Fueling your Body for Optimal Performance
From weekend warriors to Ironman finishers, crossfitters and tough mudders, performance is directly related to diet. If you want to be able to train at the peak of your ability as well as heal and recover quickly, you have to be intentional about what you eat, feeding your body what it needs. Trying to work out with a body that is starving for essential nutrients is like trying to drive a car without fuel and will end only in frustration; and frustration eats your momentum.
Make the most of every minute you work out by fueling your body sensibly and with clean foods. Here are the foods you need to eat and in what proportions.
The top three nutrients that you need to be concerned about are carbohydrates, protein and fat. An eating strategy that balances these three macro-nutrients will skyrocket your fitness results. In addition when utilizing any type of meal replacement you need to make sure that it has balanced macro nutrients, meaning that it is balanced in carbs, protein, and fats. One such healthy meal replacement is the whole30 bar from DNX Bar.
- Protein: Adequate amounts of protein are crucial In order to maintain and build muscle. Functional muscles are the foundation of not only every athlete but also to anyone wanting to live a healthy and active lifestyle; without a solid muscle base, you will be ineffective any fitness activity. Unknown to many, muscle is extremely important in protecting you from diabetes because the more muscle mass you have, the more efficiently your body can utilize glucose from your bloodstream. Excess body fat and less lean muscle mass has exactly the opposite effect which is why obesity tends to lead to Type 2 Diabetes. More muscle mass boosts your metabolism which is why weight training is recommended to anyone that wants to lose weight. Weight training when seeking to lose body fat also helps to maintain muscle mass while burning fat.
You have to eat protein everyday because your body cannot store protein very easily, it can only utilize around 20 grams every 3.5 to 4 hours. Protein from animal sources is the easiest way to get complete protein, but plant-based proteins can be combined to provide complete protein as well. If you are busy or on the go and find yourself having to skip meals keep a healthy whole food protein bar like the paleo protein bars from DNX Bar.
- Carbohydrates: Some have argued that carbohydrates are the most important nutrient because carbs fuel muscle. Every time you move one of your muscles, you are using carbohydrates. Your body breaks down carbs into sugars and then stores them in your muscles and livers. If you eat more than can be stored in either of these two places, the excess is stored as fat in your body. This is why carbohydrates need to be limited. For most people eating a ratio of macro-nutrients lower in carbs and higher in fats and protein is optimal, try to stay around 20-30% of your total caloric intake. Get your carbs from clean sources such as fresh greens and vegetables and limit fruits.
Strive to avoid grains and processed foods.
- Fat: Contrary to the belief of many fat is NOT bad for you. Fat is essential and you need a lot of it.. Fat is actually the cleanest source of fuel for your body as it is converted easiest for fuel with no toxins or waste the body has to get rid of. This is why eating a lower carb diet helps with weight loss, your body uses fat stores instead of glycogen. The key is to know what kind of fat to eat. Avoid anything that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. These fats are also called trans-fats and are very unhealthy. Instead try to get the majority of your fat from olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, wild-caught fish and free-range animal products such grass fed beef, grass fed bison and free range chicken. Wild caught fish and grass fed animals are also higher in healthier Omega-3 fatty acids which are very good for you.
Finding the Optimal Balance
If you are like many people, you are often confused about how to balance out the different kinds of foods you eat. It seems as though there is a new diet promotion every day, promising all sorts of miracles. The human body is very adaptable, the hunter-gatherer diets for which we have data tend to roam around 20% carbs, 65% fat and 15% proteins by calories.
From “The Paleo Diet“
In their 2009 review of plant-animal subsistence ratios of hunter gatherer societies, Dr. Cordain and his team were quick to point out that the plant-animal ratio varied greatly.5 Societies living close to the equator could get more than 55% of their calories from plant sources, while more polar societies (such as Eskimos) derived almost all of their calories from animal sources.
As a result, the macronutrient ratios could be vastly different. Hunter-gatherer societies ate anywhere between 22-40% carbohydrates, 19-35% protein, and 28-58% fat (though it’s worth pointing out that even those broad ranges are lower carbohydrate and higher protein/fat than the Western diet).6
So it’s somewhat ironic that despite showing such broad ranges, much of the early criticism of the Paleo Diet was over macronutrient ratios.
In 2002, Dr. Cordain described a sample one-day Paleo menu in one of his early reviews. His sample menu was 23% carbohydrate, 38% protein, and 39% fat.7 Those numbers have been cited repeatedly by critics of the diet.
But again, they missed the point.
The point of the review was not to establish exact macronutrient ratios. Dr. Cordain could have easily laid out a sample Paleo menu that was higher or lower in carbs, protein, or fat. The point was to show that the sample menu consisted of nutrient dense and healthier foods than a typical Western Diet.
The key, however, to fueling your body for peak performance is balance and moderation. Keep in mind that everything operates in cycles and the body should be treated no different. You will find yourself feeling better and maintaining optimal weight by cycling your macro-nutrient intake. Therefore, there are health benefits in:
- Low carb, ketogenic periods
- Higher carb, protein restricted periods
- Higher protein periods
- Feasting periods
- Fasting periods
Fasting is crucial to maintaining the body as it causes autophagy which rids the body of pathogens and toxins and boosts the immune system. Remember, you have to feed your body the clean fuel it needs to perform at optimum levels. If you don’t, you will end up tired, weak, unhealthy and prone to frustration because you won’t have the energy or strength to even get out of bed much less to work out. The better you fuel your body, the better it will serve you in your pursuit of fitness and health and living an enjoyable life.
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