Nutrition Is Simply Complicated

Hi folks, welcome!

This great doughnut was left in the bag overnight, making a nice diffusion experiment as the oil moved into the paper.

This great doughnut was left in the bag overnight, making a nice diffusion experiment as the oil moved from the doughnut into the paper. Indicates plenty of fat, which can be both good and bad.

The bottom line with nutrition is that you have to find out what works for you.

Like climate versus weather, nutrition and food are not the same thing. The climate of a region will determine the general trends of the weather each day, but the weather on a particular day is not necessarily indicative of the general state of the weather for a given climate – it can rain in the desert, and snow near the equator, for instance. If you want to get your nutrition right you need to think long term, not about what you ate for dinner or consumed in the last few days. The trick is to build a healthy approach to your food intake with respect to its nature and quantity. The best way to assess the quality of your diet for you personally is to listen to your body, and this takes time and patience to perfect.

La Poutine consists of french fries, cheese curds and special gravy. From:

La Poutine consists of French fries, cheese curds and special gravy. It tastes great, but I wouldn’t eat it every day. From:

‘The experts’ talk a lot about food and nutrition, but do they really know what they are talking about? Based on my background in Biochemistry and studies of the influence of fasting on the transcriptome, I am pretty sure that no one has a complete grasp of this subject. But your body sure knows what is going on.

Food consists of a complex array of chemicals, whilst your body is like a chemical factory. The body chemistry of any species responds to selection pressure, circadian rhythm, dietary content and amount, making us all genetically different with respect to our optimal food intake. Due to this complexity and our individual natures, metabolically, my key advice on food is (1) know what you eat, (2) understand what it does, which involves some essential but interesting study, (3) watch how your body responds to your food, and adjust if necessary, (4) don’t follow the fads or trust the ‘experts’ unquestioningly, and (5) modify your food intake according to training load or any health challenges you may have, such as diabetes.

Cooking collards as part of a delicious meal, which I purchase from a local farm stall.

Cooking collards as part of a delicious meal, which I purchase from a local farm stall.

1. Know What You Eat: We tend to think that we know what we are eating, but I am sorry to tell you that this is generally not the case. As an Ironman athlete who has severe hyperlipidemia, I knew that my nutrition was critical so I paid a visit to a nutritionist. In my case this was very helpful. The main thing I gained was knowledge that you just have to write down what you eat for one full week, and you will have some real surprises. You have to be honest! You will then know if you are eating too much in general, and whether your intake includes all the components of a healthy diet. What a healthy diet is, I am not quite sure, but I know that I need protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. I minimize my carbohydrate intake, and consume fish and fish oil to help with my hyperlipidemia. I also like to eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. Fortunately, I don’t seem to like too much sweet food, which can be a killer if you want to maintain a healthy body, and appropriate weight – you have to decide for yourself what that is, with or without the assistance of a medical professional.

Harper's Biochemistry is a great book, it need not be intimidating, just take your time as you don't need to understand the whole thing. From:

Harper’s Biochemistry is a great book, it need not be intimidating, just take your time as you don’t need to understand the whole thing. From:

2. Understand What Your Food Does: your food has two main functions, to (1) act as fuel to generate energy for your body functions, and (2) provide the chemicals needed to carry out your body functions, such as muscle and bone structure, molecules generated by your immune system, neurotransmitters, and so forth. If you really want to understand this subject in any detail, I strongly recommend that you read Harper’s Biochemistry. If you don’t feel up to this, then there are many free tutorials on the Internet that will provide you with the basic information you need in a digestible format. Most importantly with respect to exercise you must understand the role of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in the provision of fuel. This is a controversial topic, with recent evidence suggesting that we should really cut back on carbohydrates, and if you do you will have to consume more fat. Once again, you need to read, and I would recommend the book by Gary Taubes entitled, ‘Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It.’ Alternatively, you could consult a dietitian or nutritionist. You must find what foods are good for you, don’t believe the fads, and choose wisely. Food is as important as exercise for a healthy happy life. It really is up to you to get it right.

The FitOldDog Training Wheel comes to nutrition, one of the keys to a healthy happy life. From:

The FitOldDog Training Wheel comes to nutrition, one of the keys to a healthy happy life. From:

3. Watch How Your Body Responds To Your Food: the best way to know how you are responding to different foods is to keep a diary, and collect the data. This will give you all the information you need to make sensible decisions, and it can be extremely helpful to your health professionals. They need to know what you are really doing, not just a vague idea about what you remember that you did. So take plenty of notes. There is a host of websites that can help you with this process, but beware the hard sell advertisements that go with many of them. I like the LiveStrong On My Plate site myself. I know that some foods don’t agree with me, so I avoid them. This is true for all of us and in fact some foods are dangerous for some people, such as peanuts for those with peanut  allergy. Books and books have been written on food, and I suspect that much of it is wrong.

4. Don’t Follow Fads: fads make money, just look at the fat-free fad. If you know what you are doing you won’t be taken in, and that is all I can really say about that.

Yep! I eat about nine (9) of these during the Lake Placid Ironman bike leg. From:

Yep! I eat about nine (9) of these during the Lake Placid Ironman bike leg. From:

5. Adjust Your Food Intake According To Training Load: it is important to develop a fairly strict routine for food intake before, during and after an endurance race. Each race distance and type is unique in many respects, but they generally involve some type of carbo-loading beforehand, a steady intake during the race, and a recovery meal within 30 minutes after the event. I go through this process every time, and for me it goes as follows: (before race) for several days before an Ironman I eat a lot of pasta, especially the night before the race, to fill my liver glycogen stores, and a couple of bagels with cream cheese the morning of the race. I finish the bagels at least two hours before the start, and then only liquid until the gun goes off for the swim; (during race) 250 calories per hour of chocolate-flavored PowerBars, one Hammer Gel (100 cal) per 30 minutes on the run; (after race) a recovery drink and whatever my stomach can handle, which means pizza usually. This took me several years to nail down, so don’t underestimate the difficulty of fine-tuning your food intake for long endurance races, and if you don’t get it right you will crash (bonk) at some point, or at least you will not perform optimally.

Brief Comment On Nutrition And Disease: if you have a metabolic disease that may be impacted by diet, as am I with a severe genetic hyperlipidemia, you might be well advised to seek nutritional advice. In my case the issue was finding the right food to keep my lipids in the range of a relatively healthy profile whilst having enough energy to train and compete. In the case of diabetics, for whom exercise is strongly recommended, this would be a much more tricky endeavor. There are websites that provide nutritional information specifically for diabetics, some of which are linked to this site under the Useful Links Tab. If you know of other such resources I would really appreciate your letting me know. You have to understand your disease AND the demands of training in order to get it right. The dilemma comes from the advice you will see to eat less carbohydrates and less fats, but you need energy and I would recommend using just protein as an energy source because of the nitrogen load. This needs some thought. I wonder what Gary Taubes has to say about the diabetic diet – guess I’ll try to ask him.

Finally: Explore new foods, but try to eat homegrown or locally grown produce when you can as it is generally more nutritious. Homegrown is best as you learn to truly appreciate the work involved, and what is better than corn or tomatoes warmed by the sun straight from the plant to your taste buds?

Food is one of the joys of life, so savor it, but also try to get your nutrition right at the same time!

-k @FitOldDog

Today’s workouts:

WorkoutPLAN Coach: Chris Hauth
Recovery week

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.