You Are What You Eat

Resolve to make good nutrition an important part of 2017

 By Jill Marr

Turning the calendar over to a new year usually means that it’s time to make some important changes. For millions, it’s about adopting a more healthy lifestyle, so diet and exercise become a focus. And it’s no secret that good nutrition is at the heart of a healthy lifestyle.

Personal trainer Carl Israelsson is a nutrition coach at La Jolla Sports Club. Here he shares his wisdom and some sound advice for anyone hoping to focus on health and diet in the new year.

Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes that people make when they start a nutrition program?

A: Two of the most common mistakes that people make are using fancy approaches when they don’t have a grasp of the basics, and making too many changes all at once. Most people don’t have a proper nutrition foundation. A foundation of essentials is needed before more nuanced changes are appropriate. Although relatively elementary, developing an excellent foundation may require a surprising number of adjustments from what you’re currently doing. Although it’s not all that exciting, you will have far better success layering nutrition and lifestyle changes.

Start with the highest priority alteration. Everyone has different limiting patterns and a nutrition coach can help order changes by what’s most important for you. Most people do well with introducing one or two changes each month. It may not seem dramatic but developing compliance on just the highest priority change is far more effective than inconsistency with many different changes. Imagine how powerful the effect of consistency with ten accumulated important dietary changes could be. Good things will happen.

Q: What is involved with the nutrition classes at La Jolla Sports Club?

A: We start with an initial information session. In that short appointment, we do some simple baseline testing, introduce basic information that clients can start applying right away, and answer any questions they may have about nutrition coaching. 

The first step in nutrition coaching consists of one 60-minute assessment and consultation and two 30-minute nutrition coaching sessions. The intent of these initial meetings is to build a nutrition foundation and successfully implement the highest priority changes. Depending on the skill and motivation of the client, this may range from rather basic adjustments to detailed meal planning.

Once a client develops a great starting point by building a solid foundation, ongoing coaching sessions are an effective way to implement progressively more advanced dietary strategies. Ongoing coaching is often essential regardless of the client’s goals or skill level with their diet.

We’re also designing an ongoing subscription service that will provide existing nutrition clients with a platform to get support for questions and concerns that don’t warrant a full coaching session appointment. They’ll be able to get feedback on protein supplement brands, carbohydrate quality choices, or meal timing, as examples, from someone who knows them and their individual case history.

Q: Is the time at which you eat as important as what you actually eat?

A: Absolutely. However, there are as many approaches about when to eat as there are on what it is you’re eating. You can find a rationale for nearly every nutrient-timing strategy you can imagine. What’s more important than debating whether or not you should eat carbohydrates primarily in the mornings or the evenings, as an example, is to develop a strategy, and be consistent with it. Measure your progress using relevant metrics over a two-week period and determine whether to stay the course or adjust accordingly.

If you want something actionable to implement, eat a meal centered around a great quality protein source when you wake and every three hours thereafter. Experiment with reserving starchy carbohydrate or carbohydrate supplements, such as rice or dextrose powder, for the post-workout window in the first three hours after you finish exercising. On days you don’t exercise, reserve one meal in the evenings to include a starchy carbohydrate, such as sweet potato. Otherwise, focus on pasture-raised eggs and poultry, grass-fed ruminant animals, wild-caught fish, a wide variety of vegetables, and a little fruit to taste. There are many excellent strategies, but this simple approach to meal frequency and carbohydrate timing is something that works well for many people. 

Q: What about low-carbohydrate diets? Are carbs really as bad for us as everyone says?

A: Everyone can lose weight on a diet with a higher carbohydrate intake, and everyone can lose weight on a diet with a lower carbohydrate intake, as long as other dietary and exercise factors, such as protein intake, fat intake, nutrient timing and type, and exercise stimuli are accommodating. In addition, some people have genes that allow for more or less tolerance to carbohydrates. This affects the way in which your body metabolizes incoming carbohydrates, which, among many things, affects whether nutrients are stored as fat or utilized for energy. Carb choices ultimately have to take into account an individual priority on health and longevity, athletic performance, and body composition. Nevertheless, many people often find improvements in a variety of ways by adjusting their habitual carbohydrate intake down in addition to improving
the quality of the carbohydrates they’re consuming.

Q: Do people really need to count calories?

A: Calorie counting is undeniably important, but for most people it is not the highest priority strategy. Don’t be fooled by flexible dieting methods or suggestions that food quality is the only thing that matters. You can have tremendous success with techniques that avoid calorie counting. However, for most people to reach their ultimate body composition goals, calorie counting will be an important step to introduce along the way.