You can’t out-train a bad diet.
Nutrition…it can seem like a minefield! In this section on Nutrition, our goal is to instil the importance of a good diet as part of a healthy lifestyle, and to provide a well-rounded base knowledge on the subject for the previously uninitiated.
You’ve heard it a thousand times: ‘Diet & Exercise’, they go together like peaches and cream (bad example!), but you must accept this as the basis for your 2 pronged strategy for achieving your health & fitness goals. With the ARC-NRG we cover the exercise part of the equation, but your diet deserves as much attention as your workout routine does. Get both right and you’ll achieve your goals quickly. Fail at one and at best, achieving your goals will take longer, but it’s also likely you won’t achieve them at all. This is regardless whether you’re trying to lose, maintain or gain weight, you won’t get there if the diet is wrong.
Not a diet, but a lifestyle change
We are not going to layout out a Meal by Meal Diet plan for you to follow; for 2 reasons; one, it would be arrogant of us to assume one diet could suit everyone, and typically they can be hard to shop for, time consuming to prepare or full of foods you don’t like. And the Second reason is we don’t believe in ‘going on a diet’! What’s the point of sticking to something for 6 to 12 weeks only? What happens at the end? You go back to your bad eating habits? We believe in lifestyle changes and education that has a positive influence on what you put in your mouth.
What is this dietary lifestyle change?
In a nutshell it’s ‘eating clean’, making your diet more pure and nutritious by sticking to whole foods; meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts & seeds – foods unchanged from their natural state. And avoiding highly processed food and beverages which are high in sugar and low in nutrition, which were only recently introduced to the human diet….our bodies were not designed to eat like this.
Nutritious food is essentially a good, well balanced mix of the things (fuel) your body needs to function; Carbohydrates, Proteins & Fats. This ‘ balance’ is easiest and best achieved by eating a whole food based diet. The more food that goes in your mouth that’s basically unchanged from it’s natural state (ie: not processed) the better.
THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM
We, and our governments have allowed the Food industry to create the modern day diet, and consequently we have a world wide pandemic of diet related diseases – obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Thanks to the food industries’ only motivation being profit – not your waist line or health, no emerging economy has ever successfully made the transition from lack of food to an abundance of food without going too far the other way. We’ve gone from starving to fat in one foul swoop.
The Food industry understands on a cellular level how we tick, and where our weaknesses are. For example, they know that foods that combine fat & sugar (which don’t naturally occur outside the food technician labs) have immense appeal to our pallets, and can result in cravings and food addictions that rival the addictiveness of cocaine.
The situation today is that you are constantly bombarded with bad food options, rarely more than an arms length away at any given time – ready to eat and enjoy immediately, just open the wrapper! And it’s not just the fast food restaurants, chocolates, chips and snacks at the gas station or vending machine down the hall. Have a good look at the 600,000 odd products available on the shelves at your local supermarket, there are not many that don’t come with a long list of ingredients of things you can’t pronounce and shouldn’t put in your body. And all these bad choices are pushed with relentless advertising – it’s an unfair advantage, and we ‘the consumer’, are losing the game.
Food has always been a pleasurable part of life, the centre of any celebration, something to look forward to, and enjoy when we are having it. Trouble is, too often now we apply this to every meal, snack and beverage. In today’s society Food’s gone way beyond just being fuel for the body. Everything we put in our mouth must be a treat to our senses. The majority of the world is failing at getting on top of this problem.
MEALS & SNACKS
This abundance of cheap, convenient and appealing processed food is the problem. If you have rarely paid much mind to what you’ve put in your mouth in the past, and you’re overweight, possibly even suffering some related health ailments, it’s a safe bet that you consume a lot of highly processed foods and beverages (anything in packaging with a long list of ingredients). This means your diet likely contains a lot of the ‘bad fats’, too much ‘added sugar’ and is too high in Sodium (salt).
As we mentioned, working towards eating a ‘clean diet’ or cleaning up your diet is a fundamental shift away from processed and packaged food, to meals and snacks that you prepare yourself from whole foods. This is the challenge; being disciplined enough to shun the foods that are sugary and
high in bad fats that you can literally find everywhere, and have countless options for breakfasts, lunches and dinners – not to mention snacks in between. And the discipline to prepare more of your meals from scratch.
