Controlling your nutrient intake by way of calculating your macronutrient (macro) or caloric intake undoubtedly helps to ensure you’re eating enough to support your levels of activity while preventing excess body fat, if you have the right mindset. There are an array of methods to determine those numbers, but today I’d like to touch on two ways of managing those numbers.
Prospective management involves calculating your macro/caloric intake numbers and then ensuring that your food is weighed and counted before you consume it. Aside from the calculation, this of course requires preparing meals and snacks ahead of time, having a food scale in the kitchen, and knowing how many of each type of macro you’ll be consuming for a particular amount of food.
With retrospective management you calculate how many macros/calories you consumed after having the food. As the day goes on you try to meet your intake requirements based on what you have already eaten and what you ‘have left’ to eat. In this instance you do still need to calculate your intake numbers in advance and have that plugged into an app or at the very least a spreadsheet, and you do still need to use a resource that provides the nutritional information for the food you’re eating.
As with everything, there are pros and cons to both methods. With prospective management you know what you’ve got to eat and you have either have it prepared in advance or you have your plate on the scale while dishing your food up. You’re less likely to eat more than you should. But, that does require some ‘work’ on your behalf.
There’s less prep work with retrospective nutrition management. The work comes in ensuring that you log the food you ate after every meal and snack. The downside is that you might end up with a big deficit in one of your macronutrients at the end of the day. You then end up ‘making it up’ with convenient sources of food, and convenient is rarely healthy.
A big plus to both methods is that they teach you about portion control. You eventually learn how to eyeball your portions and you also get better at listening to your body–you learn to eat when you hungry and stop eating before consuming too much. More importantly, both methods have the potential to work.
It all comes down to you, though. Which method suits your lifestyle and personality traits better? The better the fit, the more likely you are to sustain the habits. They aren’t quick fixes either. If you adhere to either method for at least 80% of the time, you’ll be setting yourself up for ongoing success.
Neither approach is laborious. You just need to understand the hows and whys, and that’s why we offer individually tailored nutrition coaching. Get in touch to enquire about that.
Okay I know I’ve had a lot of the “one thing to change” posts recently, but that should highlight that improving your nutrition isn’t difficult. It takes a several small, simple changes. This one really is easy.
READ. Read nutrition labels. Specifically the ingredients list and macronutrient profile.
If it has an ingredients list, it’s not natural or ‘organic.’ If you couldn’t grow it, it didn’t have eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth, or it didn’t come from something that had eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth, it’s not natural. If it has an ingredient list it was manufactured, by humans.
The items at the beginning of the ingredients list are the predominant ingredients. So if sugar comes first, the product is primarily made of sugar.
Just because it says ‘no sugar added’ doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have sugar. There are about 50 different ways to label sugar on foods:
Barley malt, beet syrup, buttered syrup, cane juice crystals, caramel, corn syrup, carob syrup, dextran, dextrose, diastatic malt, diatase, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, glucose solids, golden syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, panocha, refiner’s syrup, rice syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sugar, treacle…..
And read the label BEFORE you eat it. It pays to know what you’re putting in your mouth.
Consistency is key, right? You need to consistently eat well and train to get results. Consistency is defined as the quality of always doing something in a similar way–keeping the same. For example, training at least three times a week and only having two treat meals a week might be what you need to consistently do to get results. There’s a problem with consistency, though. It gets derailed easily.
Here is an example of great consistency getting derailed.
You’ve been having only two treat meals a week for a couple of months and are feeling great. Your body fat percentage is down and the headaches from too much sugar are even gone. And then you have a social event to attend, a Christmas party. So you ‘let your hair down’ and have a bender. A b.e.n.d.e.r! You feel sorry for yourself on the next day so you comfort yourself with more
drugsbad food. Monday comes and you haven’t prepared any food because of the weekend’s activities. You buy some “healthy” convenient snacks and meals, and that’s what you do for the rest of the week because you’ll only have time for shopping on the weekend.
You make it to the supermarket on the weekend, but by then the taste of
cocainesugar is back. You’re off the rails.
It might sound a bit dramatic, but it’s a scenario I’ve witnessed far too many times in my 15 years in this industry. Consistency gets you going. Persistence is what keeps you going.
Persistence is defined as continuing on the course of action in spite of difficulty. It’s getting right back on track after having a bender, and after all the setbacks and detours that life will throw at you.
Our definition of fitness is increased work capacity across many activity types and durations through life. Lifelong health and fitness. So you are able to go snowboarding in your 70s, play sports with your grandchildren, and get yourself out of bed until the day you die.
A few six week challenges or one year of good training isn’t enough to get you there. Persistently working on your health and fitness–your nutrition, training, recovery and lifestyle habits–will.
While we are a fitness facility, fitness is the service and the business is people. We are here to help make people better, and make better people. Much of that coaching, in both nutrition and training, is based on adapting behaviour. And that is based heavily on habit formation.
Habits are the small decisions and actions you perform daily. What you repeatedly do ultimately forms who you are. Therefore, if your nutrition is poor it’s a direct result of bad dietary habits.
