Currently I am part way through a Sports Nutrition diploma.
It’s part of a journey I started a long time ago when I was struggling to lose weight and just couldn’t find any advice that would support me to do so with high activity levels. General advice like dropping to 1500 calories doesn’t really cut it when you’re training for a Half Marathon and have 3 hours Roller Derby training on a Saturday, and I would end up feeling weak and nauseous, and then inevitably binge, despite my good intentions.
Since then I’ve learned a LOT about my own relationship with food and completely changed the way I view it and I want to help other people do the same.
Over the last few years my view of food and my relationship with my body has changed so much, that sometimes it’s a shock when I suddenly realise there are otherwise reasonable people out there who are still looking on food as the enemy and thinking that they’ll gain half a stone of body fat if they so much as look at a croissant.
Here are some of my favourite food nonsenses currently hanging around. If you want to read more stuff about food and planning a diet, then let me know, because there’s stuff in my brain and I might be able to get it out onto the screen, you never know….
You Don’t Need Carbohydrates
I’ve heard this from flexible dieting advocates who aim for extremely high protein intakes to the detriment of carbohydrates claiming that carbs are the one macronutrient your body doesn’t *really* need.
It’s just not true. Your body stores fuel in your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen to use when you need it, carbohydrates are what it uses to create this stored fuel.
Your body is very clever. If you don’t eat carbohydrates you won’t die. Your body can use fat and protein for fuel, by basically turning it into carbohydrates but it takes longer. This is why when you don’t eat carbohydrates you feel weak, and often fuzzy headed, because our brains primarily run on glucose.
If you cut out carbohydrates you’ll see a rapid drop in scale weight, but this is largely because your body is depleting its supplies of fuel, and each gram of fuel comes along with 3 or 4 grams of water. You’re not losing fat, you’re losing energy, and water.
Pizza is not the devil
Nor are croissants, white bread, pop tarts or Special K. Different types of carbohydrates have a different impact on your blood sugar levels and eating high amounts of sugar and refined carbs could lead to fluctations in your energy levels, but as part of your everyday diet, they’re fine.
At the end of your day whether it’s a spoon of sugar or a bowl of organic wholegrain brown rice your body will take the carbohydrates in it, break them right down and store them in your muscles to use as energy.
The brown rice will probably contain some lovely vitamins and minerals that your body needs, it will give you energy that lasts longer as it’s harder to break down, it might also contain other macronutrients like protein, and even a little fat.
Brown rice might be good for you, but sugar isn’t bad for you. In moderation of course.
Balance doesn’t mean binging
Once we’ve learned that sugar isn’t bad for us, it’s probably time we learned it’s not really good for us either.
We don’t JUST need protein, carbs and fat to function well. We need water, we need vitamins and minerals, we need fibre, and the best way to get these is to eat some damn fruit and vegetables.
If you want a 6 bottles of beer and a pizza on Saturday night, then, by all means, have it. If you’ve spent the rest of the week eating quinoa and a variety of multicoloured veggies and lean proteins and drinking 6 glasses of water a day, then that’s #balance. If you also had 6 bottles of beer and a pizza on Friday night and a Chinese takeaway on Thursday and the last time you saw a strawberry it was in a Pick’n’Mix bag then that’s probably binging.
Of course, no one says you have to give a crap about whether food is good for you, but if you’re aiming for balance, it’s important to remember that doughnut filling isn’t actually a serving of fruit.
You (probably) don’t need that much protein
Protein has become the worlds favourite macronutrient. You can get protein porridge, protein yoghurt and protein flapjacks (many of them without much more protein than the regular kind, but that’s another story).
Lots of regular exercisers may under consume on protein, but an awful lot of them, particularly strength based athletes may over consume as well.
If you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle then protein is vital. It’s satiating, so you’ll feel full, and it may help ensure you maintain your muscle mass when in a calorie deficit. Most studies, however, show that protein in excess of around 2g per kg of bodyweight isn’t making much difference.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends between 1.4-2g per kg of bodyweight for athletes, but there is preliminary evidence that higher intakes may be beneficial in improving body composition. So if you’re training for a bikini competition it won’t do you any harm, but if you’re skipping carbs to eat an extra steak, it’s probably not doing you any good.
In short. Food is food. It’s fuel for your body, and some of it tastes really, really good and is delicious to tuck into while watching Netflix. None of it implicitly comes with value judgements about “good” or “bad” and none of it will make you fat unless you eat too much of it.