Ever heard the saying “You are what you eat”?. Well, it’s not totally true. You are what you eat, AND don’t excrete. You might be following a diet very strictly, but not see any results. Maybe, even though you are eating all the right macros, you are unable to fully absorb them. One explanation for why you might be “losing your gainz”, and a quick way to fix it, is by improving your nutritional habits.
This problem is a lot more present in American society due to our hectic schedules. In societies where people have a 60 to 90 minute lunch break, or that lunch and dinner are social events, the lack of food absorption is less present. Their nutritional habits and their relationship with food are generally healthier. The good news is that we can easily implements those habits in our daily lives.
Building your plate
Before we get into what you’ll do with your food, we should talk about what your plate should look like. This is not a recommendation of how much you should eat or what you macros you want to hit. But one thing you want to aim for is having 5 different colors being represented in your plate. This will allow for a broader intake of micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals and things like FIBER, which will help with digestion). Hopefully it will also make your plate more appealing and tasty. Which takes us to the next point.
Prepare your body for food
We have all heard about our “fight or flight” response. The other side of the coin, often overlooked, is our “rest and digest” response. These responses produced by the nervous system indicate where and what our bodies are focusing on. Most of us spend a lot of time in our sympathetic (fight or flight) mode. We rush and work hard and run errands all day. Then we have a little 30 minute break to feed ourselves, what do we do? Run and grab something quick and shove it down our throats. Back to work. We probably didn’t even leave our sympathetic state, so our bodies are not worried about digestion. They are trying to get stuff done. To optimize our nutrition, we must go from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state.
There are a few options that you can do choose to get into that parasympathetic state. Ideally we want to implement all of these, but starting small and building up is better than starting big and falling off a week later.
One thing you can do is slow down. Give yourself more time to eat. Chewing 30 times every bite and/or putting the fork down between bites are a couple strategies you can use. Adapting this will ensure that you don’t stuff yourself and that your food gets to your stomach ready to start being digested. Delivering your fuel to your gut in a paced, efficient manner will ensure you are giving your digestive system a head start on absorbing the nutrients.
Option 2 is make your eating time a food-centric event. It should almost be a ritual to celebrate the deliciousness of what you’re about to eat. Don’t be afraid of getting weird with it. Plate your food like an iron-chef. Organize your table to display the beautiful colors of your plate. Smell each food item. Think about how satisfied and fulfilled you will feel after feasting. Doing this can get you into a parasympathetic mode, as you get ready to eat. It will also start the process of digestion, by increasing salivation and signalling down to your gut that food is about to come.
Finally, you can make lunch/dinner time a social gathering event. Eat with people you like, friends and family. It can hit both points mentioned above, as well as improve the relationship you have with food and eating. You will slow down and chew more often, really enjoy and prioritize your food and you will get a laugh or two out of it.
Your fuel (aka your food) only becomes fuel if you keep it inside you. If you struggle with food absorption (which can be easily examined, and further explored, with lab tests), working on your nutritional habits can give you the upper hand. If you need help with nutrition in general, reach out to one of your Celebration CrossFit coaches today!
by Coach Matt