You are what you eat

September 04, 2009 06:28 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 09:37 am IST - Food, fitness

Let’s face it. What you eat and how much you eat can really make or break the effectiveness of your training programme.

It is necessary to orient sportspersons in fundamental nutrition concepts in relation to performance and fat loss. This is a concept that I learnt from sports nutritionist, Shiny Chandran. There are plenty of effective methods, but the performance nutrition method is simple, practical, and it works!

Goal-specific eating

There are two types of training goals: To build up (gain strength, size, speed, etc.) or to tear down (reduce body fat, cut weight, etc.). There are three types of diets — Those that cut calories; those that cut out fat; and those that cut out carbohydrates. For the most part, I don’t recommend any of them. Here’s why:

Calorie Restrictive Diets

There is a relationship between the calories you consume and the amount you burn a day. But, not all calories are created equal.

For instance, take two people of fairly equal size and fitness level. Allow them 3,000 calories a day and put them on the same training programme. One gets his calories from lean meats / fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes and brown rice, and the other from candy, ice cream and fast food. Who do you think will look and perform better? The first person. For, in calories, quality scores over quantity. Why not just cut the fat?

Too much fat in a diet is not good. But cutting out all fat is not a good idea either. If your current diet consists of 30 per cent (or more) fat, and you decide to cut it all out, you have eliminated a significant portion of your calorie intake. If you drop too many calories, the metabolism will slow down, and your body will start to feed off muscle tissue. Not good! And, if you become malnourished, you’ll have difficulty concentrating even on a simple conversation, forget hitting the gym or taking part in sports. Low Carbohydrate Diets

The human body is fuelled by glucose. Carbohydrates are more easily converted into glucose than protein or fat. One gram of glycogen holds 2.4 grams of water.

Little wonder that people who cut carbohydrates lose so much weight so fast. It’s more likely they lose water weight.

This is why just using the scale to gauge your progress is a bad idea. You burn glycogen throughout the day, and eating carbohydrates simply refuels your tank. If you stop refilling the tank, your body makes its own glycogen by breaking down muscle tissue.

Finally, cutting carbohydrates will cause you to go into Ketosis, a crisis reaction of the body due to lack of carbohydrates in the diet. It stresses the liver and causes destruction of muscle tissues. Also, when you cut carbohydrates, and resume eating them, your body has no idea how to process them and immediately turns them into triglycerides, a type of fat.

The solution

The long-term solution is to replace what you’re currently eating with better and more thermic foods that your body can use. A well-balanced meal consists of lean protein (eggs, chicken, fish, beef, low fat dairy, grams and dals), fibrous carbohydrate (fruits and vegetables) and low glycemic carbohydrate (sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)

Ideally, choose organic fruits and veggies, lean meats, fish, eggs, avoid processed foods, simple sugars, saturated fats and hydrogenated fats, and have five to six small meals a day.

To know if you’ve eaten enough, try this. If you’re hungry within an hour of a meal, you did not eat enough. And, if you feel full hours later, you overate.

To regulate metabolism — the speed at which your body burns the food you consume — focus on meal timing and frequency, thyroid function and body composition. Ideally, aim to increase muscle and lower body fat.

Finally, you need to understand what fat loss means. Body fat must be released from the adipose tissue in which it is stored. Eating high sugar foods prevents this. Fat is then sent to the muscle to be burned.

This is why strength training and increasing lean muscle tissue are crucial for fat loss.

(The writer is a CSCS(NSCA), C.H.E.K. and expert trainer)

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