Coach Kayla's Five Rules for Everyday Nutrition
Daily nutrition is one of the most difficult pieces to manage whether you are an athlete or not. It is very time consuming and in the time we live in our days are often so full of “stuff” that finding the time to focus on our daily nutrition is really hard especially when you can just head to the drive through and quickly pick something up. The thing is that your daily nutrition did not have to be crazy, it doesn’t have to take a really long time, and honestly it really is just going back to the idea of the basics of eating.
As triathlon coach this blog is technically geared towards athletes these ideals behind daily nutrition can be implemented no matter “who” or “what you do on a daily basis. It is this idea of fueling your body for strength, fueling your body for optimizing your ability to function at its full potential. As an athlete I get a lot of questions about my daily nutrition and how I manage it, so I put together a few of my favorite tips for managing nutrition, I hope that you find them useful!!
Coach Kayla’s Five Tips for Everyday Nutrition:
Keep it simple
There are so many fad diets out there and with the internet offering tons of information on each of them figuring out which one works for you is tough. The idea is that it really doesn’t have to be hard, good food, simple food, and simple meals. The more complicated your diet is the more you are going to struggle to stay true to it, and often the more expensive it can be.
Really, our early ancestors had it correct. They ate simple foods that they harvested from the land and hunted on the plains. These foods were not full of hydrogenated oils, weird GMOs, and all of the preservatives that we often see in our food that is used to help keep it on the shelves longer. Grocery stores are laid out so that the “fresh” or “simple” or “real” (whichever) are on the outsides specifically produce and meat. I would argue that some of our dairy products, such as some of the milks, cheeses, and eggs which are also on the outside of the grocery store could be put in parts of that idea of “simple” food because in reality you can make these from home if you had chickens or your own cows. But what I am really getting at is that a way to make it easier to shop the “simple” foods is to shop on the outside of the rows at the grocery store.
Eat a “balanced” amount of CHO/PRO/Fats
There are three main macro nutrients that we need to fuel our bodies with, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each of these macronutrients plays a very important role in our how our bodies function. I could go into detail about it more but that would be a whole different blog post in itself. What I am trying to show you is that you really need to focus on finding a balance between the three macronutrients, most of us have tendency to over do it on one of the three and then forget about the other two. Maintaining a balance between the three macros is what can really help you to optimize your blood sugar, which is stimulated whenever you eat or exercise. Controlling your blood sugar (or blood glucose levels) really helps to control inflammation, stabilize your mood,
The ideal ratio of protein to carbs post workout I believe is different for everyone, I don’t think that there is a magic number because everyone’s body reacts differently , however here are some ratios of carbohydrates to proteins to consider and when to use them:
1CHO : 1PRO [ideal] for most daily meals
2CHO : 1PRO [also ideal] for most daily meals and before/after a workout less than 2 hrs
3CHO : 1PRO [ideal] for use before and especially after a workout 3+ hours in duration
4CHO : 1PRO [not ideal] for most daily meals or after or before workouts
So how do we eat a balanced amount of the aforementioned macronutrients? Here are a couple of steps to help you with that.
Step 1: Focus on the Protein and Fat first when creating your meals.
The reason that protein and fat are tied together in this is that sometimes your protein can be your fat source, such as if you have a steak for your protein source, or a fish such as Salmon which is chalk full of omega-3s and “good fats”. Each meal should have a somewhere around 4-7 oz of protein, you can even use your hand to think about the portions with one handful of protein being approximately the amount you need.
Step 2: Fruits and Veggies
This falls into this idea of eating for volume. What people don’t realize is that you can get plenty of carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables as they are chalk full of them however they part of that low density food, that you will read about shortly. Veggies have less calories than fruit and are higher volume but that doesn’t mean that fruit is something you should ignore. If you are trying to lose weight I recommend focusing on 75% Veggies and 25% fruits when creating your daily meals, and if you are just trying to maintain you can do a 50/50 split of the two.
