Continuing from the last entry about nutrition tips from Dr. Williams, protein is great for healing and growth. For muscles its best to eat not too long before you go to bed. The chemicals you produce when you sleep (especially GH growth hormone) aid in building muscle. Your body can only absorb 20-30 grams of protein per sitting (2 hours in between sittings), so multiple small protein meals are great for you. Eggs are the standard comparison for protein content in different types of food. It’s the best and while there may be some concern over cholesterol intake, eggs also contain lecithin. This is an anti-cholesterol agent, so it negates the cholesterol in the eggs. The best alternative sources are meats and fish while yogurt, natural peanut butter, and nuts are also great choices.
Fats represent the second pillar of the necessary food groups for athletes. There are many types. Animal fats are not good for you so try to eat leaner cuts of beef and eat poultry. Stay away from trans fats too. Many foods tout their 0g trans fat quality so it is easy to find foods without this fat. Monounsaturated fats are the best for you, and the best source is olive oil. It is perfect to dip your wheat bread into. It reduces the bad LDL’s and leaves your good HDL’s alone. It should be about 15% of you diet. It is really good for you. The other fat that is great for you is omega 3. You can get this in fish (salmon is the best), flax seed oil, and some nuts. As you can see, fish can serve as a great source of protein and fats for your body so you are not overloading on quantity while maximizing the quality of your intake.
The final energy source is carbohydrates. These are found in all types of foods but it is best to look for unrefined sources of carbs such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products. These products are more nutrient dense. I know if I eat whole wheat pasta or a whole grain rice casserole, I eat substantially less than I would when the same dish is made with regular pasta or white rice. There is just more to it because all of the nutrients are still in place. When considering whole wheat bread and white bread, all of the good nutrients have been taken from the flour. The whole wheat bread will have a lot more calories, but the nutrient value is far better, which is why it is a LOT heavier. Although complex carbs are better for you, they also take longer to digest. They will not spike your blood sugar but you don’t want to fill up with them late at night. Your body will not have the proper amount of time to process all of the food before you sleep. Rather, try to have complex carbs earlier and protein later in the day to shift the different energy sources.
Even as we try to eat healthy and get the right mix of nutrients to fuel our body and activities, it’s important to recognize that foods just don’t contain the same level of nutrients as they did in the past. Supplements with vitamins and minerals will complement a healthy and well balanced diet to maximize your potential and activities. Vitamins are best to take in the morning for function while minerals are best to take at night for healing after a day of breaking down your body. Today I’m just going to mention a few vitamins to get started. Vitamin C is an absolute must to an athlete’s diet. We put our body under extensive stress every day so it’s important to help support the immune system. Having between 500 – 1000 mg per day enhances immunity and it’s one of the best antioxidants and is involved with over 300 functions in the body. Vitamin E, one of the best fat-soluble antioxidants, is a partner to vitamin C and has been proven to increase athletic performance. It helps the tissues in the body and healthy red blood cell membranes. It is one of the safest vitamins and one of the most widely taken for heart patients. As triathletes, we spend some extra time inside during swim workouts and possibly even riding on the trainer so the next one, vitamin D, is important to integrate into the routine. Sunlight helps promote and stimulate vitamin D production which is necessary to help absorb calcium.
Hopefully this wasn’t too much in one post about different sources of nutrients for the body. We’ll wrap up with vitamins and minerals next time to get you on your way. Thanks again to Dr. Williams and the Academy of Lifestyle Medicine for the input and guidance.