You cannot, I repeat CANNOT, outrun a bad diet. In fact, you are going to struggle to run at all if the nutrition piece is missing from your active lifestyle. I used to run for miles thinking I would lose weight; thinking that all my problems would be solved with more cardio and activity. The problem is, however, that exercise accounts for 20 percent of the fitness equation (in my estimation.. and a nutrition professor once mentioned that), while nutrition is the bulk of your healthy life.
Food is fuel for your body
An active lifestyle is fueled by four key categories of nutrition: protein, carbohydrates, fat, and micro-nutrients. The categories can become very sciencesy very quickly, but I like to conceptualize them as so.
- Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles. Eat protein to repair your bicep after a great gym sesh or to help your legs recover from climbing to Arthur’s Rock.
- Carbs are the most delicious. Just kidding. Carbs are the preferred energy source for your brain and body. Carbs can be stored in the muscle for later and convert to fuel easily; if you do not have enough carbohydrates in your diet, your body will use protein for fuel instead (meaning you will not get a great bicep after your gym sesh because the protein wasn’t used in tissue building).
- Fats are also essential for fueling your active lifestyle because they support cell growth, produce hormones, and provide energy. Some fats, think unsaturated, are good for you while others, I am talking about saturated, can increase your risk of heart disease.
- Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plethora of other things you get from the food you eat. Consuming a variety of vegetables, fruits, and grains will provide the micro-nutrients to healthy.
All food is not created equal
I was shocked to learn how many calories my beloved peanut butter contained– how could you forsaken me? All I did was love you— while amazed at how much zucchini I could eat for the same calorie goal. If the calories are the same, 180, then why does it matter which one I choose?
Peanut butter, reduced fat version, contains 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, and roughly 8 grams of protein. You can get a bit of potassium, a little fiber, and a few other micro-nutrients like B6. Overall, 2 Tablespoons doesn’t actually do much for a body that just ran in the Homecoming 5k.
Zucchini, on the other hand, provides way more for nutrients per serving. 180 calories of the green stuff provides about 5 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs, and.. wait for it.. 14 grams of protein. Yes, vegetables contain the beloved protein we seek. Not only are the macros covered, but zucchini provides Vitamins A, C, B6, among others. Instead of a couple spoonfuls of PB, reach for 5 zucchini (which is enough for two meals actually.. and you will be full).
Give your body what it deserves
Choosing foods that are nutrient dense (vegetables and lean meats) rather than calorie dense (processed foods), will help fuel you through all your activities. On top of that, you can stay up and running 24/7. Since I began paying attention to my nutrition, I recover more quickly from workouts, I feel more alert and focused for school, and I have not been sick (*currently knocking on my wooden desk). I challenge you to look at the nutrition label on the next snack you pick and make sure you are giving your body what it deserves.
Collegian writer Hayley Blackburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @hayley_blckbrn. If you have a specific question or topic, let her know. Leave a comment!