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Nutrition - Feeding disease or fighting it

20 Sep 2017

NUTRITION – Feeding disease or fighting it
Opinion piece by Exercise Consultant Teresa Whale

Nutrition is the backbone to sporting and living excellence. It’s vital to fuel your body right to allow excellent performance, whether you’re looking to hit a Personal Best in your favourite lift, or you’re out to improve your 5km running time.

Good Nutrition also has the biggest influence over obesity and our ability to fight its associated health diseases. Cardiovascular disease is New Zealand’s biggest killer. Over half of NZ’s reported cases of pre-expected deaths within the last three years from CV were almost entirely preventable from one major solution; what was eaten (Ministry of Health, 2016). Other adverse health effects that can be improved through good nutrition include diabetes, stroke and hypertension.

The 3 letters that explain DIEt.

Diets have been confusing and causing mental and physical grief for people for a long time and what’s considered ‘best’ has changed almost as quickly as the seasons.

A diet is a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons. Vegan, soup diets, vegetarian, paleo, dairy free, gluten free, juicing, carbohydrate free are just some examples.

Going on a quick diet isn’t a successful long-term solution. You may get temporary results, but you will end up starving your body from vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs to function.

Change your thought process to focus on Nutritional Lifestyle change. You may need a professional to assist you with adjusting food types and/or amend your calorie intake to fit your energy expenditure. It’s a slower process but is easier on your body and mind.

Portion Sizes – Size matters

Once you’re able adjust your food menu and make this a habit, the next challenge is portion size – how much we eat in a sitting.

Within the last 30 years portion sizes; like our waistlines, have increased dramatically. Even our daily cup of coffee has increased its calories by 50%. 30 years ago a cup measured 45 calories, now we’re looking at 72 extra calories for our morning fix.

Dinner plates have increased 5cm within this time also. Bigger plates means bigger space to fill with food, which often leads to increased calories.

Take home: When organizing your plate = ½ plate of fibrous healthy vegetables (the more colour the better), ¼ lean healthy protein (whether it is vegan, vegetarian or meat options), and ¼ fibrous starchy carbohydrates.

Thinking about cutting Carbohydrates? - Don't

Carbohydrates are essential for bodily functions, they shouldn’t be removed from an individual’s eating choices and are especially important for fueling the brain. What’s most important is choosing the ‘right’ carbohydrates.

Choose complex ‘fuller’ carbohydrates that take longer to absorb for sustained energy release. Potatoes, mangoes, kumara, brown rice or wholegrain pasta. Avoid simple ‘empty’ carbs like cookies, or sweets. These can be absorbed quickly for instant energy but leave you feeling hungry.

Take home: Baby food is a great option for natural complex carbs that can be absorbed quickly for energy before or post workout (just like a simple carbohydrate).

Body Mass Index

The Body Mass Index is a great scale to get a quick estimation of a person’s health if they’re in the general population. It is a calculation of weight against height to gather how much excess mass you could be carrying.

The two most popular reasons for diet change is to reduce body fat percentage, or increase muscle mass. Exercise professionals and nutritionists will track a persons’ body fat loss and muscle gain to see and monitor the persons’ results. But the misconception for many people is that they MUST be sitting within these guidelines.

Everyone’s body types and sporting requirements are different. Some people carry more bone density and muscle mass; like 100m sprinters who need more muscle mass than marathon runners. If we solely adhered to BMI; High Performance athletes like Valerie Adams and members of the All Blacks would be classed as obese.

Another option is Anthropometric readings (body fat %). It is more accurate, personalized and effective for someone genuinely interested in measuring their current health status and for gauging a base to progress from. However, it does require the person to remove additional clothing such as their shirt, which can make the consult feel uncomfortable.

So where to from here?

If you’re interested in making some serious changes to benefit your health – visit a nutritionist or an exercise professional who can guide you based on your goals, nutritional requirements and needs. I definitely recommend doing some research or gathering professional advice before deciding to try a change in your nutrition choices or calorie intake. Remember – Fast changes are not always good long term


Teresa Whale
Exercise Consultant - UniRec

2017 05 05 UniRec staff potrait Teresa Whale 50105 1