Nutrition is one of the three pillars of the Performance Triad. Optimal nutrition, together with sufficient sleep and regular activity, is essential to preventing health problems and healing both illnesses and injuries. The nutrition target behaviors of the Performance Triad are: drinking at least eight cups (64 ounces) of water each day, consuming eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and eating at least three meals throughout the day (every four to five waking hours).
Fueling is a term that means eating for performance. Performance is anything from unit physical training, athletics and sports, to exercise and daily activity at work or at home. For Soldiers, performance also means operations in a deployed environment or training here at the National Training Center. Proper fueling will assist with weight management, decrease post-exercise soreness, help build stronger and healthier muscles and provide adequate energy to complete daily tasks.
The plate from www.choosmyplate.gov is a great tool that encourages balance, moderation and having a variety of foods in daily eating habits. A healthy diet consists of all food groups since each group provides a specific nutrient, vitamin and/or mineral that our bodies need. Nutrient breakdown should look something like this: 55-70 percent carbohydrates, 12-15 percent protein, and 20-25 percent fat. Proper macronutrient intake along with a balance of vitamins, minerals, fiber and water is the best way to start your journey to a healthy diet for life. Try to make each meal look like MyPlate.
Choose lean proteins from the protein group. Lean sources include: white meat and skinless poultry, eggs, beans and legumes, lean beef and pork, low fat milk and yogurt and nuts and seeds. Lean proteins provide amino acids and are lower in saturated fat content, which can raise cholesterol. Protein is essential for muscle growth and tissue repair. Healthy fat intake can be accomplished by incorporating more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into your diet. While increasing unsaturated fats, be sure to limit saturated fats and limit or avoid trans fats (hydrogenated oils). Monounsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, such as olive and canola oil, nuts, olives and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are found in flaxseed, vegetable oils, some nuts and seeds, and fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel.
Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Carbohydrates are essential for proper nutrition and are the body’s preferred fuel source. Without an adequate carbohydrate intake you may feel tired, have decreased ability to perform exercise and even have trouble concentrating. Avoid carbohydrates that are high in added sugars and fats, and look for ones that are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, such as wheat bread and brown rice. Not sure if a product is whole grain? Look at the ingredients list. The first ingredient should either be whole grain wheat or whole grain oats. More examples of whole grains can be found at www.choosemyplate.gov.
Adequate water consumption for many people is difficult, but as little as one percent dehydration can have significant adverse effects on performance and cognitive function. The recommended water intake is at least eight cups (64 ounces) of water per day. Factors such as physical activity, hot climates and altitude increase water needs. Relying on thirst alone is not a good indicator of hydration status. By the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. To stay hydrated, drink often throughout the day and take water with you everywhere you go. Weigh yourself before and after exercise. For each pound of weight lost, drink 16-24 ounces of water to rehydrate.
Sugar-sweetened and/or caffeinated beverages have taken the place of water as a preferred way to satisfy thirst. These beverages may lead to weight gain or other health problems due to excessive caloric intake and/or caffeine consumption. Sports drinks are beneficial for activities lasting 60 to 90 minutes or longer since they help sustain energy by providing carbohydrates that refuel glycogen stores and blood sugar and provide electrolytes. For activities lasting less than 60 minutes, drink water or sugar-free and caffeine-free beverages.
Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals slows down metabolism and may cause overeating at the next meal. Even if your goal is weight loss, skipping meals may lead to the opposite of what you want. Proper fueling requires eating at regular intervals and timing meals around exercise and times of increased activity. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It helps boost metabolism, increases alertness and provides nutrients needed for recovery after morning physical training. Nutrient timing is extremely important. A meal or snack containing adequate carbohydrates and protein should be consumed within 30-45 minutes after exercise for optimal recovery. Include sufficient water as well for rehydration. Not refueling after exercise will inhibit any desired benefits from exercise.
Remember, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.” Good nutrition leads to improved quality of life and health.
Looking for a challenge? Try the Performance Triad 26 Week Health Challenge at http://armymedicine.mil/Pages/performance-triad.aspx.