I despair about the training supplement industry, it isn’t necessarily that I think it is overtly evil or malicious, but I do feel that it is shallow and does take advantage of usually younger people trying to live up to their sporting idols and the ever increasing pressures of augmented social media profiles, it is as an industry worth billions on both sides of the Atlantic and it show no sign of stopping.
So I set out below my top five foodstuffs to help achieve fitness goals without spending fortunes on supplements, remember to use supplements for convenience not as a replacement for real food.
A bit of an obvious one this one but, it is so often overlooked, people tend to drink a lot more water in the gym or during a hot summers day but not so much at other times, the fact is that the body is very good at drawing water out of the food we eat to keep us hydrated but it is still recommended to drink around 2 litres a day, the human body is approx 60% water so it makes sense to top it up, adequate hydration supports mental cognition, metabolism, and if you click the title link you will see how it has been linked to actually increasing calorie expenditure, drinking good clean water is absolutely essential not only for any fitness regimen but for life itself.
And I don’t mean the latest Protein Powder from the local supplement shop, although protein powders can be a good source of protein if you are running late or if you are struggling to take in six meals a day they should not be relied on, too often I see people with shakers in the morning and at lunch time, clearly substituting real food with a protein shake, these are normally laden with sugar or worse Aspartame to sweeten them and depending on the manufacturer (not always the price) can use low quality dairy protein that is no better than drinking a large quantity of milk, but of course the milk would be a lot cheaper, recommendations for strength athletes is around 1.4 to 1.8 grams per Kg of bodyweight and 1.2 to 1.4 grams per Kg of bodyweight for endurance athletes.
The recommended intake for Carbohydrate is roughly 45 to 65 percent of you daily calorie intake, that seems like a very ambiguous statement if you ask me and I also know that Carbohydrate is probably one of the most misunderstood forms of nutrition second only to the last pillar FAT, so there are low Carb diets and no Carb diets, low Carb would drop you down to the 25 to 45 percent range and then as you move lower you would start to work your way toward Keto type diets, and you would start to trigger Ketosis at a Carb intake of around 20 grams a day, the trick with Carbs is to select them based on what you are doing, there is no point taking in a large amount of complex Carbohydrate just before going for a run or too the gym, similarly loading up on simple Carbs just before sitting down for 8 hrs at work is also counter intuitive, one thing that is certain is that we need to take great care over the quantity of Carbohydrate as it is easy to over consume without realising it, especially as sugar is often added to fast foods or pre-packaged foods to make them more appealing.
Fibre is essentially broken down into two types Soluble and Insoluble otherwise known as roughage, soluble fibre can be digested by the body and assists with lowering cholesterol and constipation, examples of soluble fibre are beans, bananas, and oats, whereas roughage cannot be digested and assists with bowel health and has been linked to reducing the risk of bowel cancer, this type of fibre can be found in wholegrains, cereals and of course bran, our recommended fibre intake increases with age from around 15 grams a day for 2 to 5 year olds up to adulthood at around 30 grams a day, also foods higher in fibre tend to help keep hunger at bay for longer meaning that you may end up snacking less and ultimately reducing calorie intake over the course of a day.
As stated above I believe fat is one of the most misunderstood of all the components of nutrition, until recent years it has also been the first thing that was cut out whenever anybody went on a “Diet” but as time has gone on we have started to learn more about fat and how it works in the body, consumption of the right fat is not only desirable but essential, the first type is Saturated fat, this is really pretty much all bad, it leads to an increase in LDL cholesterol which is linked to heart disease and strokes and most health organisations agree that if it cannot be avoided it should be limited to at most 30 grams per day for men and 25 grams for women, children’s levels should be lower, Unsaturated and Monounstaturated fats are responsible for an increase of HDL Cholesterol and lowering of the amount of LDL in our bloodstreams and lowering the risk of heart disease, these are much more preferable, but not simply a free for all and is recommended that in a typical diet they should be restricted to between 40 to 77 grams based on a percentage of calorific intake at around 20 percent, Omega-3 and 6 cannot be produced by the body and have been linked to a wide range of benefits to the body, everything from eye health, cancer risk reduction to helping prevent vascular diseases, and it is recommended that we take these fats in in the form of fish such as Mackerel, Salmon or Trout, or to use a supplement like cod liver oil, the last on the list is Trans-fats these are found in convenience foods, margarine and it is added to food to increase it’s shelf life, this Should be avoided at all costs it literally increases LDL and reduces HDL and as such no research I did managed to find an organisation that would put a “safe” or “recommended” level of intake on this, it is not avoidable completely in everyday life but make sure you read through the macros and avoid it where possible as well as partially hydrogenated fats, it is also worth considering that fat provides 9 calories per gram as opposed to Carbs or Protein at 4 calories per gram.
When used with thought and planned out correctly the above is all you need to build muscle, or reduce fat or both, bodybuilders are often revered for their ability to increase muscle mass while still reducing bodyfat levels and regardless of any chemical assistance this is largely due to the fact that the top bodybuilders study nutrition requirement and balance their diet accordingly, it is simple mathematics and with a little bit of time spent adding stuff up and thinking through what we take in we can all achieve great changes.