Step 3: Whole Grains and Starches
Now, please do not get into your head that carbohydrates are bad. In fact I strongly believe they are very good especially if you are active such as many of you that are reading this blog post. I spent many years avoiding ALL carbs because I thought they would make me FAT, I was so wrong!! Carbohydrates are needed in order to replenish your glycogen stores in your body, which is one of your main fuel sources for your body to just straight function let alone put it through the abuse of say a 140.6 mile triathlon. The key with carbohydrates is to focus on avoiding the white, refined, and process carbohydrates as our body does not process them very well and large portions of it become waste. Its this whole good carb vs. bad carb debate.
The key with your daily nutrition is to pick the foods that fuel your body for energy and strength. I have put together a really short list to help you determine the types of each of this macro nutrients you want to consider:
Eat for Volume
This does not mean over stuffing yourself, or eating thirds, fourths, and fifths of meals. Rather it is to eat foods that have volume, low density, and high nutrients. Low density foods have lower calories so you can eat more of them and you will not only get full faster but feel as though you are eating a lot of food.
High density foods are foods such as pizza and pasta which have less water, more calories, and high fat. High density foods are usually processed which your body does not process as well turning most of the food to waste vs. fuel.
Low Density foods such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, melons, whole grains, nonfat dairy products, zucchini, squash, and many fruits have lower calories and a lot of water and fiber. This makes you feel full faster and sticks to the idea of simplicity which your body can digest faster and easier.
We eat with our eyes and it is easy to trick our brains into thinking we ate more than we did by eating volume. If you look at a serving of pasta vs. a serving of roasted veggies your plate is going to look more full with the serving of veggies so your brain is going to tell your body that it ate a lot more food, compared to the small size of the pasta which your brain will complain it didn’t get enough leaving you feeling hungry.
Understand what your food is made of
Truthfully, this probably falls into this idea of keeping it simple however I really like this concept of being able to look at a label and being able to pronounce each of the ingredients in the list. Nowadays you look at the ingredient list for foods we buy in the store and it would take a chemistry degree to understand what all goes in there. It goes back to the idea that it should be simple. When you read the ingredients, you should understand what is in there. If you find yourself not being able to pronounce what is in the food, you are purchasing or having no clue what it is most likely it is not natural, and your body will not break it down properly.
This comes in many forms from making all your food for an entire week to merely just buying everything you need for the week in one shot, so you don’t have to constantly have to go to the grocery store. When you have to go to the store in the evenings after work you are tired, probably hungry, and you often end up buying stuff you do not need.
Meal prepping is to be prepared and includes carrying healthy snacks with you when traveling and/or at work. The best time for a diet to be derailed is at work or when you are traveling; you get hungry and if you don’t have anything with you then it is easy to end up reaching for that “fast food” or processed food. Having a healthy, high protein and high healthy fat snack on hand helps curb your hunger and keep your appetite in check until you can eat your next full meal.
Managing your daily nutrition takes time, it takes commitment, it takes consistency and it also takes a having a bit of grace and patience with yourself. There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to nutrition as there really is no one size fits all. There are also going to be moments where you totally miss and get it all wrong and that is OK!!! I am a firm believer in moderation when it comes to nutrition, now that does not mean you use it as a crutch or excuse for eating a whole sleeve of oreos and then say well I don’t do that very often so its in moderation. Rather moderation is this idea of being a little bit flexible, being Ok when you do miss and eat that sleeve of oreos but rather than making an excuse for it you look at what it is that triggered that miss and see about rectifying it in the future.
Learning to fuel your body for energy, strength, and passion is not an easy path. In fact, most of us go through a period of time in which we do the exact opposite – fuel the body for an image vs. the strength that is already inside of us. I know I have. I spent years fueling for the body I thought people wanted me to have not the one that give me passion, faith, and strength to do what I loved. But it doesn’t have to be your life; if I can go from the 99lb sophomore in college lacking confidence to multi-time Ironman filled with passion and strength then so can you.
Disclaimer: I am not a certified nutritionist but I have spent many years learning how to fuel my own body for strength, including my recent Metabolic Efficiency Training Level 1 course that I am currently taking. Over the years through my Bachelors of Biology degree from Gonzaga University, to working in the physical therapy world, recovering from an eating disorder, to being an athlete since a young age, and now competing at a high level as a triathlete I have dedicated a lot of time and effort to learning all I can about nutrition, how it functions in the body, how your body functions when you consume certain types of foods, etc. If you have serious concerns please seek the help of a certified dietitian and/or your primary care doctor.