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Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Eat What You Are"

A basic human need that should be simple enough to meet - eating to satisfy hunger - has become quite complex due to the plethora of diet plans marketed today.  Which is the best program for you?  I suggest that you "eat what you are" - a twist on the age-old adage "you are what you eat."  In other words, active individuals and athletes will need to follow a different dietary plan than someone who is overweight looking to drop a few (or more) pounds.  Likewise, an endurance athlete has different nutrient needs than a weight lifter.  Whether you are a recreational sport enthusiast or an elite athlete, eating a proper diet will help you to achieve your fitness goals in addition to promoting your overall health.

The right meal plan can benefit the active individual by:
  • Improving your overall performance by allowing you to train for longer durations and at higher intensity levels.
  • Aiding the recovery process by providing your body with the macronutrients needed to repair and rebuild muscle tissue as well as to replenish your body's energy stores.
  • Reducing the likelihood of experiencing an electrolyte imbalance which, in turn, can lead to complications such as muscle cramps.
  • Improving your body composition.
To function properly, both in daily life and during exercise, your body needs a diet that provides adequate amounts of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates.  The optimal ratio of these macronutrients varies depending on individual body type as well as exercise training regimen (e.g., endurance versus weight training).  To provide the right fuel for your active lifestyle consider the following recommendations from the American Dietetic Association:

Dietary Guidelines for Improved Endurance Performance:
  • Carbohydrates (CHO) are the main source of fuel because they are easily digested and can quickly meet your body's energy needs during the endurance activity.  If your training intensity is low to moderate, you should consume 2.3-3.2 grams of CHO per one pound of body weight.  If your training intensity is high, you should consume 3.2-4.5 grams of CHO per one pound of body weight.
  • Although protein's role in providing energy during endurance activities is minimal, adequate amounts of it are needed to help your muscles recover from the exercise.  It is recommended that you consume 0.55-0.8 grams of protein per one pound of body weight if you engage in light to moderate intensity endurance activities.  If you endurance train at a high intensity, you will need 0.7-0.9 grams of protein per one pound of body weight.
  • Fat serves as an energy source during prolonged bouts of low- to moderate-intensity endurance training.  Consume healthy fats (mono- and polyunsaturated) from healthy sources while limiting or avoiding unhealthy fats (trans- and saturated fats).
  • Ideally your diet should consist of whole foods in their natural state (or close to it).  Include protein from lean sources (e.g., beans and legumes; soy; lean cuts of poultry, fish, and/or meat; and, nonfat or low-fat dairy products), healthy sources of fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fish rich in Omega 3's), and carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, natural sweeteners (e.g., honey), and whole grains.
Dietary Guidelines for Improved Muscular Fitness (e.g., Weight Training):
  • Consuming high-quality protein is essential to help your muscles repair and rebuild from the micro-tears induced by weight training.  To benefit from general strength training and toning activities it is recommended that you consume 0.54-0.77 grams of protein per one pound of body weight.  If your goal is to "bulk up" or body build, you should consume 0.63-0.77 grams of protein per one pound of body weight. 
  • An adequate supply of carbohydrates is needed to prevent your body from using protein as an energy source.  Consuming sufficient amounts of carbohydrates will also help to delay the onset of fatigue during your strength training session.  It is recommended that you consume 2.3-3.6 grams of CHO per one pound of body weight to get the most out of your weight training regimen.
  • Fat intake should account for about 20-30% of your total caloric intake.
  • To reap the benefits of a weight training program, consume a diet consisting of lean protein sources (e.g., nonfat and/or low-fat diary products, soy, egg whites, beans, legumes, and lean cuts of poultry, fish, and/or meat), healthy sources of fat (nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fish rich in Omega 3's), and carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, natural sweeteners (e.g., honey), and whole grains.
Food fuels your exercise.  The ratio of macronutrients you consume depends on your exercise training regimen.  In addition, your food choices will be effected based on the timing of your meal relative to the timing of your training session and/or sporting event.  To learn more about eating before, during, and after exercise refer to my earlier posts, "The Last Meal: Pre-competition Meal Basics, "Fueling your Exercise," and "Refueling: Post-Exercise Nutrition," in the May 2009 archives.  It is  recommended that you meet with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan that best meets your needs and goals.  To learn more about sports nutrition visit

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

The American Dietetic Association

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