Best Nutrient Advance Ever: Know What You’re Eating
I try to cover a core group of topics in my blog in order to keep my readers informed about the most important aspects of healthy living. Nutrient advances is one of them. So in thinking about it over the last several weeks, I asked myself what the most important nutrient advance has been over the past ten years or so. I came up with sports nutrition.
Why sports nutrition? In fact, why would I care about sports nutrition given the fact that I’m a naturopath? Because sports nutrition has taught us one of the most important things we now know about nutrition in general: developing good nutritional habits requires knowing what you are eating and in what volumes.
To illustrate this point, I went looking for some online information and stumbled across an excellent blog written by former professional cyclist and trainer Chris Carmichael. Now 54, Carmichael was a member of the U.S. national cycling team in the late 70s and early 80s before going on to a career as a personal trainer and triathlete coach.
The Old vs. The New
In his post, Carmichael reminisces about his pro cycling days when nutrition during competition consisted of sandwiches, fresh fruits, tarts, and water. Because the cycling world did not understand the benefits of nutrition and hydration to the extent that they do now, it was common for cyclists back then to have very good days followed by pretty significant crashes. Despite doing all the things they thought were necessary to stay properly fueled and hydrated, they were actually allowing themselves to dehydrate and overheat.
Taking up sports nutrition as a science allowed the best performers in the cycling world to finally understand a lot of things they never knew before – like the importance of sodium in hydration, for example. They began looking at what they were eating, how they were eating it, and how the combination of both affected their performance on the bike.
As a result of sports medicine being applied to cycling, things changed dramatically. For example, cyclists now warmly embrace packaged foods that are otherwise considered anathema among those who believe in good nutrition. Carmichael says the reason is simple: packaged foods are measurable. Cyclists can know exactly how much sodium they are consuming. They can clearly know and understand what they are getting in terms of carbohydrates, fats, etc. And as Carmichael says, what is measurable can be controlled.
The study of sports nutrition also shed new light on the controversy between sports drinks and water. Sports nutrition has advanced to the point where we now know a combination of both kinds of fluids offers peak performance during competition. Athletes should use both to remain properly hydrated.
What, When, and How
The point I’m trying to make here is that knowing the what, when, and how of good nutrition is the most important nutrient advance in recent memory. It is not enough to know that salt can be bad for you in large doses. You also need to know that it is a vital nutrient your body needs to survive. The trick is understanding how much sodium to consume, when to consume it, and what the best way to get it is.
The study of nutrition, sports or otherwise, is ongoing to this day. And the more we learn, the better we are getting at helping people live healthy lifestyles built on good nutritional habits. I could not be more thrilled as a naturopathic doctor. I am firmly behind the concept of good nutrition being the basis for good health.