Likewise, if your nutrition is on point, it’s a direct result of good dietary habits.
Habits are thought to be developed through a 3-step loop.
- Step 1 is a trigger – an event or action that reminds you of and initiates a habit. Example: Becoming “snacky” between meals.
- Step 2 is the habit itself – the behaviour you (repeatedly) perform in response to the trigger. Based on the above example: Eating a sweet treat.
- Step 3 is the reward – the benefit associated with behaviour. Following on with the example: Energy levels and mood are lifted for a bit.
You can layer any habit, dietary or otherwise, onto these three steps. While people may display the same behaviours (habits), their triggers and perceived rewards will all be different depending on their personality traits.
How rewards are perceived are especially different between individuals. For some, the reward from that sweet pick-me-up is better energy levels for the next 40 minutes. For others, the reward is more psychological – a comforting feeling. Either way, the reward keeps refueling the behaviour.
So how do we improve dietary habits? I think that reverse engineering the 3-step loop works like magic.
- Start with the reward. What will your reward be for eating better? Improved performance, losing body fat, greater self confidence, fitting your wedding clothing perfectly, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There are many, but you have to pick one to three rewards for YOU.
- Now look at what habits you need to change and develop in order to get you to that reward. This will again be different for everyone, but make them relevant to the reward. If you know what the benefit will be, it motivates you to maintain the habit.
- Find a trigger that initiates the required behaviours. Triggers can be a time, location, event, emotion or other people. Set an alarm for each meal and snack. Associate the work canteen (location) with bad food to prevent you from eating there. Post-exercise (event) is a good time for a more high GI meal or snack.
Emotions are typically triggers for bad behaviour (like comfort eating) so implement an exercise behaviour for when you’re feeling down. The people one is more powerful than you realise, so surround yourself with people who are at the very least supportive of your goals.
There’s a fourth step that I think fits in under the rewards step – visualisation. Visualise how you will feel when you attain the reward. “I will feel [insert emotion] when I lose some body fat.” It’s a well proven method.
It’s all a bit easier said than done, though. And that’s exactly why we run lifestyle challenges. Sure, we teach you a bit about good nutrition, but more importantly, the challenges are a method of instilling better (sustainable) lifestyle behaviours. So, if you need to tidy up your health and fitness, sign up for the Summer Lifestyle Challenge. If you’ve done a challenge or two but feel like you need more individually tailored advice, we do have one-on-one nutrition coaching too.
Whichever route you choose, “I struggle to eat well” is the poorest excuse you could have for not optimising your health because all the tools you need are right at your finger tips!
The dehydration dogma is universal: It’s dangerous so you need to drink a lot of fluids, especially in extreme conditions such as heat and exercising for long periods.
For decades the prevailing advice from sports coaches, the media and most notoriously, the companies who manufacture ‘sports’ drinks and supply bottled water, has been to drink at least eight glasses of water a day and to constantly sip on (hypotonic) sports drinks before and during bouts of exercise. These are myths that just won’t die.
Where do these myths come from?
There is certainly no good research behind either approach. It’s believed that the eight glasses of water a day myth stems from a recommendation by the Food and Nutrition Board in ‘Murica for people to consume at least 2.5 litres of water a day. What everyone neglected to do was continue reading beyond that recommendation. The board followed that recommendation with advice that most of that water would come from food. Whether you call it a misunderstanding or misdirection, it’s unsubstantiated. Much like the advice to drink copious amounts of sports drinks during exercise.
Aside from staying hydrated, the culture of drinking lots of fluids during exercise and sports is founded on beliefs that it will prevent heat stroke and exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC). EAMC are most likely caused by neurological changes brought on by fatigue – NOT due to an undue loss in water and electrolytes. Knocking down gallons of water or sports drinks will not prevent or stop the cramps, and it could kill you.
The body’s innate systems for measuring water and electrolyte concentrations are finely tuned. When you need water, that system tells you so by inducing thirst. The eight glasses a day and sports drink advocates will tell you that it’s too late if you’re already thirsty, but we’ve already called their BS 😉
It is dangerous to become dehydrated, but that is why the body will induce thirst if water levels begin dropping below normal. What most don’t know, however, is that hyperhydration (too much water) is just as dangerous and arguably more prevalent than dehydration.
Hyponatremia occurs when a person drinks so much hypotonic fluid, like water and sports drinks, that blood sodium levels decrease. In bad cases the excess fluid floods the lungs and brain. Much like dehydration, hyponatremia can be fatal.
Therefore, to stay adequately hydrated you should drink when you’re thirsty. The best fluid is of course water, but hot drinks like tea and coffee do contribute to your daily fluid intake. Avoid fizzy drinks, fruit juices and concentrates. Eat vegetables everyday along with some fruit – they provide a lot of water. If you are exposed to extreme environmental conditions such as heat and altitude, or are exercising for long durations, you are still more likely to experience hyponatremia than dehydration so keep drinking to thirst.
It should go without saying that drinking soda during an endurance event is a no-go, but the fact that soda companies support fitness events and are the largest producers of bottled water should indicate that these hydration myths are no coincidence.
Posts tagged with ‘nutrition’