Food As Fuel
I am very pleased to have Kelli Jennings officially as one of our Loving the Bike Teammates. She guest posted a great article back a few months ago (Daily Nutrition vs Training Nutrition), and now she will be a more regular contributor to this blog. Kelli will also be the one mainly responsible for our weekly Nutrition Tip that comes out each week. Kelli is a Registered Dietician with great knowledge in the area of sports nutrition and we are so excited to have her sharing her wisdom here on the site.
Before you dive into any big new diet or an eating plan, take a step back and figure out what nutrition baggage, if any, you have coming into it. I’ll start by saying that most people have some nutrition baggage. They have ideas, habits, traditions, and even emotions about food that have developed over time and have become hard-wired in them. It’s very important that you start here, because the best sports nutrition, fat-loss, metabolism-optimizing, or wellness “program” in the world won’t help over the long-term unless you renew your thoughts about food. Until you can see it as fuel for your body. So, start by unpacking your bags!
Here’s a simple question: In the last month, how many times did you intentionally or accidentally put dirt in your car’s gas tank? Once? Twice?…
Maybe you were at home and realized that you needed gas, but you didn’t have any and didn’t want to make another trip out to the station– and look, there was a bunch of dirt there in the driveway. Or, maybe, gas has gotten too expensive, so you thought you’d just try dirt for awhile to save some money. Maybe, you had a really stressful day, and putting dirt in your car seems to make you feel better.
RIDICULOUS, right? Well, although it sounds ridiculous, I often hear the same excuses from clients explaining why they’ve put “dirt” in their bodies instead of healthy foods (fuel). There are many factors that influence your and my food choices; factors such as convenience, cost, availability, and advertising are legitimate influences. But, are they the factors you want influencing your food choices? Influencing your family’s food choices? Probably not. Take some time to change your outlook on food, if needed, so that you’ll see it simply as FUEL FOR YOUR BODY.
You may be thinking, but what about my favorite dessert? Or, what about my birthday, am I only supposed to eat “fuel” on my birthday? Of course not, It is absolutely not to say that you will never celebrate with food or enjoy a meal that is not high fiber and super healthy – you will…and this is okay. In fact, it’s great to have balance. But the majority of the day in day out eating needs to be fuel for your body in an amount that will fuel your training and daily activities.
One of my primary goals for all my clients is to help them view food as fuel. To help you think, “There are certain foods with nutrients that fuel my body, that improve my metabolism, that cause it to run well, that prevent diseases and bodily damage, and I’m going to make sure I include those foods and nutrients in my meal planning every day. I need fuel before you hit empty. I need more fuel when I am doing activity (during the day) and less when I am not active (during the evening after training).” When they begin to think of food as fuel, and eat what their body needs to run properly, it becomes easy.
One of the best advantages of this philosophy is that it will help you see food from a positive standpoint instead of a chronic negative, minimizing, and dieting standpoint. And, if you’ve got children, teaching them this philosophy with food (seeing nutritious food as fuel and something that helps you run your best) can help them avoid teenage dieting and disordered eating, and junk food addictions. Just like you wouldn’t accidentally put dirt in your car’s gas tank, don’t “accidentally” eat junk! Instead, be mindful of what you’re putting in your body. You demand a lot of it, so give it the right fuel!
So, think of food as fuel for your body, just like gas is fuel for your car. Healthy eating becomes easy. And while you may choose to indulge in different foods here and there, the day in day out eating should fuel your training and daily activities.
Kelli is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. She is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado and did her residency at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC. For more information or to contact Kelli, please visit www.apexnutritionllc.com/sportsnutrition.html.