Food quantity is always a fun topic and one that we can find hosts of contending information about on the Internet. For that reason, it is seemingly impossible to know what is right and what is wrong or just the current fad. There’s also A TON of content to cover here. For that reason, this part of the blog will be split in two.
This week we’ll cover a basic understanding of what our food does and next week we’ll talk about eating strategies for performance, weight loss and overall health.
Let’s start with this. There is no “right” or “wrong” food... nor a way of eating. Food itself is a thing - it does not represent nor hold values. There is no “good for you” or “safe” foods to eat and likewise there are no “bad for you” or “dangerous” foods to eat. Food is food. It is made up of macro and micronutrients that are required for us to be alive. Period. But what about quality? At the end of the day, your body requires nutrients to operate. It actually does not discriminate.
However, consider the following analogy:
Your body is a sports car. You treat that thing with the utmost care and only fuel it with premium gasoline and it runs perfectly. It looks great, it does what it needs to do and with a little bit of flair. It rarely has issues because you take such good care of it. Now, let’s say you start filling your sports car up with unleaded gasoline - or better yet, diesel fuel. It’s now sludgy and thick and not ideal for your engine. You stop washing it and getting tune-ups. It starts to make weird noises, feels clunky to drive and it’s emitting some nasty black exhaust.
The point of the analogy is that you should look at your body like a sports car. It is valuable to you and deserves your care and attention to detail. If you fuel it properly and take good care of it, it will look awesome and take good care of you!
While quality is certainly another major topic surrounding food, the point of our series is figuring out how to navigate the pitfalls of quantity. The most common that I see center around a lack of understanding how food works in our body. What we’ll do in the next few paragraphs is briefly lay out what happens when we eat, then, next week, we’ll discuss how we might dial in our quantities and various tools at our disposal for that very thing .
First, food is fuel. It allows our brain, heart, lungs, liver, stomach, muscles, and all of our other organs to do what they need to do for us to survive. Carbohydrates give us energy - they are sugar and our cells use sugar (glucose) to function. Some of our cells have the capacity to convert fat (or in extreme cases, protein) into glucose to be used but the most efficient energy source is glucose. Fat acts as a barrier in many cells, it has important roles in many cellular functions and it is used as energy storage.
Fat has over two times as many calories per gram so it is much more efficient for our body to store than carbohydrate. Proteins are the body’s building blocks. They make up our muscle, hair, skin, and nail tissue. Amongst all of these macronutrients are micronutrients - vitamins and minerals - critical to making sure all of the functions I keep referring to run smoothly. Deficiencies in these can mean that we’re not optimizing our body’s functions.
Similarly, if you are wanting to perform - which I’m sure most of you reading this blog are already working out regularly and seeking improvements in the gym, food is essential to these improvements. The pursuit of performance and aesthetic are two different things. It is important that you understand that. They are rarely simultaneous - if we are chasing performance gains, we simply have to eat more which will affect your aesthetic. If you are chasing aesthetic gains, your performance will likely not be excellent.
This is not 100% true for every person. It depends on a myriad of individual factors, like physical characteristics and training experience, as well as your psychological and emotional relationship with food and your body.
Next week, we will dive deeper into these factors and how they affect our choices when it comes to quantity. For now, I’ll leave you with this: More than likely you’re trying to do both - train for performance and look great naked. And that is awesome. However, you could be sabotaging your efforts on BOTH fronts by under eating.
Eat up, buttercup! Until next week,
- Coach Caitlin