by Dina Griffin
The Nutrition Mechanic
The word ‘diet’ has many different contexts. For example:
- restriction: “I can’t eat XYZ foods.”
- a type of pattern or cuisine: “I eat in line with the Mediterranean diet.”
- fad/trend: “I’m starting the Grapefruit Diet to detox!”
- clinical prescription: “My doctor prescribed an autoimmune diet for my thyroid condition.”
Aside from the new year hubbub that is filled with trendy diet pitches and 21-day diet challenges, have you wondered whether it is time to change up your dietary pattern to support your health and performance goals? Let me provide a few considerations to help you self-assess a bit further.
What is the “issue” you are trying to improve or solve?
Weight loss is on the minds of many athletes this time of the year in advance of big races and events planned for 2019. If this is you, then I recommend taking some time to reflect on where you’ve been in your diet hopping experience and where you are now with your food relationship. Often times, athletes jump to the latest and greatest diet fad without pondering their past or how food fits into their life currently.
It may be surprising to some, but much of the research shows that there are many kinds of diets that can work to promote weight loss. The keys are finding what is sustainable for you (to avoid the yo-yo trend of loss-gain-loss-gain-rinse-repeat), what is safe and optimal (in terms of supporting your needs as an athlete), and what your habits and behaviors are around food that need to be modified (I call this the “nitty gritty that no one likes to address”).
If weight loss is not your primary goal, perhaps it is another set of signs and symptoms that you are experiencing. For example:
- poor exercise performance (feeling flat, can’t hit intensities, fade quickly into an aerobic session)
- poor exercise recovery (soreness, achiness, unusual fatigue)
- energy lulls, poor concentration during everyday living
- gut issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea
- sugar and/or caffeine cravings
Maybe you just intuitively know that it is time for a change – you are now a masters athlete, there are midlife hormonal changes, or quite frankly, your diet is pretty subpar.
What do you know objectively about your signs and symptoms? For example, do you have recent athlete-specific blood work to reveal any deficiencies? Have you changed your nutrition relatively recently that could be a contributing (negative) factor? Have you had a professional assessment from a Sport Dietitian to piece apart all of the “inputs”?
As you can hopefully see, there are potentially many reasons to move forward with a change in your nutrition. Similarly, there are many layers that makes the decision process as to which kind of dietary pattern a more complicated process than simply mimicking what a friend or training partner does. It takes some time and effort to think through where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go… for both health and performance as they go hand in hand.
Food for thought and more to come!