Nutrition: Let’s start with the basics

By: Heather Nielson

I’m right in the middle of reading another ‘fad’ diet/nutrition book but not because I want to follow the lemmings down another road of house-hold-name diet trends but out of pure curiosity and because the scientist in me believes there is truth and good data behind most well thought out and researched theories. Data is data. How it gets interpreted over time and the additional information added that helps further explain things we don’t understand is what science is and I’m a life-long student. This diet-fad book I’m reading is ‘The Zone’ and was written 20 years ago. I read the Paleo diet book and the Paleo diet for athletes about 7 years ago and as a biologist with a nutrition background, that made a lot of sense to me and have since been following more or less a paleo diet. Turns out, the macro nutrient recommendations given in The Zone are nearly identical to the Paleo Diet, with a few minor details. However, the authors give their recommendations for different reasons. Is one more correct than the other? Are the reasons one gave wrong and the other right?

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A winner never stops asking questions and never stops learning. Diet and nutrition are another ‘game’ we play that all of us want to WIN at; and like a training plan, you have to try things and do what works for you, but never stop asking questions and try not to get stuck in one eating mode because just like your training, if you keep doing the same thing, you’ll plateau. When you start your base period of training, most often your coach will begin with the basics: endurance, some neuro muscular drills, form, cadence, maybe some gym work; so with nutrition, let’s start with the basics.

In truth, most of us know how to eat healthy in general and we know when we’re not eating healthy. We also don’t want to eat healthy 100% of the time because we want to enjoy life with a glass of wine, some ice cream or the basket of fries; and why not?! Life’s too short! You can’t win at anything if you don’t also learn balance. It’s not realistic to expect to eat 100% healthy 100% of the time; but do you really know how much of your diet is healthy? I’m not suggesting you download the latest ap and start measuring your food and counting your calories and macro nutrients from now until the end of time BUT it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try it for a few days or a week just to see what you’re really eating. Eat normally and pay attention to the trends. If you want to start making changes based on what you notice in your diet then I would strongly suggest making one or two small changes at a time, wait for a few weeks, see what happens then try changing something else. Long term habits are built slowly and a ‘diet’ should be one you can follow realistically for the rest of your life.

Here are some basics to look for:

  • How much added sugar are you really ingesting? Where can you cut back?
  • How big (calories) are each of your meals? Do you eat most of your calories during the early/mid day or late at night?
  • Are your weekend splurges too much that they negate all that discipline during the week? (One cookie is probably fine! The whole box…..)
  • How much alcohol are you drinking in an average week really? (That stuff turns to fat so easy)
  • What does your macro nutrient profile look like? Could you use more protein? Less carbs?

Here are some small changes you could start making:

  • Make sure there’s at least one serving of fruit &/or vegetable every time you eat a meal
  • Make sure your snacks are not high-glycemic foods that can quickly turn to sugar and therefore fat (there are some nifty glycemic index aps)
  • Make sure most of your food is whole food and not processed
  • If you want that cookie or candy bar, that’s ok but time it with your training so that your body uses up the calories as quickly as they’re being dumped into your blood stream, otherwise they’ll turn to fat quicker
  • Start eating smaller portions and snacking more often so that your blood sugar stays more level and you start to feel fuller more often and quicker

Start with those basics and see what happens! If you hit another plateau then it’s time to start asking more questions and keep winning!

If you’re interested in hearing about another topic, feel free to reach out!¬†I’m also available for coaching and guest posts on training, racing and women’s cycling. Twitter & Instagram @ridempowered¬†