So, What Should I Eat?Entry Guide to Nutrition
Nutrition is a big topic nowadays. Big, unfortunately doesn’t make it comprehensive, quite the opposite. If you have been searching for the perfect diet for some time now, you might have ended where I was – CONFUSED. For each study there is a study stating the exact opposite and a “guru” preaching it. How can we find advice that is good for us? And how can you even commit to anything if you keep doubting what you do? You can’t! My aim is to clear the picture for you. You might not find the definite answers, but you will not be confused. And just today I had a perfect inspiration – I attended a debate about sports nutrition with RNDr. Petr Fořt, CSc. mentioned during the debate one very important thing. The labs that conduct the studies need money. To get the money, they need to get credits, which they get for studies. This means, that often the studies are executed poorly, with low number of participants or they are simply sponsored by someone who wants a certain study to be done. And these flaws are found later by meta analysis, but that is typically too late.
How much protein should I eat? Supplement? Complete / incomplete protein.
The answer provided, concluded that it is advised to eat 2 – 2,5g of protein per 1 kg of bodyweight for athletes. My personal note is that I eat only about 1.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight each day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but that would be average. Do I build muscle? Volume, no. Strength, yes! That leaves me with better power / weight ratio. You might want to experiment for yourself. I would shoot for about 1.5g / kg if you are train often, whether you are endurance athlete or strength athlete. For general public, 0.6-0.8g / kg is advised by health organizations. I also notice more and more people talking about lower (1,5g/kg range) protein intake, whether it is vegan or paleo community. If you wanted to find how much protein you exactly need, you would need to make a nitrogen tests of your urine. You would then found out that you are either in positive, neutral or negative nitrogen balance. Positive nitrogen balance means you have more protein than you can absorb, which means you have enough protein to repair and/or build muscle. Negative nitrogen balance means you don’t have enough protein to build and/or repair muscle. Mr. Bielik suggested that staying in the state of positive nitrogen balance for extended period of time might be bad for you. That is because if we have more protein than we need, we simply break it down to amino acids and pee them out. During the process, ammonia is built, which is highly toxic for our bodies. May I add that there is no study to prove that a diets relatively high in protein 2-3g/kg have a negative effect if you are a healthy individual (no kidney issues). At the same time, eating more than 2g/kg of protein does not seem to produce any additional benefits in building muscle or recovery.
Should I skip breakfast? How to get used to not eating breakfast and have energy? When should be the first meal then?
At this point, when skipping breakfast was mentioned, some people lost it. I was surprised by how surprised they were. Anyway, there was not actually talk about intermittent fasting, which is pity, but I wrote a little bit about it in a different blog post about fasted training. The advice provided can be summed up in one sentence – don’t eat first thing in the morning. It means you should wake up, notice your body (awareness), you might find out that you are not actually hungry. In that case you might want to start by eating later in the day, for example at about lunch time. The problem is if you are stressed because you are in a hurry in the morning and you don’t have time for a quality breakfast. Then, there is a much bigger chance that you will eat cereals full of sugar with milk or a hot-dog on your way to work. One of the advantages of skipping breakfast is that you don’t stress about food. You can focus on quality over quantity. At this point, Another participating guest, a bronze medalist from Rio Olympic games, shared his story. He overslept for morning training and didn’t have time to eat. He felt like shit despite the training was relatively easy. How can you train in a fasted state or even get used to it? Let me paraphrase, we would play a guessing game here because this was sole experience. This means it could have nothing to do with breakfast. It could have been training load from previous days or food from the day before or mix of all these things. Important thing to note here is that his liver glycogen stores were low. This leads to the state of low blood sugar. However, glycogen stores in muscles could be full, as glycogen in muscles and liver are independent. Which means, you can still do lower intensity exercise on empty stomach, such as jogging or walking but you might have problem with higher performance. From my personal experience I can say that I can do both but I don’t want to put excessive stress on my body.
Ketogenic diet and do we need sugars?
Answer: Some organs need sugar (liver), brain doesn’t. When you change diet, you will feel great because of the catabolic state and then, few months later you can burn out, your thyroid burns out, your body will tell you it has had enough. Personally, I am very intrigued by the idea of high fat diet. On the other hand, I am not going to jump into it yet. As stated above, we need some amount of sugars. Mr. Fořt presented quite sensible argument when he said that Inuits, who live on such a diet, have lived like that for generations. Same goes for Ethiopians and their high carb diet. These people will have very different microflora in their gastro-intestinal track. My personal observation is that we might look into what our specific ancestors ate and follow that. In my area it might be potatoes, cereals and plants, wheat bread later. Meat did not play the major role. This leads me to believe I can be better adjusted to these types of food.
“As for how much sugars you need on high fat diet, nobody knows for sure. There is a big debate about it and there will be for another five years.”
And to apply a rule of thumb, it will be different for everybody. Each athlete can achieve the same results at different macronutrient ratios.
So what should I eat?
The most asked question by people in general.
“People adjust. What works for me, does not need to work for you. You need to experiment.” When we take for example elite sportsmen, depending on sport, you can see them eating really anything and as Mr. Fořt mentioned, imagine creating a meal plan for a sportsman, who is one week in Brazil, next week in New Zealand and the next week in Germany. At the same time you can see elite athletes eat cakes and roasted pork, drink coke and beer. How can that be? They are very adaptable. This does not mean that it is a good long time strategy, but certainly works for some of them.
Also, the best nutrient timing in the world won’t compensate for a poor-quality, mindless, and/or inconsistent intake.
The hard truth is we are all different. What works for me does not necessary need to work for you. There are a few things that are common across different diets, such as recommendations to eat a lot of vegetables. Eventually, you will need to find out what works for you and there might be more things that work for you.