For many Americans, the ever-daunting task of trying to figure out what exactly they need to eat to be more fit and healthier can create quite a bit of confusion for most. Thoughts of eating dry chicken and gnawing on plain broccoli and green leaves every day, meal after meal, often come to mind leading to a grimace of the face and being unmotivated coming out of the gate before they can even get started on their plan to looking and being healthier. I must say, nothing is further from the truth as eating in the upmost, healthiest way can tantalize your taste buds quite well with delight!
If you’re the type of person that because of convenience or lack of time, give into eating most of your foods from a bag, box or package of sorts making up most of your food intake, then this article should be able to give some healthier insight and thoughts to implement.
Well Fed But Undernourished
In the United States, there is no doubt that we are well fed but very undernourished. With our waist lines larger than ever and our rates of disease and cancer not getting any better, it is no mystery that something isn’t going right. Much of our problem here simply boils down to how we are feeding ourselves on a regular basis. Based off what we consume and expose ourselves to most of the time helps to dictate if we are preventing disease or contributing to it. We can of course add in the same breath here, this also contributes to helping a zestful and daily “get up and go” or… contributing to regularly feeling beat down, sick and lethargic with a lack of passion for life.
In today’s fast paced, sleep deprived, overworked and super stressed out lives influenced by big agriculture industries and franken-food manufactures, the odds are stacked against us to be the healthy and vibrant individuals we deserve to be. Add in a major lack of education on nutrition in the school systems and a bombardment of advertisements for more pharmaceutical drugs and foreign substances to put in our bodies more than ever before and we have our current day recipe contributing the health epidemics seen everywhere.
Long gone seem to be the days where daily we ate real, fresh produce from our gardens consisting of fresh vegetables, nuts, fruits and grains loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, phytonutrients and more to keep us healthy at our core. For many Americans in today’s microwave society, we consume many of our calories on the run; from the fast food drive-thru, chain restaurants, gas stations and the like. Many of these foods being loaded with GMOs, artificial flavors and sweeteners, preservatives and a plethora of additives we can’t pronounce and have no idea what they are, and are often carcinogenic and contributing to our health crisis on the grand scale of things.
Simultaneously, we rarely seem to consume a sufficient amount (if any) fresh vegetables and plant based foods on a regular basis. These are the foods we were meant to eat. These are the foods loaded with what our body needs and craves, to look and feel our best. Lack of education with a bit of “monkey see, monkey do” passed on from parents to offspring for the last few generations in addition to lack of accessibility to fresh plant based foods, poverty and urban dead food zones, we have a lot of reasons contributing to increased waist lines and decreased state of health across the nation.
Steps to Take to Be Our Fittest and Healthiest
Step #1: Do No Harm! One of the best places to start in to be our fittest and healthiest is to stop doing harm to our bodies first and foremost. This includes cutting back and if possible, cutting out, manufactured foods in addition to easing up on excessive animal intake such as meats, dairy and the like. It is also common sense to mention smoking, excessive alcohol intake and related harmful substances as well. Many of these man-made foods with their laundry list of unknown ingredients contribute as being endocrine disruptors to the many common hormone imbalances we see today more than ever before in addition to contributing to various health ailments. Loaded with calories and void of nutrition; Stopping the contribution of toxic and unnatural substances entering the body is a critical first step.
Step #2: “Let Food Be Thy Medicine”. This is a great quote by Hippocrates that we have unfortunately at large, forgot about. Many (but not all) of Today’s doctors receive little if any, training in nutrition. Heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, there seems to be a pill for every ill. Treating the system, not the symptom seems to be a thing of the past in too many cases for so many. And that’s what functional nutrition as “medicine” is: A functional way of looking at how someone’s system is working together in tandem with each other. This is different than the standard looking at one piece and “fixing it”, and thinking that another piece is disconnected.
Step #3: Drop the Sugar! High fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sugar and the list goes on when we look at food and beverage items such as soda, juices, cereals and so many other franken-foods that fill up most shelves at the grocery stores. If it says “sugar free” it most likely is loaded with AP, sucralose, aspartame and/or more to sweeten it with carcinogenic fillers that are no better. Excessive sugar consumption is a huge contributor to the majority of health diseases and complications we face as a nation today.
Step #4: Avoid Processed Meats & Eat REAL meat. Have you ever seen what goes into hot dogs? Like myself, have you been fooled into thinking that deli meats (in general) are good for you and for convenience reasons, you buy and consume them on a regular basis? A ballpark hot dog or a few slices of bacon once in a while won’t kill you, but don’t make them a staple of your diet. Some cured meats tend to be high in nitrites and nitrates, preservatives that can, in large amounts studies suggest it may potentially increase your risk of colorectal cancers and disease-(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661797/). In short, eat real meats and only allow them a small percentage of your overall caloric intake.
Step #5: Eat Plenty of Organic Foods from Plant Origins, On a Regular Basis! This can’t be stressed enough. Loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber and so much more, organic vegetables and plant based foods pack a ton of punch from an overall health standpoint while contributing very little in the calorie department. These powerhouse foods also give your body what it needs to flourish its immune system to do its best job possible.
You can get creative with these if you’re not quite a fan of them yet. You can blend them in smoothies and you can also incorporate them to a degree in the form of spices such as turmeric, ginger, cayenne, garlic and more into your meals. You can make stews, chili or whatever fits your taste. Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions in addition to kelp, spirulina, cocoa, sprouts and mushrooms are awesome on many levels.
