Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Intentional Health: Eating for Function

This week is about intentional health: doing things on purpose to make yourself healthier.  Yesterday we talked about functional exercises, and today it's all about functional food.

Laurel Blackburn, one of my favorite trainers and owner of Boot Camps to Go, introduced me to the concept of functional eating years ago, whether she realizes it or not. She simply had to say the words in a lunch and learn presentation and my brain clicked. I fell in love with the concept of eating with intention: eating food that was chosen because of the way it performs in my body, not based on what sounds good at the time. It made perfect sense and I've done it ever since.

Since I've been pregnant, my functional eating has been more about survival (and supressing homicidal urges) than athletic performance. But, now that I am past the first trimester eating-bread-all-day-to-stay-upright phase, it's getting a lot easier to go back to my normal diet of vegetables, fruit, and lean protein. Thus, my veggie challenge from last week, which has been going great by the way. I've been eating one veggie meal every day for a week with the intention of getting my taste buds reacclimated to them.  Now, I crave tomatoes and spinach again just like the good old days!  Well, almost. :)

So how do you eat with intention?  Well, first take a look at your energy needs throughout the day: When do you exercise? Morning, noon, evening? Plan your high-energy and high-glycemic foods (bananas are a good example) for right before those times and limit them the rest of the day when your body just doesn't have a practical need for them. When do you feel tired during the day?  Plan a well-balanced snack (a good ratio of carbs, protein, and healthy fat) to boost your energy and keep you satiated until your next pit stop.  One of my favorites is plain greek yogurt with fresh blueberries and an ounce of chopped walnuts or slivered almonds mixed in.

Second, take a look at your fitness goals. Do you want to build muscle? Eat more protein after a workout.  Do you need energy stores for an endurance workout?  Make sure you're getting plenty of carbs and electrolytes.  A runner has different food needs than a weight lifter, and a multi-sport athlete will eat differently than a yoga devotee.  One plate does not suit all!

Finally, take a look at your daily calorie expenditure and determine the proper amount of fuel (calories/food) that your body needs. If you're trying to lose weight, subtract about 500 calories a day to create a deficit.  If you want to maintain, shoot to break even.  Plan for contingencies: if you know you have a party on the weekend and you'll likely go over your alloted calories, plan a slight deficit throughout the week or a big workout that day to burn them off.  It's all about planning and eating with the intention of staying healthy.  Here's a formula to help you figure out your magic number.

The point here is to think before you eat. Ask yourself whether what you're about to eat will get you to your next destination. And, if you're not sure, head to the library and check out YOU: On a Diet by Drs. Oz and Roizen. It's chock full of great info on how food works.

Intentional eating is fun and rewarding. So get out there and be healthy!

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