By: Vanessa Matos
There are very few things that we absolutely must do to keep our bodies running. Eat, sleep, drink water, breathe, repeat. It sounds simple, and for the most part, it is.
Our bodies are designed to be flexible, to make the most of what they are given, and to function under ideal and less-than conditions. Generally speaking, our bodies are pretty good at living.
But anyone who has tried to optimize these basic functions knows just how nuanced they quickly become. If you are scratching your head about how we are supposed to know how/when/what to eat, keep reading!
Let’s start with the most basic of basics. Everything that we eat is made up of macro and micronutrients. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. We need these to survive. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals like vitamin c, magnesium, sodium, and many more. We also need these to survive, just in much smaller quantities. Deciding how much of which macro/micro to eat is beyond the scope of this 101-level post and is where many people get lost in the weeds.
When it comes to food quantity, the key is that we are all different! To achieve our aesthetic, performance and health goals, some of us need to eat more, some less, and most everyone can benefit from improving food quality.
Consistency is Important - More so than most of us realize and particularly when we are working toward performance or aesthetic goals.
Counterintuitively, being too strict with what we eat often leads to inconsistency. This happens when we unfalteringly exercise restraint… until we have a moment or two of humanness and “fall off the wagon.” For many, this perceived failure opens the door to stray further from our path rather than to refocus, forgive, and continue to work towards our goals. Avoiding absolutes and allowing ourselves “everything in moderation” are invaluable tools when developing consistency in what, when, and how we eat.
Food Quality Matters - Choose “real” food whenever possible. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, this is where all the real stuff lives! Produce, meat and fish, dairy. Think: ingredients rather than products.
Satiety is a Lagging Indicator - This means that whether or not you feel full immediately after eating isn’t entirely accurate. If you are someone who is trying to maintain or lose weight and are thinking of getting up for seconds, press pause for 15 minutes. If you are still hungry after waiting, have another helping.
Keeping a Food Journal - A powerful tool when it comes to improving the way we fuel our bodies. We have been eating since the day we were born, and it is normal for this activity to happen on autopilot.
By setting aside a few extra moments to write down the things you eat over the course of a week, you are bound to notice patterns and habits you didn’t know you had related to food. It is important to do this without judgement or changing your habits, as this exercise is most beneficial when you are capturing what you are actually eating versus what you think you should be eating.
This is your task for the week: whether you are at the beginning of your nutrition journey or are an old hat - write down everything you eat for at least three consecutive days.
*Bonus points for adding details about your mood, sleep quality, how workouts felt, and any other information you think is relevant!
At the end of the week, review this log and identify one change that will improve the way you are fueling your body.