We’ve all been told plenty of old wives’ tales as children, usually to instill in us a valuable lifetime lesson which would save us plenty of worry down the road. “If you make faces, your face will get stuck like that” is one such example. Looking back, we know it to be untrue, but it taught us proper etiquette, so the thinking was in the right place, even if the information wasn’t quite accurate. There’s an old adage which reads “You are what you eat” which we may have heard many times along the way as well. In this case, this saying is actually true. The foods we eat influence our bodies’ development in a very big way. Let’s learn more!
Our bodies are continually changing and growing, even after the childhood years and puberty when we think growth is pretty much complete. Your liver cells completely rebuild themselves every 150 days. The taste buds you are using to eat dinner are only ten days old. Your heart rebuilds four times in your life, once roughly every 20 years. Your red blood cells rebuild every 4 months, and your hair takes about 5 years to regenerate completely.
One notable factor to consider is that inflammation can negatively influence the ability of the body to regenerate and rebuild its cells. Renewal rates plummet from infections or inflammation, which means taking care of your body may be more important than you think. Sure, the body rebuilds, but its capacity is less and less as we damage our bodies. Diseases such as emphysema can cause the lungs to become scarred, thus preventing future rebuilding.
The brain age is the same as your chronological age. You’re born with 100 billion brain cells, and that is all you’ll ever have. For this reason, the needs for supplements such as fish oil which work to preserve brain function and reduce inflammation becomes more obvious almost immediately. When you look at the key benefits of any supplement, consider how they will positively affect the system regeneration of many processes within your body. Many young lifter focus primarily upon how each supplement will positively affect their training, growth and recovery, without thinking of the bigger health issues down the line. You should be thinking of both!
If you are a fitness athlete looking for better ways to perform in the gym, feel better outside of the gym, and live a longer and healthier life, then paying very close attention to your nutrition is absolutely essential. Many lifters use supplements to help the many processes we’ve discussed, as well as muscle growth, recovery/repair, and of course, to provide the energy required to train. While these are useful and important, it should be noted that they are called supplements for a very good reason – They are designed to help supplement a well-balanced diet conductive for growth, recovery, exertion and improvement.
Choosing foods high in protein, and allowing your diet to be built of at least 30 to 40 percent protein foods, will ensure your body has a steady stream of the amino acids essential for muscle recovery and repair following tough workouts. It is during this post-workout period of time that new muscle appears, as torn fibers are rebuilt and reborn, bigger and stronger than before. Choose a diet rich in chicken, fish, turkey, lean beef, eggs, and whey or casein protein. Avoid highly processed food sources, and skip anything packed with sodium or additives. Mix up your protein choices to ensure your body is exposed to the complete spectrum of available amino acids, thus ensuring all of the pieces are in place to build new muscle.
Carbohydrate selection is highly important. The foods you eat give you the energy you need to do everything from getting out of the bed in the morning, to pushing yourself for a new record 1RM in the bench press. The macronutrient which delivers this energy is called carbohydrates, made of starches and sugars. Good sources of carbohydrates for training athletes include rice, beans, and pasta. Lower quality options include soda and candy. The starchier carbohydrates are burned slowly and effectively by the body, while simple sugars are burned fast and leave the athlete in a crash immediately afterwards. And of course, you should always include a fair amount of fruits and vegetables to provide the roughage, vitamins and anti-oxidant support that your body so greatly needs.
Fats are often considered a 4-letter word, but they don’t have to be. Fat provides a variety of required body and brain function, and are a key part of the muscle building process. Choose from sources such as fish, egg yolks, and almonds, and count your grams. Avoid highly processed fried foods for your fat source – you’ll feel terrible, look bloated and perform at far lower than an optimum level. Keep it clean!
Many diets come and go, and they see varying degrees of success. High protein, low cars rips up many athletes but leaves little energy for training. High carb diets give plenty of energy but often lack the amino acids that protein provides. The ideal key to success is to use moderation. If you start gaining too much weight, cut back your calories thru a reduction in carbohydrates and fats, and then measure the results. If you lose too much weight, add some carbs and proteins to keep your ratios correct and build up a greater amount of muscle. Record your daily diet, choose foods you like, and plot your own path to dietary success!