Let's make Autumn Awesome! 2: Nutrition goals

Our nutritionist Nick Owen continues his Awesome Autumn series of blogs by encouraging us to review how we think about food.

Now that the new season is starting I've been taking the opportunity to suggest some new health and fitness goals over a series of blogs called Awesome Autumn. But what you choose to eat underpins your ability to achieve any of these changes.

'You are what you eat' is simple and pretty accurate!

Mindful eating

It is important to realise that it is the food choices that we make hour by hour, meal by meal, week by week that determine how we look and feel every day. Our body shape, appearance, mental agility, body fat, concentration, physical ability are all a reflection of the regular choices that we have made over the last few weeks, months and years.

Likewise the changes we want to see will be the result of consistent change over the coming weeks and months.

In fact, scientists now tells us that our physical appearance, our well-being, and our health and fitness goals are influenced 75% to 80% by diet, and only 20% to 25% by exercise; so regardless of the amount of exercise that we do, an exercise regime will never effectively counter the impact of a poor diet, or eating more food that our body needs (and yes, too much healthy nutritious food can be too much overall energy going into the body).

Balancing act

Scientists also tells us that we don’t need expensive or bespoke foods and supplements that go through a whole host of manufacturing processes – not to mention generate additional packaging, transport and storage costs. We just need the right balance of nutrients from foods at the right time and in the right quantity, sourced as locally and as seasonally as possible.

All individuals have slightly differing energy/nutrient requirements, though there are some useful general principles on nutrients that will benefit us all – we need a balance of the right nutrients from nutritious foods at the right time and in the right quantity – and sourced as locally and as seasonally as possible:

  • Carbohydrates are the prime provider energy. Slow-digesting carbs are ideal. Without carbohydrate, the body will not be able to work hard and will start to breakdown existing muscle to provide energy – a process called ‘catabolism’.
  • Fats are also needed to help the sustained release of energy & the use of body fat. They are also needed to transport vital nutrients, and in the production of hormones such as testosterone. Without fats, the body is unable to use fat soluble vitamins effectively – vitamins A,D,E and K.
  • Protein is needed for muscle repair and growth, both in everyday living and after exercise; though the body can only use up to about 25 to 35 grams at any one time (anything additional will not be used and will put extra pressure on other body organs).

We also have a daily requirement for a range of vitamins and minerals. They work in hundreds of different combinations performing hundreds of roles in the body. They convert food into energy and repair cellular damage, as well as strengthen bones, heal wounds and bolster your immune system.

Taste the rainbow

Additionally, exercise can increase the need for vitamins and minerals. It breaks down muscles, generating free radicals and oxidative stress, as well as temporarily weakening the immune system. It also creates an even greater requirement for our metabolic systems to be working effectively. So I would up your historic five-per-day for vegetables and fruit to eight-per-day. Focus on four to five vegetables and only two to three pieces fruit – and avoid going down the supplement route, as this article explains:

Why antioxidants don't belong in your workout.

Think colours of the rainbow – and whatever you do, get your greens and reds in. Green are vital for all your metabolic processes working effectively, and reds are full of antioxidants. 

The vegetable and fruit impact is huge when we look at cancer risk too - A study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that at people who ate seven or more portions of fruits and vegetables saw their risk of death from cancer fall by 25 per cent and from cardiovascular disease by an even larger 31 per cent.

An Autumn Commitment

So, whatever you are doing with your training, how about committing to some additional vegetables in your diet?

Remember that it is the colours of the rainbow that matter, so there are plenty of ways of getting round being bored of the same veggies everyday.

To make the process even easier check out this really cool info graphic. 

And what's local and in season will be the easiest and cheapest to get hold of and you'll pretty much hit all the different colours of the rainbow (and all the different shades).

Finally, for those of you wanting another great non meat protein source, what about lentils?


Why not read the other blogs in this series

Awesome Autumn 3: New classes & more?

About the Author

Nick Owen is a qualified nutritional adviser and holds a Diploma in Non-Medical Nutritional Advice. Nick uses nutrition to support a wide variety of client goals. These include weight management, fat loss and muscle building, general health and well-being, improved energy levels, concentration and complexion. Nick’s approach is practical and realistic, starting with an analysis of current eating patterns and lifestyle, and then working over a series of consultations to support achievement of the desired goals.

To follow Nick's blog posts for 2016, sign up via his website; or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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ymca | 30 September 2016