Nutrition Basics: what’s important (and why) part 2
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Welcome to part two of this summary of nutrition. In part one I discussed the factors more closely associated with health and weight management, in this article I’ll cover ways to optimise your nutrition through nutrient timing and supplementation.
So without further ado...
Generally speaking, when you eat is less important than how much and what you eat. But there are situations where the timing of food can be used to your advantage….
This a prime example of the benefits of nutrient timing. For example, if you are exercising for long periods, carry a high level of muscle mass or want to try and maximise recovery, aiming to consume the majority of your carbs around exercise (before, during or after) can ensure you have enough immediate fuel to help maintain performance and potentially recover a little faster and retain more muscle mass when dieting (maybe).
Need a bit of a kick to maintain performance or concentration? Time your coffee or take some caffeine an hour before training.
Prone to sweating a lot of fluid out during training? Be sure to drink an electrolyte mix during the session to keep hydration and performance up!
These examples are by no means essential, maybe with the exception of the last one - Hydration is VITAL. But nutrient timing can potentially eek out a better performance or help enhance recovery to a degree, Athletes tend to utilise nutrient timing the most for this reason. It’s not likely to be applied extensively for most people most of the time.
Physique Manipulation and Competition Peaking
This is an extreme example and I’ll only touch on it briefly. If a physique competitor or body builder is getting ready for a show or an athlete is attempting to fit into a weight class, it is fairly common practice to manipulate and time calories, micronutrients, macronutrients and fluids to drop body weight or achieve a certain physical look. This tends to be done sparingly and only when absolutely necessary, but it is an interesting example of nutrient timing so it’s mentioned here.
Individual Body Responses
This still classes as nutrient timing, but it’s in the context learning how your body reacts to food and fitting it to your personal preferences and lifestyle. Some people find that carbs in the morning make them sluggish and would maybe benefit from something like intermittent fasting where carbs (or indeed all food) is pushed back to later in the day to optimise their cognition and mental performance. Some also feel better physically and mentally when they fast for a period time, others may find that heavy foods don’t sit too well late at night and eat them earlier in the day. These are all examples of timing your nutrients to based upon how your body reacts to them and how you feel.
The jury is still out on whether fasting or intermittent fasting have unique health giving properties (this will be in a later blog) but they do fit into the nutrient timing bracket of application and importance when it comes to nutrition.
Finally, the least important factor for your nutrition is……..
Supplements are a luxury of modern nutrition. As the name suggests, they absolutely shouldn’t be the focus of your diet - this is also why they are dead last on today’s list.
Supplements are highly specific to the individual. Context and effectiveness are incredibly important for these, so it’s unfortunate that out of all of the sections on this list, supplements are the most prone to being used to make some money at the expense of the user!
Not all supplements are bunk - they can be incredibly useful and truly enhance your performance and health, especially once the first four points in this article have been addressed.
A case in point here is the use of multivitamins. You can gain the vast majority of vitamins and minerals in adequate amounts from diet alone, but this can take consistent effort and a bit more than surface understanding of the foods you eat in order to hit everything. It can be tricky to cover all of your vitamin and mineral bases, and it can vary depending on factors completely out of your control, like sunlight for example - I’m looking at you, vitamin D!
It’s wise to consider your own personal needs when thinking about vitamins and minerals. You may want to take a broad spectrum multivitamin if you are sick and not able to eat well enough, but under normal circumstances you may not need such a comprehensive product every day if your diet is normally in check.
Skirting the line with performance and general health is also a common theme with supplements and whey protein is a great example of this. If you are eating enough protein throughout the day to support your needs, you don’t NEED to take whey protein. But, if you are finding your recovery is a bit sluggish, you’re sore from training and your performance is maybe suffering because of it, supplementing with whey protein can reduce that recovery time and help you perform better as a result.
Similarly, if you are struggling to get the protein in, supplementing with a protein powder (animal or plant based) can be a convenient way to get what you need. PLUS, if it IS dairy based, milk protein peptides help to regulate the immune system so there’s your health bonus in there too. But of course that last one you’ll also get if you regularly consume milks or cheese… just sayin’.
So that’s a couple of examples of effective and useful supplementation in the context of a well-rounded nutrition and lifestyle philosophy, there are of course blatant examples of how the industry is ripping people off… fat burners are the biggest culprit, IF they give you ANY bump in metabolic rate (that’s a massive IF) it’s too little to make any difference to weight loss efforts. Save your money.
Supplements are very much the cherry on the black forest gateau of nutrition. They add a bit of zing, but best used sparingly.
That about wraps up this explanation of nutrition. Hopefully it’s shown you that although it can be a complex and nuanced subject, it can be applied to everyday life without having to open a text book to help you with your goals, whether that is fat loss, sports performance or simply aiming to live a healthy thriving life.
Eat enough for you goals, make it nutrient dense and think about what you need and if you need it before hitting the supplement shelves. If you are interested in learning more about nutrition or using a nutritionist to help guide you through, drop a message into the comments box or email me at email@example.com.