March is National Nutrition month! Each of my blog entries this month will pertain to nutrition, food, eating, and just about anything requiring digestion. Well, maybe not that in depth, but every entry will be nutrition related.
This week, I want to give you a general idea of my approach to eating. I decided to pursue my master’s in nutrition after my first year of competing (for those who don’t know, I am a fitness competitor, although I started out as a figure competitor). In preparation for my competitions, I did what most first-time competitors do, research what other competitors have eaten over the years, and then follow suit. What I didn’t know at the time was that nutrition is not ‘one size fits all.’ Calories, grams of protein, grams of carbohydrates, grams of fat, etc., are all based on your age, gender, weight, activity level and overall general health. Leading up to competitions, I was consuming around 130 grams of protein a day and very few carbohydrates. And let me tell you, I FELT LIKE CRAP!! I had no energy, and even though I hated to admit it, I smelled weird. I knew something was not right. That’s when I decided that I wanted to learn how to properly prepare for competitions using my own food knowledge. I didn’t want to have to rely on secondhand research.
Through my four years of studying and researching nutrition, I learned one extremely valuable fact…FOOD=FUEL (actually, I learned many other valuable facts in those four years, but I don’t think you want to read about metabolic pathways, and Biochemistry). We have to eat to fuel our bodies. We should be trying our best to refill our tanks, or at least topping it off, every 3 hours. This is not to ‘speed up your metabolism’ as so many like to say. Yes, you read that correctly, EATING EVERY THREE HOURS WILL NOT SPEED UP YOUR METABOLISM. However, what eating every 3 hours will do is regulate your blood sugar levels. Ever notice how you get tired or confused when you’re hungry? That right there is a result of low blood sugar. This is science, people. Your metabolism is your metabolism. Very rarely are people able to alter their metabolism. That was, literally, the first thing I remember learning in grad school.
Now, ideally we want to consume premium foods when we hit that 3 hour mark, but if you’re in a pinch and premium foods are not an option, then something is better than nothing. For example, say you ate breakfast at 9am and noon rolls around, you’re at work, you forgot to pack a lunch and the only thing in the break room is a box of donuts. What do you do?
- Drink a glass of water and pray that the box of donuts magically disappears.
- Eat the donut while simultaneously doing jumping jacks.
- Eat the donut, and go on about your day.
The correct answer is…C!!! Yes, you eat the donut without a guilty conscience. I cannot stress how incredibly important it is to fuel your body every 3 hours. I’m not saying to eat a steak and potato dinner 6 times a day, which is what some might think when they hear ‘six meals a day.’ You want to aim for small, balanced meals and snacks (I will cover this in-depth over the month of March). Bottom line — keep your body properly fueled.
So this week’s lesson in a nutshell: food should be consumed to fuel your body and this should be done by eating a small, balanced meal or snack every 3 hours. So you don’t explode from curiosity, I have included a sample of what I might eat on a typical day.
- Meal 1: Publix brand shredded wheat with milk, one banana, and Splenda. Black coffee to drink.
- Meal 2: Green drink (1/2 cup water, 2 cups kale, 1 lime, 1 apple, 1 pineapple ring, 2 cups ice)
- Meal 3: Spanikopita (frozen from Costco) and a salad (spinach, onions, mushrooms, peppers, avocado, vinaigrette dressing)
- Meal 4: Either an Oh Yeah! bar or a Lara bar and a pear
- Meal 5: Chocolate milk or Protein Shake (chocolate milk after dance classes, protein shake after HIIT or a workout)
- Meal 6: Salmon, 1/2 sliced bell pepper, green beans, and cous cous. If I’m having a sweet craving, I might toss back a small handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips.