YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Nutrition is a very confusing topic! We are constantly bombarded with new, mostly conflicting information on what comprises safe or healthy eating:
- There are mainstream nutritionists, part of a formal, regulated medical healthcare profession, telling us we must eat proper foods, in moderation, between 3 and 6 times per day. They base their information on studies about the interaction of different nutrients and substances on the body and the relationship between diet, health and disease.
- There are medical professionals (not part of the mainstream Nutrition/Dietetics grouping) who offer alternative, oftentimes controversial nutritional advice, based on their heuristic understanding and research (Tim Noakes and the Banting phenomenon is a prime example). These are specialists, not because they have a diploma or degree in nutrition or dietetics, but because they have been drawn to nutrition from the wider medical fields they formerly engaged in.
- There are independent "Diet Experts" who offer a vast array of different opinions and invariably, products such as supplements or paid-for diets to assist the public in their nutrition. Patrick Holford is an example of this - he has no nutritional qualification apart from one his own organization bestowed on him - yet his advice is gospel to hordes of followers
- There are Quack Nutritionists. These are opportunists looking to cash in on modern society's growing need to manage their weight and health.
The issue is to sort the truth from the fiction in our quest to manage our lives in the healthiest possible manner.
Firstly, we must differentiate between health and fitness. It is possible, and indeed common, to be both fit and unhealthy! Just note the number of fatalities taking place during marathons, bicycle races and many other sports. This raises the modern pandemic health issues of overweight/obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
This leads to the second differentiation, that between fit and fat. Again, I can be both fit and fat!! And this need not necessarily be an unhealthy fat, but rather a sub-optimal fatness. There are many of us who train regularly but somehow cannot seem to reach our desired weight and are only too aware of the excess fat we are carrying that we can't seem to get rid of. This might well be a matter of debate as to what constitutes overweight, but as endurance athletes we are fully aware of the impact that excess weight has on our performance.
Thirdly, and not to be forgotten, is the issue of thinness and underweight. Do not confuse the two as you can be thin and not underweight but also be underweight and not thin! Many of the causes of being underweight are medical in origin (hyperthyroidism, tuberculosis, psychological - eating disorders or depression, Crohn's, IBS) while thinness can have its origins in genetics and a high metabolism.
As if eating properly wasn't enough of an issue!!
Now we add to this the element of nutrition for athletes, endurance athletes and cyclists in particular. And one of the most commonly asked questions: "What should I put in my bottle?"
Let's help you in finding an answer.