll give you general nutrition tips, as well as specific guidelines which have worked for me.

While I know a hell of a lot about nutrition & healthy eating, I will state for the record that I'm not a certified nutritionist. So, as a legal disclaimer, I would advise that, before taking any of the advice I've offered here, that you first consult a physician &/or nutritionist, regardless of whether or not you have any known health problems. Also, please consult a health professional in the event you have questions as to whether this blog's recommendations or eating strategies will work specifically for you.

Now, that the legal stuff is out of the way, I'd like to talk about some excellent nutrition strategies for maintaining a healthy diet. I'm sure you may've heard some of these before, but they are nonetheless useful & important, so I will mention them here in this post:

(1) Eat 5-6 small meals a day at regular intervals. This is not just a good thing to do if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic. It's a generally recommended strategy for maintaining control of your appetite & blood sugar levels.

Helpful tips: I usually follow the pattern of "breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack." Also, if I know I'm going to be exercising in the evening, I try to ensure that my exercise is spaced no more than 45 minutes before or after dinner, to maximize the thermic effect of food & thus, my body's fat-burning potential. Also, it's best to have more space (i.e., a minimum of atleast 4 hours) between dinner & bedtime, because the body will cool down during sleep & will lose some of its calorie-burning power that would typically accompany the thermic effect of food intake.

(2) Drink 8 cups (i.e.,1 cup = 8 oz.) of water a day, minimum. Again, common sense dictates that drinking water is necessary for avoiding dehydration, but also is excellent for getting rid of impurities in the body as well as helping to maintain a clear complexion. It's also an excellent aid for managing hunger, but should not be relied upon as the sole tool for doing so.

(3) Eat high fiber foods. Fiber helps give you that full feeling (i.e., satiety), and thus, logically helps with appetite control. Specifically, there are plenty of veggies, fruits, & grains, which will fit this bill. Also, please see the post I wrote on my foodie blog, Tip #1: The Easy & Painless Way to Get Your Daily Dose of Fiber (Without Cringing!).

(4) Take your vitamins. Unless you are unlike most humans & are actually getting the FDA's total recommended daily allowance of vitamins & minerals via your diet, (which is highly unlikely even if you are following the most nutritionally sound food plan in the world!), you should probably be taking a multi-vitamin supplement.

In addition to a multivitamin, I generally recommend taking turmeric, lycopene, lutein, & grape seed extract. For people who are worried about their joints, MSM supplements can help as well. For the ladies, I'd like to particularly recommend taking the most gentle, gastrointestinally non-irritating form of over-the-counter iron supplements, Ferrous Bis-Glycinate, (i.e., unless you are menopausal) & B complex vitamins (B1, B2, B6, B12, etc.). B-complex vitamins are also recommended for men as well. Additionally, men can specifically benefit from taking lutein, lycopene, selenium, and saw palmetto, all of which contribute to good prostate health.

Warning: I would exercise caution in taking unusual supplements like ginkgo biloba or ginseng, as I've read some slightly disturbing things (i.e., FDA concerns, etc.) surrounding these supplements. I would generally check with FDA regulations to view warnings about any experimental "vitamins," "minerals," or "health supplements" before deciding whether or not to consume them. Also, take a look at this Medscape article about potentially hazardous supplements.

Also, please be aware that the ingestion of certain supplements can decrease the effectiveness of various medications. Again, please consult a medical doctor or other certified health professional for further information as it applies to your particular health situation.

(5) Limit, or better yet, entirely eliminate intake of synthetic food substances & compounds which trigger increased appetite or sudden/severe changes in blood sugar. This list includes caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, transfats, etc.

If you are a sweet tooth, & can't completely give up refined sugars, then atleast try to limit your refined sugar-eating to sucrose, & at that, try to eat it in moderation.

(6) Develop realistic, measurable guidelines & coping strategies that allow you to successfully work through your weak moments. This way, you can have a plan of action that builds on your successes, while still satisfying the occasional food or beverage craving. (See my next post for more specifics on this.)

(7) Keep your fat intake to about 28%. More fat than this, & you're probably going to be doing yourself a real disservice to both your health & your weight maintenance plan, especially over the long-term. So, keep a close watch on your fat intake. Enough said, because most of you already know the reasons why.

(8) Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods & activities into your diet, & reduce dietary sources of inflammation. Your immune system's health relies on this very principle!

Inflammation in the body is linked to chronic disease (coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, DM, HTN, osteoporosis, macular degeneration, sleep apnea, arthritis, Parkinson's, Alzeheimer's, etc.). There's also a connection between inflammation and several other problems (infection, injury/trama, allergies, high triglycerides, exposure to toxins, free radicals, insulin resistance, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, etc.).

Now, just think of the implications of what I just wrote; that's enough of a good reason to modify your diet right then & there!

I dislike using scare tactics to get people's attention, but the good news is this: If you reduce or eliminate pro-inflammatory foods (i.e., animal/dairy fats found in butter, cheese, & meat, foods with hydrogenated oils like most coconut & palm oils, margarine varieties, chips, & fried foods, etc.), and simultaneously incorporate regular exercise & the proper balance of Omega-3's, 6's, & 9's into your diet, you can significantly reverse/reduce the amount of existing inflammation already in your body, &/or prevent major inflammation in your body altogether.

So, the next obvious question is, where do I find those highly useful & all-important Omegas & how do I incorporate them into my nutritional plan?! Since this is a long & complicated topic, I promise to answer these questions in another, separate post. So please stay tuned.


Of course, this is by no means an all-inclusive or exhaustive list of nutrition strategies. But following these tips will definitely get you headed in the right direction, especially if you want to maximize your overall health & energy reserves for peak running performance.
Please pardon the marathon blogging session (pun intended). (I feel like my brain has been dumped onto a platter.)

I hope you've enjoyed this extensive treatise on nutrition, and have gotten a lot of useful tips from the information contained in this post.

Signing off now & wishing all of you a good night/morning!

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