The other day whilst training a new client I got asked a specific nutrition question about fruit and vegetables – one that has prompted me to write this blog post – so I can share the knowledge with you.
Something worth nothing – this isn’t a science-based post with data and percentages. This is a blog post written by a Personal Trainer who lives by these simple best practices – and has seen these changes work with a number of his clients.
The question in mind:
‘Why should I eat fruit and veg every day, and not just protein, carbs and fats?’
First off to be completely clear before jumping right in – fruit and vegetables are in fact carbohydrates, and as mentioned in my previous blogs, it’s all about balance. As much as it is important to meet the right protein and fat intake (macronutrients). It’s also important to include fruit and veg as part of your carb intake – as much as possible.
Even that person that doesn’t exercise – it is important to remember to get the right nutritional balance. Most of you have heard and read a million articles that state macronutrients are important, and that is absolutely correct. But let’s not forget about what fruit and veg brings to the table…
Let’s briefly run through some of the health benefits…
Fruit and vegetables provide us with vitamins and minerals (also known as micronutrients) as well as fibre for gut health. All these vitamins and minerals will help your body run more effectively and improve your metabolism, growth and physical well-being:
- They help preserve muscle tissue
- They help preserve bone mass
- Rich in antioxidants which will help you say younger for longer, as well as preventing diseases over time
- Helps you stay hydrated, as most contain lots of water (but you still need to drink at least 2L of water a day)
- Helps with cell regeneration
- Moto nerve reaction
- The regulation of PH levels working with your liver and kidneys
- Stronger immune system (less illness and better skin)
- Improved energy throughout the day.
If that doesn’t convince you then remember Fruit & Veg can also be great for weight loss, as well as physical performance (strength & muscle gain).
In a nutshell the basics of weight loss is to get your body into a calorie deficit! But with better nutrients and exercise – fruit and vegetables are great for helping with this. Due to the fact that most fruit and vegetables have a lower density of calories to the volume they can help you say fuller for longer without consuming too much. Let’s put fruit aside for a few seconds and aim to focus purely on vegetables. Apart from vegetables having fewer calories than denser carb foods, such as; breads, rice and pastas – they also take longer to digest than processed foods, which uses more calories for digestion along with a gentle release of glucose (sugars) into the blood stream – controlling insulin release.
A few best practice weight loss tips – from my perspective…
If my main goal is weight loss it would be more beneficial for me to get more veg than fruit into my diet per day. Aim for an 80% – 20% vegetable to fruit split daily, but of course you can have rice, pasta or bread – but it needs to be in smaller amounts, otherwise you just won’t see a difference or results. You can read up more information on energy balance, protein, carbs and fats – because you’ll need to make sure you have those on your plate too.
Most fruits digest into glucose which could trigger rapid insulin release, which can prove insufficient when the main goal is fat loss. If I were going to enjoy some fruit, the best time of the day for me would be to eat it after a workout. That way my body can absorb the fast digesting calories from the fruit quicker – as it’ll need to replenish the energy that has been lost in the cells from exercise.
If I were going to eat fruits, and again my main goal is fat loss. It would be advantageous for me to go for the smaller fruits, such as berries (e.g. blueberries, strawberries, blackberries). They don’t release sugar as quickly as other larger fruits, when consumed in smaller amounts throughout the day.
I could say eat smaller amounts of the larger fruit, but who only eats half a fruit! It doesn’t work for me anyway!
If I didn’t like counting my calories on a regular basis – my best advice would be to look at halving my food intake of starchier foods, such as breads, pastas and rice – and replacing the additional half with the 80% veg and 20% fruit ratio. And of course if I’m eating a lot of ‘crap’ food, for example; waffles, ice cream, sweets and chocolates (you know the temptation is real!) Use the logical side of your brain, and cut out as much of this as possible – the more you cut out, the more results you’ll see.
For athletes, who want to get an extra 10% out of their workout routine, incorporating more fruit and vegetables – will support their body in performing better (both mentally and physically). So, whatever your mission – micronutrients will certainly help to get you there quicker.
So the best way to explain this is with an analogy, and first of all apologies to any pilots reading this analogy if it is not 100% accurate. This is more to get a point across…
Think of your body as a plane, and with every aircraft it has to have a pilot, let’s call him James. James represents macronutrients (the protein, carbs and fats we mentioned earlier). Now James is doing an OK job of flying by himself. But flying a massive plane by himself isn’t easy – in fact he’s lagging a little and getting stressed that he can’t control the levels of the plane (the body) properly.
Now, let’s include two co-pilots into the mix who represent the micronutrients; Dom (Fruit) & Jess (Veg) – suddenly James is feeling less stressed and out of control, instead he’s supported and more balanced – maintaining the right levels of the plane – the body!
<– Oh look, google had a picture of James on the plane!
Moral of my little story – Macronutrients and Micronutrients work hand in hand to support your body in maintaining the right levels, keeping you balanced and enabling you to have the strength and well-being to perform better in your workout routines.
What if you don’t like vegetables?
Nowadays most people will eat a very low percentage of fruit and vegetables, because they don’t like the taste, rather than taking into account the health benefits.
Well if you ‘just don’t like the taste’ of vegetables this is very simple – GET OVER IT! You’re not a five year old. You are just going to have to find a method that works for you – try smoothies, roasted veg, sliced and diced (or hidden in your food!) Whatever it takes to introduce them into your diet!
If you are really stubborn about your dislike for the taste, then you can try them in supplement form – tablets like: spirulina, algae or good multi-vitamins, should help get some sort of micronutrients into your body.
I hope this blog was helpful and emphasises the importance of maintaining a balanced diet alongside your exercise plan. If you have any dietary concerns, or there is a topic you’re interested in learning more about – do get in touch and I’d be happy to get a blog post out about it or direct you to someone that can help you out.
Be back soon,