Fitness training is just one part of an overall healthy lifestyle. What we put in our bodies is just as, or more important as, how we train them. Exercise alone is not a complete waste of time without healthy eating but to reach an end goal of weight loss, muscle build or maintaining existing weight, a combination of good nutrition with a fitness regime is crucial. It’s always good to remember the nutrients in food enable cells in our bodies to preform necessary functions and the quality and amount of food can help or hinder those functions.
I had the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen with Clare Hickey, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist candidate studying at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN) in Toronto. Clare just earned her BScH from Queen’s University with a year of study in Biology and a major in Environmental Science. We spent a few hours cooking up some yummy, healthy food and I asked her to help me answer some of the common questions I get about nutrition, diets and eating well. Here’s the first in the series of nutrition posts we’ll be doing together! Let me know if you have any questions that you’d like answered.
How many calories should a person eat in one day?
This is a difficult question to answer directly, because I do not believe in counting calories! Instead, I believe that focusing on quality of foods, balance and eating a variety of whole foods to be much more important than the actual number of “calories”.
Food does not equal calories; food is information. The food that you eat tells you information about how you feel, how you act and what needs to be changed or even taken out of your diet. You want to make sure that you are incorporating a good quality form of protein, fat and fiber with each meal, and eliminating all processed foods from your diet.
This protein, fat and fiber is what will keep you satiated for longer so that you do not overindulge in starchy carbohydrates and processed “junk”.
The problem with counting calories is that it is just a focus on a number, which gives some the idea that that number can be filled with any kind of food: nutritious or not. There is no emphasis on the quality of foods that you are putting into your body, and that is really problematic.
Finally, it is actually the amount and quality of bacteria present in your gut that determines how well the calories you eat will be assimilated and absorbed, so it is really more beneficial to focus on maintaining a healthy microflora (gut bacteria) than to worry about counting calories.
How much alcohol, if any, should we drink?
Ideally, I would love to say none, but we know this is not realistic and isn’t any fun! The least amount of alcohol the better, but of course enjoying a drink or two with friends can be great. Sticking to 1-2 drinks per week can be a general guideline and the more refined the alcohol, the better. Distilling and refining rids excess toxins from the alcohol. Examples of these would include vodka or white tequila. Also, if you are opting for a mixed drink, you stick to an unsweetened soda water and squeezed fresh lemon for the base. Often times, people will choose pop or fruit juice, which is really high in sugar and will cause an immediate spike of glucose in your bloodstream, followed by a steep rise in insulin. It will also cause the alcohol to be absorbed faster into the bloodstream.
I also want to chat about wine – choosing organic wine is so important, as grapes are so heavily sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers on vineyards with conventional farming standards. These wines also contain high amounts of sulphites and preservatives, which give you the headache and nausea the next day. Organic wine doesn’t contain sulphites or any trace residue of pesticides, so no headache!
Some amazing vineyards that have organic standards that are local to Ontario are Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery and Southbrook Vineyard. These and many other organic wines can be found at the LCBO! Just ask for the organic section.
If I eat more calories one day can I reduce the number of calories the next day?
Never! This “yo-yo-ing” between calories can really throw off your blood sugar regulation. This leads to intense cravings, low mood and energy lows, as when your blood sugar is elevated quickly from eating a sugary or starchy snack, it is immediately followed by a crash. This consistent rise and fall of blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance and blood sugar issues.
Also, you are actually more likely to store body fat when you severely restrict your calories sporadically, as your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolism cannot keep up with the changes in diet and amount of food it is receiving.