Following all the fun we had at our Health Talk at the beginning of this month, we thought it would only be fair if we shared some of the juicy tips and facts about nutrition we shared that day.
But before we dive in, enjoy a few snaps taken from our talk:
Alright, lets dive right in. Without proper nutrition even the most perfectly structured program would be a complete waste of time. Your nutrition is over half the battle and you should definitely consider should placing more emphasis on it if you really want to maximize your training.
In order for you to see real results these 3 things need to occur;
- proper rest
- adequate nutrition
Of these three, nutrition would rank highest as it provides the support your growing muscles need and allows for sufficient training intensity in the gym.
And the number one reason people usually fail to progress in their training efforts is a lack of nutritional knowledge.
So just what are proteins, fats and carbohydrates? Most of us know what these are, but a surprising number of people have no idea. Just the other day I heard someone ask, "How many grams of protein are there in a banana?"
With that question in mind we will now turn our attention to the nutritional basics.
When we talk nutrients as they relate to health, fitness and bodybuilding, generally we refer to the big three: protein, carbohydrates and fats, the macronutrients.
Vitamins and minerals, the micronutrients, are also important as they provide the key elements needed for proper metabolic functioning - they support the assimilation of the three macronutrients and are themselves found to varying degrees in proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Key Nutrients Needed
The macronutrients will form the basis of your diet, as they provide the raw materials needed to power through your workouts, and for growth and repair. They consist of the following items:
Protein is comprised of 20 amino acids and is responsible for building the muscles, along with every cell in our bodies (it forms the basis of our body's 100 or so trillion cells).
Without an adequate supply of protein, no additional muscle growth will result from your training efforts - period. In fact, insufficient protein will actually result in muscle wasting.
Of the 20 amino acids found in proteins (amino acids as the structural units of protein determine the quality of a particular protein source), 10 of these are essential and ten are non-essential.
The body can manufacture the non-essential variety, whereas the essential type must be obtained through a proper, balanced diet.
Food sources low in the essential amino acids, therefore, are a poor choice for those who wish to build and maintain muscle.
Protein Helps Us To
Build muscle - protein is the body's repair nutrient
Lose body fat - protein stimulates the metabolism like no other nutrient
Maintain feelings of fullness - thus eliminating cravings for the wrong foods
Enhance tissue repair
Assist immune function
Construct essential hormones and enzymes
Provide energy when carbohydrate is not available
Preserve lean muscle mass
Some Protein Sources
Whey protein supplements
If protein is the building nutrient, carbohydrates serve as the primary energy nutrient to power all human movement.
Carbohydrates work in tandem with protein to ensure growth as a by-product of resistance training. Without an adequate training stimulus, consuming the required amount of protein may have a negligible effect on muscle growth.
Carbohydrates also allow one to train to their fullest potential.
The two different types of carbohydrates and here's an explanation of each:
The complex carbohydrates, so named because they break down over a longer period and sustain us for longer.
Complex carbohydrates come in two subgroups (starchy and fibrous), which are widely known as "the healthy carbohydrates".
The starchy grouping includes: potatoes, rice, grains, spaghetti, pasta, and wholemeal bread.
The starchy carbohydrate component of this diet includes brown rice, wholegrain bread and jacket potatoes as these forms contain more fibre, which helps with fat loss and benefits health generally.
Fibrous carbohydrates, which include asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and spinach, generally add volume without excess calories, to the diet. They are often classed as the more nutritionally dense of the carbohydrate sources since they contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. On this basis alone they are very important and should not be overlooked.
The simple sugar carbohydrates, which include sugar in its various forms, milk, honey, chocolate and cakes, are devoid of the natural nutrients found in complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are more readily converted into, and stored as fat. Additionally, simple sugar carbohydrates often contain various additives, which contribute to poor health and restrict muscle gains.
As well they often cause a spike in insulin levels, which results in them being converted into fat. Once insulin is released into the bloodstream in excessive amounts, it takes as much energy as it can find (usually in the form of circulating carbohydrates), which leaves us feeling tired/weak.
Carbohydrates Help Us To
Train hard - as they are the main energy supplier
Fill up without filling out - leaving you feeling fuller for longer
Supply vitamins and minerals, and fibre
They are the body's main source of fuel
All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose for energy
Carbohydrates are needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain and the muscles (including the heart) to function properly
Carbohydrates can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy
They are important in intestinal health and waste elimination
Some Carbohydrate Sources
Like carbohydrates, fats in their various forms provide energy.
From a health standpoint fats are noted as being a contributing factor to heart disease and obesity.
However, not all fats are created equal.
The right type of fats in the correct amount will actually benefit health, as every cell in our body is comprised of a fatty layer (the cell membrane), which helps that cell to function properly.
The cell membrane is the part of the cell that allows the entry of amino acids and carbohydrates and other important metabolites such as lips (or fats), and for the optimal function of each and every cell and elimination of waste products for each cell.
These types of fats include the saturated and trans varieties and are responsible for the negative health effects fat is often known for. Saturated fats are found in animal products and solid at room temperature (meat, seafood, whole-milk dairy products - cheese, milk, and ice cream - poultry skin, and egg yolks) and are main contributors to heart disease (as they raise blood cholesterol levels) and obesity (due to the excess calories they provide, which are more readily stored as fat).
In saying this a very small amount of saturated fat is not necessarily a bad thing as it has been shown to help with testosterone production, which translates to gains in muscle mass and losses in body fat - it is all about striking the right balance.
Trans fats are the result of the hydrogenation process that occurs when hydrogen is added to a vegetable oil to maintain its shelf life. Trans fat is added to commercial products to enhance longevity and will negatively impact training progress and health if included your diet. It is not a necessary fat, so it is best left completely out of your diet.
Good fats come in two types: monounsaturated (found in natural foods like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and grape-seed oil, corn oil and canola oil) and polyunsaturated (found in vegetable oils, sunflower, cottonseed and fish oils).
Of these two, polyunsaturated fat is probably the better choice as it has a wider range of positive benefits, which include an ability to significantly reduce inflammation (great for the recovery purposes following training), prevent cancer growth and improve brain function if taken in its omega-three form.
For intense strength training omega-three fish oil has been shown to greatly reduce muscle inflammation while playing a role in strengthening joints, making it an obvious choice for anyone who lifts weights. Monounsaturated fat should not be overlooked as it too has some great benefits.
One key thing to remember with so called bad fats is they can be found in most of the animal meats consumed in this diet, as well as various packaged products.
Fats Help Us To
Experience normal growth and development
Store energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy).
Absorb certain vitamins (like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids)
Provide cushioning for the organs
Maintaining cell membranes
Provide taste, consistency, and stability to foods
Having a well-structured diet with the right amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates is one thing, sicking with it is another entirely. The number one reason people do not progress, as they should be when seeking results, is usually nutrition-related. So, do your part in those two areas and the results will definitely follow.