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Four Nutritional Strategies Every Athlete Needs To Consider

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In Nutrition, there are 4 things that you have complete control over...

  1. Food Quality
  2. Food Quantity
  3. Food Timing
  4. Nutrient Distribution

Each category has significant impact on the way you look, feel, and perform. By spending time experimenting and testing in each of these categories, you can literally "dial in" your perfect body and allow for a long, high performance, healthful life.

Let's dig in so you can get a better understanding of what I mean...

More...

Quality...

Based on ancestral studies and a good dose of common sense, the large majority of scientists and nutrition professionals can find agreement on this foundational concept...the human body was designed to eat real food. The more your diet consists of real food, the more healthful you become and the more opportunity you have to look great, feel great, and perform well.. Alternatively, the more you rely on processed food as a total percentage of your diet, the more likely you are to find sickness and chronic disease knocking at your door.

By looking at the graph below, you can see that optimally, we would consume all of our foods as real food. What I have found when measuring exact percentages of athletes, the large majority are somewhere near the middle (50/50 mark). As a coach, when an athlete is in the middle, it clearly points to a place where there can be dramatic gains when shifting their percentage to favor real food.

If you want to learn how to measure your percentage...you can check out this article...LINK HERE

Quantity

Each one of us has a genetically determined perfect body size. Some of us are 6 feet tall, some are 5 feet tall. Some of us are genetically "designed" to be smaller and some of us bigger. It does not categorize us into healthy and unhealthy. Just like one 5 foot tall person may look, feel, and perform their best at 150 pounds, and another 5 foot tall person may look, feel, and perform their best at 170#. 

When you have an idea of what your "perfect" weight may be, what becomes extremely important is knowing what quantity of food you need to maintain your perfect size. If you push quantities too high, it is possible to become overfat. On the opposite end, if you consume too little, you may find yourself underweight. Neither over-nourished nor under-nourished are desired.

At the end of the day, no matter what your perfect size may be, finding the amount of food necessary to maintain ideal body weight is essential for your long term health and performance. As you can see by the graph below, the optimal quantity of food you should eat is a range that accommodates for individual differences. 

Timing

Based on ancestral research, humans went through alternating phases of feeding and fasting. It is believed that over millions of years our bodies have adapted to this sort of on/off feeding schedule by creating health benefits built into each phase.​

For example...during times of nutrient deprivation (fasting), your body completely shifts into a cleanup mode. Your body literally starts breaking things down, putting them "in the garbage", and disposing of them. 

Conversely, in times of feeding, your physiology shifts to rebuilding and begins to replace all the old junk that was taken to the trash during nutrient deprivation. 

Scientists speculate that because of the way our society is today, our constant access and constant consumption of foods, never allows us to shift our physiology into clean up mode. The hypothesis is that it could be a significant contributing factor to many chronic diseases. 

Based on the graph below, you can see that there is an optimal range for fasting to feeding. The range is important as it allows for individualization.

Generally, time fasting and time feeding are measured in hours in a day. For example, 12:12 would be 12 hours of fasting followed by 12 hours of feeding and would put you smack dab in the middle of the graph.

Nutrient Distribution

This pertains to the percentages of nutrients you consume. Based on ancestral research, different genetics thrive better on different nutrient distributions. People with a strong ancestral background to populations that lived in cold climates, generally do better on a more meat based diet (Animals).

Conversely, If you have ancestors that lived closer to the equator, you will likely tolerate less meat and instead, thrive on more fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds (Plants).

For the record...I do not believe humans were designed to only eat meat or only eat plants. I also understand there are always exceptions (ie. allergies). What is clear is that both food sources bring specific nutrients to the human body that we need to survive and thrive. I whole-heartedly believe that our species evolved as omnivores and our needs only differ in respect to the distribution requirements of these food sources.

As you can see by the graph, the optimal range is broad. I believe there is a lot of room for variation amongst individuals. 

Conclusion

This article should provide insight into the specific areas where you can focus your efforts to start creating change. I do not recommend changing too much at once. In fact, only pick one thing to tackle...Then do a pre-change assessment, implement the change, and then reassess after 6 months. If the needle moved favorably...great! If not, tweak! It's a process.

Also...I understand the diagrams are very rudimentary...this is by design. Nutrition is complicated enough!

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