Spotlight on Nutrition

Sunday 11 December 2016

This piece was written by Ben for The Fitness Journal June 2016. 

WHAT IS IT?

Nutrition is considered an act, or a process, of nourishment or being nourished. More specifically - a collection of processes in which animals (humans) and plants take in and utilize food substances. 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Our body needs nutrients for life – without them, we don’t exist. We need a range of nutrients for all of the different metabolic processes our bodies undertake every day. 

Macronutrients – these are Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats. These are the nutrients that our bodies need in large amounts. We need protein for muscle growth and repair; carbohydrates for energy; and fats for energy, warmth and protection of joints and organs. Of course these nutrients yield far more effects within the body, but these are the most note-worthy. 

Micronutrients – these are Vitamins and Minerals. These nutrients are ‘micro’, as in we don’t need these in such large amounts. Vitamins and minerals are essential for organ health, hormone production, skin health, bone density and strength, immune support, reproduction of cells and elimination of toxins. Again, these are just some of the amazing things micronutrients can do for our bodies. 

These nutrients work in different ways, a lot of the time working together, to ensure proper functioning of our bodily systems.

WHO CAN IT HELP?

EVERYONE – when we feed our bodies the right food, our systems work more effectively and more efficiently. Nutrition has shown to dramatically reduce symptoms in a number of diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer (to name a few). On a less drastic scale, proper nutrition can provide you with a number of benefits including better sleep; increased energy levels; increased academic and work output; increased athletic output; increased libido; decreases in unidentified aches and pains; better digestion; better eye sight; and better hearing. The list goes on, and on, and on!! 

ARE THERE MANY RESTRICTIONS ON PEOPLE WHO CAN HAVE THIS TREATMENT?

There aren’t any ‘restrictions’ as such to who can adopt a new nutritional approach to their life. It is however very common for people to be allergic, or intolerant, to a number of foods or food products. Some include gluten intolerant/celiac; anaphylaxis (nut allergy), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome – in which high inflammatory foods will set off a number of reactions within the digestive system, making life rather uncomfortable for those suffering). Again, this is just a small list of some of the more common intolerances/allergies out there. Best advice I can give is to seek advice from a health professional if you feel something isn’t quite right. 

There are a number of products available for those suffering intolerances/allergies, and there is no real reason as to why one can’t fulfil their daily nutrient requirements. Same goes for vegetarians and vegans, even paleo supporters! 

MOST COMMONLY USED FOR?

Enhancement of one’s life – across many aspects. As mentioned above, nutrition practices can be used for athletic enhancement, academic enhancement, prevention and treatment of diseases, and overall lifestyle enhancement (better sleep, more energy etc.)

HOW/WHY I GOT INVOLVED?

I was 18 years old when I first got interested in nutrition. I had recently left school and wanted to join the NZ Police. At that time, I was severely over weight, weighing in at 135kg at my heaviest. It was then I decided that in order to achieve my goal of becoming a Police Officer, I needed to lose some serious weight to even have the slightest chance. 

Once I had my goal, I sought out help from a personal trainer and a nutritionist from my local gym in Morrinsville. Their knowledge and expertise together helped me drop 40kg in weight, and got me physically ready to conquer the Police fitness tests. 

Due to ongoing knee injuries, I had to postpone my dream of becoming a Police Officer. And to ‘kill time’, I started doing some study in the health and fitness sector. 

I started reading more in depth about nutrition and how our bodies function with and without proper nutrition practices. I completed a Certificate in Sports Nutrition in 2014 and went about helping others change their lives in the same way I had changed mine. 

Further study in this area is important to me, and I feel as there is always something new to learn. I am currently part way through my Health Science Degree at Massey University, in an attempt to learn much more about nutrition. 

WHAT IS INVOLVED TO BECOME QUALIFIED TO OFFER THIS TREATMENT?

There are a number of courses available online and at universities/polytechs that offer qualifications in this area. 

A baseline qualification (such as mine), is generally enough to start providing services of this kind. I do however believe that sticking to what you have learnt is very important. I advise not to prescribe outside of your scope of practice, hence why my programmes are very ‘basic’ in what they suggest. Expanding your knowledge through experience and further study is paramount – this allows you to branch out into further fields and offer more services with lower risks (hence why I am currently studying)…there is always something to learn!! 

MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS…

One approach works for EVERYBODY – not the case. Age, height, weight, lifestyle factors (exercise, work etc.), medical conditions, food intolerances and allergies….all play an important role in determining the best approach for an individual. 

Fad diets are good for you – fad diets, fast and effective weight loss (generally) approaches that will make you shed kilos. But, not healthy in the slightest. These diets are low in essential nutrients and the only reason you lose weight is because there is insufficient food to maintain body weight. But there are a number of serious potential side effects associated with these diets. If you are thinking of starting a weight loss diet, seek advice from a health professional to determine which is the best path for you to take. 

Carbohydrates make you ‘fat’ – to certain extent this statement can be true, but NOT ALL carbohydrates are digested the same and they all have different metabolic purposes. Simple carbohydrates such as sugar are the ones you need to watch out for. Complex carbohydrates such as those found in fruit, vegetables and grains (brown rice, pasta etc.) are a great source of energy and are utilized in many metabolic processes. 

Fat is bad for you – wrong! Natural sources of fat are hugely beneficial to joint, brain and organ health. Fat is also used as an energy source – yes, eat fat to burn fat!! There are however some fats to look out for – processed oils (canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, cooking oil etc.), all highly processed and contain a number of toxins. Avoid trans fats found in processed and fast/takeaway foods. Fats you should be including in your diet are plant or animal based – coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado/avocado oil, fish, nuts and seeds to name a few. 

Skinny = healthy – a seemingly harmless statement right? In some cases yes, but for the majority of people following this theory you will sadly be mistaken. Of course some people are naturally of a skinny stature, there isn’t generally too much problem with this – it’s their genetic make up and that is most likely how they will be for life. But, for the others chasing that skinny look, under belief that this will make them healthy, they couldn’t be further from the truth. There are some serious dangers involved – when the body is undernourished it will not function properly, organs can fail and metabolism slows dramatically. Your body will enter a catabolic state, where (in a nutshell) muscle in your body is ‘eaten’ or burned as a source of energy, not exactly healthy right?! Day to day struggle will include finding energy, difficulties with physical activity and trouble sleeping. These are only a small number of difficulties faced with undernourishment, there are a number of psychological effects associated with this approach to health also. Eating disorders, self esteem and confidence issues plague both males and females of all ages, with some serious cases even leading to suicide. 

MOST SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT IT?

Nutrition has been shown to be a very effective tool in a number of health issues from illness, disease prevention/cure, to athletic performance. Proper nutritional practices have benefits for EVERYBODY. 

The majority of food in the supermarket found in a packet or jar, are highly processed with a number of additives and preservatives, sugar, and other harmful ingredients. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL – you will be surprised at the foods you think won’t have any additives that actually do contain them. 

Sugar has been shown to be as addictive as cocaine - avoid it wherever you can. 

Nutrition can be very simple – seek advice from a professional if you feel as though you need some help in this area – they will break everything down for you so that it is completely understandable. 

AVERAGE COST PER SESSION?

You can expect to spend anywhere from $100 to $800 and sometimes more. This will be dependent on what service you wish to receive, with a number of practices offering a wide range of services.