Fat doesn’t equal fat. Sugar equals fat.
The high sugar content of the modern diet is the main cause of us getting fat. A clear example of this is how your body deals with a sugar hit from say a soft drink, there’s no fibre being consumed with the drink so the liver has to work overtime to deal with the sugar rush, and as a result has no choice but to instantly turn it into fat.
Sugar is a carb, and our body’s preferred fuel for brain function. But we get sugar naturally from other foods – even Broccoli has some sugar in it! So when we drink these high sugary beverages we are getting a massive ‘added sugar’ dose, 39grams from a 12oz (330ml) can. And when our entire daily recommended added-sugar intake is only around 37g for men (25 for women), you can see you’ve just OD’ed with one drink! Have a bad beverage choice with every meal… upgrade the odd one to a Big Gulp… do that every day… times that by 365 and the penny starts to drop.
Our bodies were designed to only drink water, not cows milk, not juice, certainly not Coke or Gatorade! Your choice of beverage, and how often you grab for one can be the worst culprit in a bad diet. Sugary drinks are regularly being singled out as the worst offender with the obesity pandemic.
Orange and other juice drinks seem to be one of the harder things for people to get their heads around as being (potentially) a poor beverage choice. Many of us grew up thinking a glass of OJ was part of a "complete breakfast" - that's what the ad said, right? It's common for people to make the asumption that they don't have to worry too much about the calories when consuming more nutiritous foods or making better food choices. However, if you're trying to manage your energy in v energy out, not having a grasp on calories contained in all foods, means you're really shooting in the dark. In the case of juice it’s a portion thing, and the extraction of the fibre. Here’s the thing; as we mentioned, sugar is naturally found in many ‘whole foods’ like fruits & veggies. But if you eat an orange you will only be getting around 70ml (approx. 2.5oz) of juice, plus you get the benefit of consuming the insoluble fibre from the fruit also, which alleviates much of the negative effects of the sugar intake. Yes, you are still consuming the ‘natural’ sugar content, but that’s likely only 10-15 grams for the whole orange. Now compare that with drinking a 12oz glass of juice – around the equivalent of eating 5 oranges, but none of that insoluble fibre! Talk about too much of a good thing! By all means, grab for that all-natural juice over a Coke - just don't forget to factor in the calories!
Diet Drinks are not the answer
‘Diet’ versions of your favorite beverage are not the answer either. Aside from the controversy surrounding many artificial sweeteners and their link to health issues and disease, the issue is that they still provide the beverage with sweetness, which causes the brain to expect sugar. This triggers a hormonal response that causes your body to produce more insulin. This can send your body into fat storage mode, leading to weight gain.
Careful not to ‘drink your calories’
Also under the ‘Beverage’ topic comes the subject of Alcohol. And while all things can be OK in moderation, and there’s plenty of positive press around the moderate consumption of alcohol; with beer, red wine and even champagne, all positives go out the window when moderate consumption turns to excess.
On a dietary level you should consider two big factors
The first is it’s easy to ‘drink your calories’. This means the calorie content associated with alcohol is high, and if you’re watching that sugar intake, it’s easy to blow it out with a few drinks. If you break down different food nutrients into kj per gram, you’ll find that 1 gr of fibre = 8kj, 1 gram of protein = 17 kj, and when it comes to alcohol, 1 gr = 29kj – that’s second only to fat which is 37 kj per gram.
The other aspect to consider is liver function. The body treats alcohol like a toxin. So, when you consume alcohol your liver jumps into action and puts the priority of getting rid of this toxin above all other tasks. That means, as it’s dealing with the alcohol processing, it’s not doing it’s other functions such as metabolising fat for fuel. Now if you have a few drinks and keep your liver busy for a few hours (working on it taking 1 hour to process the alcohol of 1 std drink), that time it could have been metabolising fat, so you can see how alcohol can have a negative effect on your ability to lose weight.
Bottom line on beverages, your body needs water and it’s the only liquid it was designed to run on. Drink water with every meal at least…add slices of citrus, make a herbal tea. If you start to create this good habit, you’ll be well quenched more of the time and less likely to grab for a [insert your preferred poor choice beverage here].
