Nutrition has a great impact on our overall fitness. Using food as medicine has become a popular theme for improving general health.
There are two types of nutrition:
- General Nutrition
It is the process of obtaining the food necessary for health and growth, i.e. using nutrition to keep you alive and functioning.
- Optimal Nutrition
Eating the right amounts of nutrients on a proper schedule to achieve the best performance and longest possible lifetime in good health, i.e. using nutrition to maximize health, happiness and wellbeing.
Optimal nutrition can reduce the risks of developing diseases and disorders like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It helps to reduce fat mass and gain muscle mass. It also helps to improve joint health and support growth and development as well as cognitive functions like focus, and quick decision-making skills. It also improves the exercise capacity, and reduces the risk of injury. Importantly, the quality of sleep can be improved.
The Principles of Optimal Nutrition
- Eating Schedule
It is not that the schedule you follow, it is the consistency you maintain that is important, i.e. whatever schedule you choose, make it consistent. Pick a routine you know you can follow on a day-to-day basis.
- Key Nutrients
The key nutrients to include in your meals are:
They are the building blocks of our body (muscle, bones, organs, tissue, brain) and can also serve as a fuel source.
Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues.
Increases muscle mass and strength.
Increases fat burning and boosts metabolism.
It keeps the body healthy and strong, and supports growth and development.
Carbohydrates provide energy for daily tasks and exercise, and are the primary fuel source for your brain’s high energy demands. The body breaks down or converts most of the carbohydrates into the sugar glucose (which is the main energy source), and it is absorbed in the bloodstream, and with the help of insulin it travels into the cells of the body where it can be used for energy. Carbohydrates provide soluble and insoluble fibers that support gut health and cardiovascular health, and also help in digestion by providing our intestine with nutrients for the good bacteria.
- Healthy Fat
Healthy fat supports joint health and it has anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces the risk of arthritis and other chronic joint issues, enhances cognitive function and thereby keeps the brain healthy. It enables the body to absorb essential vitamins (A, D, E, K).
- Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants
Vitamins and minerals support every vital function in the body. They keep the immune system strong and healthy, keep diseases away, heal wounds and repair cellular damage. Antioxidants help to reduce inflammation which is the leading cause of many diseases. Powerful antioxidants in leafy greens and vegetables remove harmful chemicals and thereby help to detoxify the body. Antioxidants protect your cells from free radicals, which may play a role in cancer, heart disease and other diseases. It also prevents a chemical process called oxidation which damages cells and can lead to the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Include all the key nutrients in every meal. It helps to improve health, performance and day to day functioning.
- Food Selection
|Lean Meats, Dairy & Plant Proteins||Grains||Fruits &Vegetables||Nuts, Seeds &Oils|
These Protein, Carb and Fat food sources will provide the vitamins and minerals needed for the body. The foods that contain antioxidants include cranberries, red grapes, peaches, cherries, orange, mango, watermelon, onions, garlic, carrots, spinach, eggplant etc. When building out a meal, getting something from each one of these categories ensures that by the end of the day you will achieve the nutrient targets.
The human body is 75% water. Small changes in hydration can impact the body. Proper hydration is one of the most important aspects of healthy physical activity.
Hydration is important
- To regulate the body temperature
- To keep joints lubricated
- To prevent infections
- To keep organs functioning properly
- To improve sleep quality
Dehydration can cause
- Impaired cognitive function
- Reduced athletic performance
- Joint and Muscle pain
- Best fluid sources
- Coffee/tea (no sugar/cream)
- Lemon water
- Unsweetened iced tea
- Sweetened breakfast cereals
- White bread
- Fired, grilled or broiled food
- Pastries, cookies
- French fries and potato chips
- Sugary drinks
- Processed meats
- Diet soda
To know your daily requirement of fluid source, you divide your weight in pounds by 2. For instance, if you are 150 pounds you should consume 75 oz of calorie-free fluid every single day.
Foods You Should Avoid to Stay Healthy
Be consistent in your diet. Choose the proper foods and consume the right portion size. Make sure that you are hydrated throughout the day.