Food and Nutrition 101
By Personal trainer Chris Volkert
It’s a common refrain among the Free Form Fitness team that you can eat your way through any amount of exercise.
In fact, about 80 per cent of what determines the success or failure of your health and fitness program is what you eat, not what you do in the gym.
This is the next in our series of posts for the Free Form Fitness blog that explore the journey to better nutrition and living a healthier life (see Living a healthier life rests on finding the right motivation), featuring the perspective of Chris Volkert, a Registered Kinesiologist and Certified Nutritionist at our Dalhousie location.
But when it comes to making healthier food choices, where do you start?
“At FFF, our approach is to focus on eating meals that include a serving of protein, vegetables, unprocessed carbohydrates, and healthy fats in every meal,” said Chris. “The goal is to eat as healthy and complete a diet as possible from actual food, rather than relying on supplements. While supplements can be beneficial, real food trumps supplements.”
The basics in a nutshell
Healthy eating means lots of fresh veggies and greens, nuts and seeds, berries, eggs, fish and lean meats. And no more processed and packaged foods, corn and soy products, sugar, salty snacks, baked goods and high doses of sodium (which is typical of most processed and packaged foods).
If your goal is weight loss, cut down on excess, or processed, carbs such as bread and pasta.
After a workout, however, you may find that complex carbohydrates help you recover. Rice, potatoes, quinoa, beans and oats are great choices. There are a few exceptions, but a half to a full cupped handful is one serving for women, while one to two handfuls is the serving for men.
“You should focus on earning your carbohydrates,” said Chris.
If you are already lean and your goal is to add muscle, you will need those extra complex carbs, so enjoy your starchy vegetables, as well as whole grains and ones high in fibre, like oats and quinoa.
But everyone can do without packaged and processed foods that are high in sugar, sodium or trans fats.
Keeping track with a food log
“But can’t I just have …” you ask.
Yes, you can—within reason.
Depending on your meal plan, you should aim to eat balanced meals that have a serving of protein, vegetables, natural fats, and carbohydrates about 80 per cent of the time in order to start seeing weight loss.
For example, if you eat meals like that three times a day, seven days a week, that’s 21 different meals.
If 80 per cent of your meals include those servings, you are eating 17 meals that follow the plan, and four that are off track. With this much wiggle room, even clients who are trying to shed pounds can enjoy a few cheat meals per week.
This way, you are still adopting a healthy lifestyle, but still able to enjoy the foods you love without guilt.
The problem, however, is when people decide to treat themselves too often and end up sabotaging their weight loss efforts. When the percentage of balanced meals you eat falls below 80 per cent, there is a big chance that you will not see weight loss. Or even worse, weight gain.
“That ‘odd little treat’ can add up to a lot before you know it,” said Chris. “That’s why I suggest keeping a food log. If you write down everything you eat, it’s easy to see if those occasional treats are more frequent than you think.”
A great tool to help you along is this app, MyFitnessPal.
In our next post, we will talk about supplementation to address deficiencies, fish oils, why whole foods are better for your nutrition than supplements and what all the big deal is with organic.