Fruits also provide many of these health benefits too! Although nature’s “candies” are loaded with these desired benefits, they can also can have a fairly large amount of sugar so don’t go too overboard. Stress vegetables and spices first with fruits following behind. Eat the rainbow, on a regular basis!!!
Step #6: Eat Nuts. Packed with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and healthy fats, nuts and seeds are a must to include in our diet on a regular basis to help our bodies stay healthy and vibrant to fight off disease and keep them all at bay. High in units of energy coming in at 9 calories a gram, these sources of fat are in simple terms considered “good fats” as they are from plant origins.
Step #7: Be Prepared for Your Week. If you can't find the time to prep some meals appropriate to your health, fitness and fat loss goals in your kitchen for the week ahead and you think you can rely on eating correctly when eating out on the run, then you are probably not ready or committed, to achieving success in your journey to be more fit and healthy. Find an hour one day out of your week to prep for you week ahead.
There is a plethora of information to give ideas for meals, how to cook and more on YouTube and the internet so I’m not going to give a bunch of recipes here. Those ideas my reader friend, are at your fingertips and all you need is a couple of key words to search with. However, here are a few helpful “tools” that are a must for anyone serious on taking this crucial step #7:
- Shaker cups. Great to mix up supplement powders, eggs and other foods in the kitchen easily. They are also great when on the run.
- Portable personal cooler.
- re-freezable ice packs.
- Plastic wear (spoons/forks).
- Tupper wear bowls.
- Portable funnel to mix any supplement powders into water bottles (if your preference).
- Food journal, online food journal or an app like MyFitnessPal to keep yourself accountable with your nutrition intake.
- Protein bars (look for ^protein, low sugar) as snacks to fill in the gaps in tough situations while on the run (like in your car). Only use these when absolutely needed, real food is always best.
- Calendar. Just about all phones these days have one or you can download one to put on your phone. You will need this schedule yourself in and stay organized and committed.
- Food Scale.
What About My Macros?
Regarding your ratio of carbs to fats to proteins; Well, that is an individual thing from person to person depending on your goals, body type and more. Top notch trainers and nutrition coaches have known for quite some time now in bodybuilding that different body types can respond differently to both training and nutrition. As a result, it is really important to be aware of what your body type is so that you can put together an eating program that works best for you.
Here are essentially the 3 basic body types and general ways for each to go about eating for each:
- Ectomorph: “The Skinny Hard Gainer”. Good fats such as a variety of different nuts, plant based fat sources (very high in calories) and lean proteins are essential. Eat plenty of lower glycemic or “slower” carbs such as yams, potatoes, oats and whole grains. Unlike the other body types, cheat meals can happen more often because of your high metabolism. Simply eating a sufficient amount of calories, incorporating consistent and intense weight training while optimizing testosterone are keys to successfully “filling out”.
- Mesomorph: “The Well-Proportioned Body”. Taking in a good balance of healthy fats, lean proteins as well as greens, vegetables, fruits and grains for carbs will work well for this person. Generally speaking while minimizing sugar intake, a good 40/40/20 macro split between carbs/proteins/fats will often work well for this person most of the time.
- Endomorph: Has Roundness and Some “Extra Padding”. This body type tends to be insulin dominant, leading to a greater tendency for carbohydrate storage. Lower carbohydrate tolerance is a common trait with an endomorph body type and excessive consumption of them needs to be avoided in to see fat loss results.
Endomorphs typically do better on a higher fat, sufficient protein intake with carbohydrate intake being controlled and properly timed around exercise while being minimized at other times. Maximizing nutrient partitioning, stabilizing insulin and optimizing IGF-1 and testosterone levels will be key to achieve the best and fastest success.
Some people will not be strictly defined in one area but rather, may be in between two above. Nonetheless, it is helpful to establish where you fall into so you can therefore make an educated decision on how to allocate your macros accordingly.
We All Know It; We Are What We Eat (as the old saying goes)
Some of this information I’m sure you already knew. A few other things, maybe not. And for the rest, maybe you needed a good reminder to re-think your eating habits and how you’re treating your body. The keys to being our fittest and healthiest are not always easy but simple: Feed your body properly, be active and have optimized hormones (which tend to flow with #1 and #2 here).
Regarding food choices, this is something easy to remember and ask yourself often: If it grows out of the ground, off a tree or vine, lives off the land or lives in the sea it is probably good for you. If it is made in a factory and comes in a bag or box, it probably isn't. Think of the "80/20 rule" in that eat healthy in this way 80% of the time and allow yourself that little bit of freedom to enjoy things you like on occasion and you will do just fine. This is how fittest and healthiest people eat!
If your nutrition is perfect (literally) but hormones are out of balance, you’re at a disadvantage out of the gate. If you have a car and you put premium gas in it (premium food) but the spark plugs (hormones) have rust on them and don’t work, a tie rod is broken and the muffler is bad, it doesn’t matter that you put premium gas in because it still won’t drive right. Get your vehicle (body) aligned and tune up so it drives straight and smoothly again. In other words, be sure your hormones are optimized for best results if and where applicable. And remember; look to treat the system and not just the symptom.
Best in health,
Roger Bowman, CPT