Illawarra Athletic Health Hack: this week and for many weeks to come I’m going to discuss different strategies to optimise your health and fitness via simple and achievable nutritional and lifestyle strategies regardless of if you’re a beginner taking those first few steps in reclaiming your life, a fitness junkie who is always looking for that white unicorn option to optimise your health within your busy life or the seasoned athlete looking for that “one-up” on your competition. Illawarra Athletic Health Hack will do it’s best to bring you the answers.
Happy New Year everyone!!! Yes, this is the first Illawarra Athletic Health Hack article for 2017. Hope your Christmas was Merry and your New Years a safe one.
After a few weeks off I feel it’s best we go forward by going right back to the beginning and re-energise some of the absolute basics. This is not only for the benefit of the people we counsel as a relearning exercise but also for those we don’t. What I am going to discuss is so grass roots but don’t be fooled. I don’t know how many times I have had a discussion with a person or a group regarding the things I am going to talk about and the discussed items have gone right over their head, not because of the persons or peoples lack of intelligence but because they are so simple.
Because of their simplicity, I will keep them short and to the point because it is hard to argue a complicated topic when the topics themselves are so simple.
- Water: I can’t believe how many people skip over this one. I’ll get asked about low carb eating or pre-workout drinks but if I ask how much water they’re drinking I’ll often get a shrug of the shoulders as an answer. This one is hands down the most important factor in achieving health and as an added benefit it could not be simpler.
From a performance standpoint, no matter what the time frame the required task may be, a reduction in hydration will reduce performance. Studies have shown that a reduction in hydration by only a few percent can reduce high-intensity performance by 45%, others have shown that a reduction of hydration by up to 5% can reduce low-intensity performance by up to 30%.
From a weight management perspective this topic of hydration is as simple as this, when you’re hydrated your metabolism is raised and conversely is reduced when dehydrated. Lethargy also sets in when dehydrated which means enthusiasm to do the right thing ie eat well and train is severely reduced.
Bottom line, just make sure you’re hydrated! There is a formula for this but to make it simple, at an absolute minimum, 2.2L for females and 2.7 for males (based on average lean mass amounts).
- Protein: None of the the 3 major macronutrients are more important than the other but protein is the one that most have the least trouble with just because the questions around protein are less than the questions around fat and carbs and therefore deserve a whole other post for themselves. Now before I go any further you may be thinking I’m about to start talking about powders and eating 1 cow every day to be a beefcake. No, I’m talking about protein from a cellular regenesis point of view. You see you’re dying and being reborn again and again and again, yes as you read this there are cells that make up you that are reaching the end of their life cycle. That is how we operate, our cells die and we make new ones and around and around that process goes. Your cells differ though where some live several months where some only 2-3 weeks but irrespective of what cells we are talking about here, when they die and need replacing protein molecules need to be there ready to go. No protein, no new cells, simple. Now you throw in life with all sorts of stressors and your protein requirements have just gone up again. I haven’t even begun to discuss increased requirements again by you as a gym goer.
The following is your baseline requirement as a human and to put this simply also, your basic formula is this:
The number that is your mass in kg minus approx fat amount, this is now your number but in grams and multiply by 4. For example, let’s take a 100kg male that is 10% body fat. So his lean mass is 90kg. I use this number 90 as the gram amount as a baseline for protein I need to repair appropriately. But this is 90g of protein not just 90g of meat, now I multiply it by 4 and you have approx 360g. It’not 100% accurate as different meats (beef vs fish for example) all have different protein content ratios but 1:4 is a pretty good basic number.
- Eating conditions: This one is definitely going to sound so childish that you may just scroll right past it but just hear me out. To make this point, first I’ll discuss basic digestion. By the time your meal hits your small intestine in the stomach, small intestine then large intestine system, your food has been broken down into molecular form so that we can extract the nutrients. Blood is directed to the digestive area and these nutrients are extracted across cellular junctions (holes) and are carried away. This carrying away also reduces the mass of the content moving through your digestive system. Now what happens when we take away the blood in this equation, the nutrients are not carried away and you’re left with much of the same mass as what you ate to begin with. This is why we cramp or are left with that cakey feeling in the gut if we eat and do vigorous activity too close together. When we are experiencing a stressor, which includes everything from working on site, to driving a car/truck, to working on a report on a computer, to juggling kids, all of these are stressors where the mind is telling the body you are in a state of work. Now this even includes perceived sedentary work, although you may be sitting in a chair all or most of the day you’re still under a stress and the physical response to this is that you body sends blood to your muscles anyway, not to mention the blood that is concentrated to the brain. So in this example (I’ll pick on those who eat at their desk still working), if you’re trying to digest food but are under a stress and therefore directing some of your blood away that should be involved in digestion then you’re not digesting your food properly. Also when you are working and eating we tend to shovel the food in, chew twice then swallow and before you know it you’ve smashed your meal in under 10 minutes.
When we are experiencing a stressor, which include everything from working on site, to driving a car/truck, to working on a report on a computer, to juggling kids, all of these are stressors where the mind is telling the body you are “working” (not ‘job’ working but physical working). Now this even includes perceived sedentary work, although you may be sitting in a chair all or most of the day you’re still under a stress and the physical response to this is that you body sends blood to your muscles anyway, not to mention the blood that is concentrated to the brain. So in this example I’ll pick on those who eat at their desk still working. If you’re trying to digest food but are under a stress and therefore directing some of your blood away that should be involved in digestion then you’re not digesting your food properly. Also when you are working and eating we tend to shovel the food in, chew twice then swallow and before you know it you’ve smashed your meal in under 10 minutes. I’ve found people do this at dinner time too, they sit there with their head down and BOOOM, their food is gone.
The term here is rest and digest, when eating you should as much as possible be in a calm state away from anything that is not involved in your eating time, ie when it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat, not time to catch up on emails. Driving is the other big one here, being a passenger and eating is ok but if your driving and eating don’t expect to digest your food properly. Now I get obviously there are times when it just can’t be helped, maybe it’s the end of the month and it’s crunch time and eating whilst report finishing is just unavoidable. But if you can help it, set aside eating time and allow about 15-20minutes to let your food settle.
I can’t stress how basic but mandatory these things are! It’s like what starting the engine is to driving a car. You can’t go for a drive without starting the car, I’m not even joking here it is that obvious and mandatory.
In summary for a happier, less stressed and therefore a more high-performing body you need to:
- Drink enough water as per the amounts outlined above
- Eat enough quality protein to support basic human function as per the amounts outlined above
- Sit in a stress-free environment, chew your food appropriately and rest and digest.