With all meals, you need to pay mind to the respective condiments – these can easily make a good meal bad. In short – all dressings and sauces are going to add considerable sugar content to the meal, as most are very high in sugar, and certainly some are worse than others. We don’t need condiments in our life but we have become so used to them for the flavours/sweet and saltiness they add to food. But understand, if you drown your pancakes in syrup at breakfast, cover your salad at lunch with Ranch and pile on the ketchup with your steak and fries at dinner, you’ll be adding a whack of calories and sugar to your day’s food intake.
Just think about it – there are condiments matched for every meal – they all pretty much make a good meal not so good, and a bad meal worse – reduce, cut out what you can. Read those labels to help make better choices, or even better; make more of your own foods like a simple dressing with some olive oil and apple cider vinegar for example. There are many fantastic recipes out there and it can be so simple!
THE NUTRITION WE NEED
Eating a Balanced Diet generally refers to getting the right amount and right kind of nutrients; Proteins, Carbs and Fats. These 3 nutrients make up the fuel mix our bodies need to survive and flourish. The more you can consider food as fuel and not a pleasurable treat at every meal and snack, the more good food choices you’ll make, the more good habits you’ll begin to create and the more you will accomplish towards a healthier lifestyle.
Thinking of food as fuel may feel like a tough transition for your taste buds at first, however you will be amazed at how they and your body will thank you once you get detoxified from the pre-packaged, highly processed meals.
The old ‘Meat and two Veg’ – pretty good advice for eating well. The ‘meat’ part provides the protein, and typical, or popular foods high in protein in a western diet include; red meats like beef, lamb, duck. White meats such as pork, chicken and turkey, and a wide variety of seafood’s from an assortment of fish to prawns, shrimp, scallops, mussels, lobster etc. Other common protein sources are eggs, dairy such as yoghurt and cheese, and common for a non-grain vegetarian option is tofu.
Proteins are an essential nutrient as they promote cell growth and repair. They also take longer to digest than carbs, helping you feel fuller for longer, and on less calories.
Proteins are not typically associated with the culprits of a bad diet, and if you’re trying to reduce your calorie intake for weight loss, or reduce saturated fats in your diet, it’s easy to select leaner cuts of protein or even trim off some of the fat before or after cooking.
Common, animal source foods/proteins, in their natural, whole food state can be the simple part of your nutritious diet to get right, and they are a source of critical fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D3, E, K2, all health promoting and disease avoiding. Just as long as you don’t ruin it with the additives or condiments; sugary BBQ sauce on your pulled pork or a sugary tomato sauce in your spaghetti bolognaise etc.
Carbohydrates (Carbs) have had a lot of bad press lately, but carbs are an essential nutrient and rather than trying to cut them completely, you’re better off understanding and being able to identify what can be considered as a good or bad carb. Carbs from sugar as we’ve already covered extensively, can be considered as the carbs you want to regulate and limit. Eating too many carb foods high in sugar is what can lead to weight gain and other health issues.
The tool for understanding what are high sugar carbs v low sugar carbs is the Glycaemic Index (GI). GI is all about the Glucose (sugar) contained in the carb. All foods have a GI rating. Low GI Carbs are foods that your body will digest slowly, leaving you feeling full for longer. Low GI foods reduce spikes in your blood sugar, minimising insulin production and consequential weight gain. Other terminology around this is ‘Simple’ v ‘Complex’ carbs. Simple carbs are sugars (rapidly digestible), if a food is high in simple carbs it will have a Hi GI rating, whereas Complex Carbs, or dietary starch, often rich in fibre (slow digesting) will have a Low GI rating.
Managing your Carb intake can be as easy as limiting high sugar content Carbs (high GI, Simple Carbs), which will happen almost automatically if you limit processed foods, and by swapping some high GI carbs for low GI, like eating sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes, white bread for whole grain bread, oats and bran instead of puffed wheat or cornflake cereals.
Good fats, found in foods like olive oil, avocados, salmon and walnuts etc, contain nutrients like omega-3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. These fats also result in you feeling full and satisfied after every meal. Natural fats = slow burning energy.
However, in the 80’s we mistakenly began touting all ‘fats’ as bad, rather than singling out the bad; Trans Fats (a.k.a ‘partially hydrogenated oils’) found in many processed foods like doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffin, pies and cakes.
