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FitSmart: July 2015

Even as an individual with a heavy training-based background, I’ve always been a firm believer that the majority of fitness success comes through the kitchen. Training discipline and nutritional discipline may be different beasts, but it’s tough to make significant gains without a certain level of compliance in both.

June 25, 2015 
By Brad Lawrence

Drinking calories is a nightmare to a diet. If you’re diligent in the gym

If you’re diligent in the gym, you owe it to yourself to put the effort into your diet as well. Nutrition truly is the most important part of our wellbeing.

The science behind nutrition is always evolving. What is considered unhealthy today may have been marketed as a progressive health choice in the past. Regardless of the reasons, many of us make the same nutritional mistakes. I’ve compiled a list of five common nutritional mistakes.

Basic macronutrient awareness
Protein: Generally people eat too little protein. Myths surrounding protein causing osteoporosis or being harmful to our kidneys have been debunked. High-protein diets typically result in less body fat as protein promotes lean muscle mass and is the least likely macronutrient to be converted and stored as body fat. Every meal you eat should include protein – even snacks.

Carbohydrates: Be carb conscious. You don’t need to eat a low-carb diet to reach your goals by any means, but realize that most people tend to drastically overeat carbohydrates. Many snack foods and drinks are carb-heavy choices, and most meals too. Pay attention to serving sizes listed on the food labels. Rice, for instance, is carb heavy at the recommended serving of 1/3 cup. Most people can eat a full cup or more without noticing; it’s actually a very large intake for a single sitting. Remember that not all carbs are created equally, so choose wisely.


Fats: Despite what you might think, fats are OK – really. We should be past this point but so many people still fear fat in their foods. Fat content will increase the total calories, yes, but yields many great benefits that far outweigh the added calories. Favour the good fats – those derived from animals, fish, plants, and healthy oils such as olive or coconut oil. The benefits of healthy fats in your diet range from looking better (more muscle, less fat, healthier skin) to thinking better (boosted brain function). Don’t make the mistake of trying to eliminate fats from your diet. Use them to your advantage.

Drinking your calories
This is a nightmare to a diet. You make smart healthy choices all day and in a period of 30 seconds you drink 40-something grams of sugar in a single glass. Protein shakes aside, major calories in liquid form are generally very empty calories. These provide very little nutritional benefit (yes, even fruit juices), and are usually loaded with sugar to appease your palate (especially fruit juices). Instead, drink water – half an ounce per pound of bodyweight.

Clarifying the whole-wheat/whole-grain idea
Some people prefer the taste of whole wheat or grain and some prefer the alleged health benefits. Let’s clarify; grains and wheat in general are not a health choice. Whole-grain foods may be better than their highly refined alternatives, but they are still very dense carbohydrates that can lead to undesirable blood sugar spikes.

Calorie counting
Unless you’re in peak shape in the final phase of a competition diet, counting calories is unnecessary. Your time is far better spent elsewhere. As long as you’re making high-quality, healthy food choices your caloric count will take care of itself. Eat your protein, your vegetables and train your body.

The new and improved health foods in our grocery stores
The food industry has been doing its research as well. Companies are fully aware of the buzzwords that peak your interest. Words such as “natural”, “organic” and “life choice” are plastered all over modern packaging and are usually very effective. These words tend to make people believe they are making healthier choices. Don’t automatically trust the product because of the good-intention-style packaging. Some of these products will advertise low fat and end up being loaded with carbs. Some of the organic products will feature organic ingredients, but may be loaded with sugar. Even in organic form, sugar is still sugar. Read the labels you choose to buy and make an informed decision for yourself. The best foods for you are often very simple and don’t need to hide behind elaborate labels.

Think for yourself and get back to the basics of eating. Be patient and watch your results speak for themselves. Happy training.

Have a nutrition question you’d like more information on? Send me an email and I’ll do my best to respond or feature your question in a future column.

Brad Lawrence is a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department and a certified personal trainer who specializes in training and nutrition for emergency responders.

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