Back again guys and girls and starting today with a couple of options for lunch….
The meat pie or the chicken wrap? It’s a conundrum that should seem a whole lot less daunting after today’s post. We are of course looking at Part 2 of the 3 part introduction to ‘Diet‘ and it’s role in our health, both as construction professionals and as fully functional, happy and healthy human beings.
To take things a level deeper than the ‘Calories in vs. Calories Out‘ approach from last week, I’m going to look at specific food types and most importantly- what is in our food.
I’m going to lead into this by addressing a question I hear so often from my colleagues;
“Is (insert food item) BAD for me?”
It’s a question that always causes me to pause and my answer that follows has steadily evolved with my understanding of nutrition and the mindset we often hold as construction professionals.
To cut the pleasantries and to give you a simple answer- No, your food is not ‘BAD‘ or ‘DIRTY‘.
Your mayonnaise did not commit any crimes. Your white bread doesn’t need a shower for it to be ‘CLEAN’. Unless we are talking about a thrice-deep-fried chocolate cronut injected with Nutella and wrapped in cheeseburgers; then your single serving of an average food in isolation is not going to cause significant harm to your health or body composition. It simply can’t. It’s not possible.
With this answer, we now need to change the question itself. Rather than ask if a food is good or bad, we need to ask- ‘What is IN my food’, and when this food is combined with the rest of the food and drink one consumes in an average day, we can begin to evaluate the whole spectrum of nutrients that are being consumed.
Enter the star of Diet – Level 2: ‘Macronutrients‘ (Macros).
Keeping it simple as always, macros are the nutrients in our food that we require in larger amounts. Micronutrients are for our post next week but obviously in line with the naming convention, are those nutrients required by our bodies in smaller amounts.
The three basic macronutrients in our foods that we require to survive and thrive are: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates.
For the less scientifically inclined, a quick summary of the three macronutrients are as follows;
Protein, in my opinion, is the single most important macronutrient for those looking to maintain body composition and promote the building of muscle and/or the reduction of bodyfat. Protein, when ingested lays the foundation for building and repairing our muscle tissue and is essential for maintaining healthy levels of various enzymes, hormones and bodily chemicals. Protein, in my approach is always first to my mind when planning all of my meals. Including snacks!
Common sources of protein: Fish, chicken, red meat, whey protein and eggs.
The dreaded fats. I am going to start the introduction to fats by firstly debunking the myth that fat is somehow inherently bad. As we will see in summing up today’s post, each of the macros play their part in designated amounts but again, in isolation FAT IS NOT BAD. In fact, it is important to ingest some dietary fat to maintain cholesterol synthesis and hormone levels, including testosterone. It also helps us to remain satiated longer when eating, especially when combined correctly with protein. What is essential to note here is, the bad wrap the comes along with fat is because too much can cause us to gain unwanted body fat. Therefore the key here, as with the other macros- is to watch the amount we are taking in.
Common fat sources: Red meat, nuts, oils, full fat dairy products, egg yolks.
Ahhhhh carbs. There is so much detail surrounding carbohydrates and their effect on the body that they will receive their own dedicated post. However, for today let’s again start by reiterating my message. CARBS ARE NOT BAD. Starting to see an overall theme here? Again, with our simple construction-based approach to sum things up- CARBS = ENERGY. Not necessarily energy in that if you eat them you will have loads of energy; but in the sense that some of our carbs, when eaten are absorbed as glucose and provide energy to drive our cells. More to come on this in summing up.
Common sources of carbohydrates: Fruit, bread, pasta, rice, sugar, beans, quinoa and cereals.
Now that we have a rough idea of what’s what, it’s important to look at how these macronutrients can come together in the life of a construction professional in order to maintain or reach some health and fitness goals while on a strict time budget.
Start by observing. Don’t change anything yet- just observe what you already do. Remember how we flipped over our foods or downloaded MyFitnessPal? Well the good news is, on nutritional labels and in the app, you can look at a breakdown of the macros comprising our foods. Again, for those of you that aren’t iPhone savvy and want to know about unlabelled food products, do a quick google search.
Tally up your totals in grams for the three macronutrients then apply the following multiplication to get the total calories contributed by three areas to your daily total.
CARBS (g) x 4
PROTEIN (g) x 4
FATS (g) x 4
For those of you struggling with your weight or feeling generally lousy in terms of health and fitness, I will almost guarantee a significant imbalance towards intake of fat and carbs and a deficiency in protein. It is difficult to provide a general rule of thumb as we are all so different across age, level of activity and body type, however to give us all something to work from I recommend;
CARBS = 40% of total calories
PROTEIN = 40% of total calories
FATS = 20% of total calories
If this is one too many equations, I recommend sticking to Level 1 as presented last week or even better, drop me a line and we can talk about your specific situation and any help you may need through the process.
Finally for today I have two finishing points. If you see your ratio is ‘whack’ with a huge emphasis on carbs and fats with little protein; fear not. Breakfast is a good place to start. As every day construction folk, we so often go for the toast or breakfast cereal. Ditch it! Swap for a few boiled or scrambled eggs. I make mine the night before and have them on a plate with glad wrap so they can go straight in the microwave for my early starts. Next, look at lunch. As we saw in the picture at the start of the post, we have a choice; meat pie or chicken wrap. I think we all really knew the answer…. choose the wrap. Load it up with some quality sliced turkey from your deli section at the supermarket if you don’t feel like cooking, or even better, fry up some chicken tenderloins with some salt and pepper and put it on a wholemeal wrap of some description. Finally, go the meat-and-two-veg for dinner. I have to stress, we are all different and what you do for the rest of the day will really determine your results but I truly believe these few steps are a good start for all of us.
What you will begin to notice as you start counting macros, is that different food types, e.g. various meats, are interchangeable in this approach and you can eat what you want while maintaining a similar ratio. Where these food types are different is for next weeks post at Level 3.
That’s it for me for another week. Stay safe on site, on the road, in the office or wherever you may be applying your art in construction and remember to Get Constructive!