This resulted in the massive ‘Low Fat’ trend that’s still rampant today. For example a pack of Marshmallows is promoted as ‘99% Fat Free’, which completely misleads you to believe that they are not bad for you. Marshmallows haven’t changed, they have always been very low in fat, but they are about 60% sugar. This is just an example of the food industry jumping on this ‘Low Fat’ band wagon to deceive the buyer and sell more product. The other hidden catch here with this ‘Fat Free’ or ‘Low Fat’ trend is what the food processors did to existing recipes. To ensure they had products to meet this consumer trend, they took the fat out of their products, problem is this makes the food unpalatable, so to combat this the sugar content was increased. So you should be aware, that almost any food being promoted as the ‘Low Fat’ version, is also the ‘Sugar Increased’ version.
Essential Fatty Acids, Polyunsaturated Fats, Monounsaturated Fats, Saturated Fat, Unsaturated Fat, Trans Fats – this is a complex and controversial subject. Once again, to easily navigate your way through this, follow a balanced, healthy, unprocessed, largely whole foods diet and your ‘good fat’ consumption will take care of itself.
We know this can be a lot to take in, and it’s likely not what you wanted to hear – that many foods you enjoy, you should not be eating at all. We can survive without many of the foods we currently indulge our taste buds with. Having said that, it’s ok to enjoy these things every now and then, but the issue is if these ‘bad foods’ make it into our daily diet, or worse, are included in every meal.
If you are eating a good, balanced diet, based on a lot of whole foods, staying away from high calorie, sugary condiments, beverages and snacks, your diet is largely self-policing.
Some tips to remember and help you along the right path is the 90-10 Rule. Instead of counting every calorie, focus on making 90% of your food choices ‘good’ and that allows a 10% grace, call it cheat meals, slip ups whatever. This strategy can help you not ‘beat yourself up’ if you make one bad choice out of 10, which in-turn may stop you from thinking you’ve failed and cause you to chuck the whole thing in.
With our examples above over things like Orange Juice and Marshmallows, we’ve tried to pique your interest. Hopefully inspiring you to educate yourself at least a little about what you should be putting in your mouth, what makes up nutritious food (Carbs, Fats, Proteins), and what you need to limit in your diet.
The ‘Whole Nutrition thing’ is way too big to cover here in it’s entirety, once you pull the thread on this subject you could research it for an age. Here we have just touched on the subject and covered some of the basics in order to put you on the right path. Move forward from here with your eye’s wide open and a new awareness for good nutrition and you will find good direction and information is everywhere; from food labels to books, magazines and web sites – the former and later won’t even cost you 1cent!
If you accept this advice and heed these warnings on where you might be failing in your diet, you can easily effect positive change on your lifestyle through your food consumption. And remember – it’s very hard, if not impossible, to out-train a bad diet, so once again, your 2 pronged attack is Exercise AND Diet. Be prepared, this is not likely to be easy; changing what may be a lifetime of bad habits and poor nutritional understanding - it can be like kicking drug habit.
And for those already actively following a healthier lifestyle, perhaps this section has served as a refresher on some points or even introduced a new fact or piece of advice.
Now go do some pushups!
Tips and Tactics to keep you on the straight and narrow :
- Meals to consist of unprocessed foods (‘wholefoods’): red & white meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables (fresh/fermented), nuts, seeds, fruit.
- Eliminate refined sugars, unhealthy oils, high GI carbohydrates like white bread, rice & pasta.
- Drink lots of water: add lemon slices to make it more interesting.
- Understand that fat is not the enemy!
- Olive oil makes fantastic dressings, making your own is so easy.
- Always read food labels thoroughly.
- Apply the 90/10 rule…we are only human after all!
- Minimise condiments instead thrill your tastebuds by liberally using herbs and spices.
- Limited caffeine, look to introduce herbal teas instead.
- Watch that alcohol intake, try to think it as a ‘treat’ occasionally and not the only thing to cure a crappy day at work!
- Educate yourself : really find out how your body ticks and how best to look after it.
- Super Market Shopping tip: fill your cart predominately from just the outside isle that surrounds all the other isles, you’ll typically be better off. This is where you’ll find the meat, fish, fruit & veg. The centre isles typically house all the processed foods; chips, cookies, sauces, desserts, ice cream etc.