I’m finally taking my Precision nutrition certification test today after MONTHS of studying! I feel pretty confident in my ability to pass, as I’ve been studying since September and locked myself in a dark room with only my text book and workbook for the past couple days…
I’ve learned many new things, and reinforced a lot of what I have learned over the years as a trainer.
I wanted to share with you some of the most important facts to remember when it comes to sports nutrition.
The term “sports nutrition” sounds pretty serious, but it doesn’t have to be. The scientific facts can help us all fuel our active bodies more efficiently and thus, feel better!
Some of these reminders might be common sense to you, but others may actually surprise you.
I hope that, either way, you find something that helps to hone your diet to one that fuels you and makes you feel powerful in your workouts and in everyday life!
1. Food is a combination of nutrients, NOT single nutrients.
This is the number 1 most important thing to remember: you are not eating nutrients, you are eating FOOD.
A lot of trainers, athletes, and even those that are simply watching their carb or fat intake can get way too obsessive about macronutrient ratios.
Know what foods make you feel powerful and strong, then focus on those! For most people, that includes lean proteins (chicken, turkey, fish), healthy fats (nuts, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, fish oil) and vegetables/fruits.
Some people do really well with whole grains, too, which leads us to our next topic…
It’s estimated that 75% of the population has some kind of food sensitivity. So even if you aren’t “allergic” to any food, you may not tolerate something as well as someone else.
A food intolerance or sensitivity is defined as a body’s averse reaction to certain foods.
Even if you like something, that doesn’t mean you should eat it.
For instance, I was a vegetarian for about 9 years. I survived mostly on grains, veggies and fruits for a long time. When I decided to give my new lifestyle (higher protein and healthy fats, lower carbohydrates) a shot, I was amazed at the way my body reacted! I didn’t feel bloated nearly as often, I stayed fuller longer, and it became easier to lean out without counting calories.
I say it all the time: every body is different. Do a science experiment on yourself: see what your body reacts to best!
3. Your body uses different fuel for different workouts
I realize this is more of a workout fact than a sports nutrition fact, but hear me out. This has to do with what macronutrients your body uses during certain exercises, which in turn should affect the way you eat before working out.
During high intensity, short duration workouts, the body breaks down carbs from stored glycogen in the muscles.
During low intensity, long duration workouts more fat breakdown occurs; more muscle glycogen depletes after more time. More available triglycerides and plasma-free fatty acids (released during activity) are used.
Knowing these facts makes it a ton easier to decide how to fuel your body before and after workouts.
Are you a sprinter, lifter, or prefer shorter, more intense workouts? Unless you’re an athlete gearing up for a track meet the next day, you don’t need to carb-load the night before! What’s important is the post-workout snack of a bit of whole grain carb and protein so that your muscle can refuel it’s glycogen stores and fully repair themselves. If you’re aiming for fat loss, however, consider making your post-workout carb a fruit or vegetable.
Are you a long distance runner, take long yoga classes, or hiker? You might benefit from a higher ratio of carbohydrate in your diet from whole grain sources. By keeping your carb stores high, you can run, hike, vinyasa longer without tiring out. The one drawback of this activity preference? You have to have fat to burn it, and that’s exactly what your body prefers to pull from for the long, slow workouts. ’Nuff said.
4. What is “anaerobic threshold?”
Anaerobic threshold is the point at which lactate begins to accumulate in the bloodstream; when body can’t remove lactate at rate that it’s released.
I’ve mentioned anaerobic threshold before. It’s the point you want to reach at the end of each sprint; it’s when you feel like your legs are going to fall off because they burn so badly.
This definition better explains that burn you feel when you really push a workout. By regularly working yourself to this point 1-2 x/week, you train your body to heighten the amount of activity you can take without burning out. By being able to do more without failing, you can get fitter faster. Muy bueno!
5. Whole foods or vitamins/supplements?
Whole foods, silly!
Research shows that vitamins and minerals from whole food sources deliver greater benefits than those from supplemental sources. Supplements can actually promote illness and disease if taken in excess or solely relied-upon.
You know how adamant about the whole-food-diet I am, but did you know that the only supplement I regularly take is fish oil?
The benefits of fish oil are stellar: protection from inflammation, improved fluidity of cells (so that nutrients can pass through more easily), and better brain function just to name a few.
I know of a few nutritionists who immediately recommend fish oil to new clients that are looking to lose weight. It supports many of the systems that will support you in your journey to weight loss as well.
Of course, if you are allergic or have an intolerance to fish or seafood, you’ll probably want to steer clear of this supplement.
I always make sure to get a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and protein sources, so I make sure to get my vitamins/minerals from the food I eat. Occasionally, I’ll drink a greens drink (SuperFood powder from Dr. Schultz is my favorite) if I’m feeling lethargic. It serves as a concentrated form of all those dark leafy greens you might be missing out on.
6. High carbohydrate diets increase fluid storage
For every gram of stored carb, 3-4 grams of water are also stored. You know what that means? Bloating, puffiness, tight pants, the works.
This explains why I would feel bloated the day after a dinner of whole wheat pasta or after a week of having cereal in the morning.
If you’re feeling puffy later in the day, try a couple weeks without any grains. You might be sensitive and not even know it!
Again, every body is different. If you don’t have this reaction, then don’t worry about it!
7. Save your muscles!
Pre-exercise protein consumption (with or without carbohydrates) can reduce the amount of muscle tissue used as a fuel source.
Yay! That means less muscle loss, more fat loss! Exactly what you want if you’re training for body composition, performance or health improvement… meaning EVERYONE.
8. Injured? Eat more.
When recovering from an injury, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR, or the calories your body burns in a resting state every day) can increase by 15-50%! That’s pretty extreme.
Depending on if it’s an ankle strain or major surgery, your body could need more than what you’re used to eating in order to recover to its best ability.
Now, if you sprain an ankle, don’t take this as an ok to go eat 15% more calories! If you’re not working out, you’re not burning those extra calories, so you’ll be just fine eating like you usually do.
If you got a kidney removed, however, you should probably adjust your diet… though I hope you’re never faced with that!
9. View food as energy, not a stressor
The principle that governs energy exchange is this:
Energy is not created or destroyed, but transferred between entities.
You are taking the energy from that chicken breast, that apple, that slice of cake, and converting it into YOU. Literally.
This is a good principle to keep in mind as you go through your day. Food is meant to nourish, sustain and fuel you. It shouldn’t stress you out! It’s your friend, not your enemy!
As always, feel free to ask any questions you may have here. Hopefully I’ll be qualified to answer them in a few hours!
Wish me luck on my test today! I’ll let you know how it goes!
If you need some more tips on eating right, check out Choose To Change Your Life In This Moment: How To Not Get Overwhelmed By Healthy Eating and How To Stop Eating & Start Listening.