James Parrack's Famous Nutrition Talk

nutritionWe all know that the way to good health is to eat a good diet and get a little exercise, so why does it seem to be so difficult for so many of us? Part of the reason is because the large and powerful food industry would like to us to be as confused as possible about what food actually is, part of the reason is because we are busy people and just don’t have time to plan our eating the way we know we probably should. We are all being pulled in every direction and have conflicting priorities on a daily basis and generally will take the path of least resistance, particularly where annoying children are concerned. Me, I happen to like shopping for food and cooking; it relaxes me. My darling wife on the other hand comes home from a busy day on the news desk, crashes out on the couch to let some rubbish tv wash over her and orders a pizza. So this is my broad-brush introduction to my take on food: what it is, what it does and how best to go about eating it. I am not an expert and I recommend this only as a starting point, from which you can find out more and begin to travel your own path to make sense of what, when and how to eat. We are all different, and I firmly believe that just because food exists, we don’t have to eat all of it. In fact, some food will poison some people, where others will thrive on it. So take some time over the coming years to find out which foods work best for your body and which foods don’t. Then eat the ones that work for you and avoid the ones that don’t. Whatever you do, please take great care when eating or not eating according to some fad, trend or latest scientific thinking. If you choose to avoid wheat or dairy for example, you need to be certain beyond doubt that these foods are harmful to your body. There are some links at the end of this which you should read if you think you may have food allergies or food intolerances, because there is an awful lot of bad information out there. Also note that the science will change as the years go on, so stay informed. The food we eat is important because not only does it give us our energy, it builds muscle, bones, hair, skin, all our organs and cells and affects our moods. So it makes sense to put the best things into the body that we possibly can. All the food we eat can be measured by the amount of energy it contains, which is called calories.

One Equation

There is only one equation you ever need to know:

If the calories you put in per day is larger than the calories you use up in the day, then the body will store calories, as fat.

By the same token, if the calories you put in per day is less than the calories you use up in the day, then the body will get rid of stored calories. And if the calories you put in per day is equal to the calories you use up in the day, then you are in balance. All food, i.e. calories, is basically either protein, carbohydrate or fat. We also eat vitamins and minerals but these will all be adequately covered by eating the right protein, carbohydrate and fat. As we go about our day to day lives: going to work, doing the shopping, watching tv, eating, the energy we use up is supplied by our fat stores. All of us, even the slim ones, have plenty of fat stores to keep us going in our day to day lives. More than enough. So for the average Jo, we probably don’t need to put in too many calories per day. As swimmers, or as we exercise at a higher level than your average brisk walk, we start to use carbohydrate as our energy source. As swimmers, we therefore need to make sure we replace the used up energy as quickly as possible, by eating or drinking some carbohydrate. The question is how much protein, how much carbohydrate and how much fat should we eat in a day? Or to put it another way, what percentage of our daily intake should be protein, what percentage carbohydrate and what percentage fat? For all of us, a general rule of thumb is to eat about 50 - 60 percent carbohydrate, 20 - 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat, give or take 5 or 10 percent here and there. You have probably all seen the food pyramid, and if you more or less follow that, you will be eating your calories in about these proportions. Before we go any further, let’s look at what proteins, carbohydrates and fats do for us and what foods contain which.

What We Eat

Protein: builds muscle, hair, nails, cells…

Found in: Meat, fish, milk, eggs, lentils, beans, peas, cheese... Protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates so you feel fuller for longer. Carbohydrate: provides fuel for higher level exercise, (not the explosive exercise like throwing and jumping) and all of it is broken down into sugars which are used by exercising muscles, or are stored in the muscles and in the liver as glycogen for when we need it next. Found in: Bread, cereal, rice, pasta, potatoes, fruit, vegetables, anything made with flour… To keep things easy, carbohydrates are either simple, e.g. sugar, or complex, e.g. pasta. At the end of the day it’s all just sugar, but the complex carbohydrates also come with plenty of vitamins and minerals and fibre, which means the energy will be released to the body over a longer period of time, which is good for many reasons. A good tip is to mix a packet of white rice with a packet of brown rice so you are not always eating white rice. Fat provides the lubrication around the body and carries the vitamins and minerals to all the cells in the body. The vitamins and minerals make the chemical reactions happen and will be found in ample quantities in a well balanced diet. You only need to take vitamin supplements if you have no faith in your diet. Most are water soluble, so if you take them you will pee most of it out.

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