Tag Archives: diet

Nutrient Rich vs Energy Rich

When reading food labels, calorie content is usually the first thing that we look at. Yes, calories in food are important if we’re trying to lose weight. The weight loss equation is simple (or is it?) –

energy in < energy out

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Technically speaking, ANY diet that creates an energy deficit will result in weight loss**. You can eat Maccas all day errrrday AND still lose weight if you are burning more than you consume. *I AM NOT SAYING YOU SHOULD DO THAT! LOL!*

**This is a very generalised statement which does not consider long term sustainability, health effects, metabolism and hormone levels. ALL of which WILL affect your weight… eventually**

BUT! (there’s always a BUT :P)

There are also other important things that we should look at, ie: NUTRIENT content and the overall QUALITY of the diet.

High in Nutrients

We should aim to eat foods that are high in NUTRIENTS. Whole fresh foods: fruits, vegetables, lean meat, legumes, whole grains, dairy, nuts and seeds are all rich in many different nutrients that are SUPER good for you. Nuts and seeds may be HIGH in energy (calories) but they provide the body with healthy fats and a unique mix of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

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I love munching on fruits and vegetables. They are rich in fiber and water content, making you feel fuller for longer. This means that you are less likely to reach for sugar loaded snacks.

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What you eat also affects your hormones. And that could affect how your body stores fat, hunger levels, mood and the development of chronic diseases. It is NOT as simple as simply looking at “calories”.

High in Energy

It is difficult to grasp WHAT exactly is “energy rich”. A simple concept would be to look at the caloric density. This takes into account the weight of the food. When comparing between foods, those that are higher in energy per 100g are considered more energy dense.

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This image PERFECTLY depicts HIGH energy nutrient POOR foods vs LOW energy nutrient RICH foods.

Let’s say the total energy you need in a day is 1600Kcal. You can eat either the left or the right AND still lose weight. But of course, the right would provide SO MUCH MORE nutrients and you can eat A LOT more in terms of amount. On the left, you’re basically consuming empty calories and would probably need another meal to feel full! Also, what you eat can affect your hormones and how you feel.


Empty Calories

We’ve all heard of the term “empty calories”. What does this actually mean?

Empty calories refer to a food offering ENERGY with LITTLE to ZERO nutrient value.

Examples: fried foods (chips, fries), sugary drinks and foods (chocs, lollies, jelly), alcohol, high fat foods (cakes, muffins, baked goods, biscuits, ice cream, processed meats) etc.

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Not only are these foods nutrient poor, they are also usually highly processed. This could lead to inflammation and are usually associated with chronic diseases (heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, obesity).

Ultimate Balance

We all need ENERGY and NUTRIENTS to survive. Energy fuels the body and nutrients provide the body with the materials needed to maintain and regulate body processes.

We are all at different stages of life (childhood, youth, adults, elderly, sick, pregnant, athlete etc), plus the fact that we are all genetically unique, we have very different  nutrient requirements.

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The Australian Dietary Guidelines 2013

There is NO one-size fits all. To ensure that we are meeting the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for nutrients, aim to eat a wide variety of foods from the 5 food groups:

-Fruits: Vit C, potassium, vit A, fibre, folate, antioxidants etc

-Vegetables: Fibre, Vit A, C, potassium, iron, magnesium etc

-Grains: Carbs, protein, vit B1, iron, folate, fibre, iodine etc

-Lean meats and alternatives, legumes, nuts and seeds: Protein, iron, zinc, phosphate, copper, vitB12, vit E, omega 3 etc

-Dairy products: Milk, yoghurt, cheese: Protein, calcium, magnesium, vitB12, vit D, niacin, ribo, fats, potassium etc

Just remember, WHOLE FOODS over PROCESSED FOODS. And of course, a little treat here and there WILL NOT HURT! As long as you’re eating well MOST of the time. 🙂IMG_2705

The NEXT time you decide to try a new “diet”, think of these points:

-Am I cutting out FOOD GROUPS?

-Am I getting ALL of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals to function OPTIMALLY?

-Do I feel better?

-Will it provide enough ENERGY, PROTEIN and FATS?

-Will it be sustainable? What is the point if it isn’t?

-Will I be HAPPY?

  I hope you’re a little more informed and EMPOWERED to make YOUR own decisions about WHAT to EAT!

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Love Ya’ll! <3

Fat Loading: Does it work?

*I apologize in advance for all the drool worthy fatty food pics*

I can’t say this enough, our bodies are AMAZING. Why? Simply because we are capable of adapting to our immediate environment in so many ways!

As you can see from my previous posts, we are highly adaptable creatures. Train hard enough and you are able to run that much faster because your body has made the necessary changes to adapt to it.

In this context, going on a high fat diet (and low carb) would force your body to utilise it more efficiently.FullSizeRender_1

I know what you must be thinking: YAY! Another reason to go on a high fat diet! Of course, it is NOT as simple as it looks. If it was, obesity and other metabolic diseases would not exist because we’d all be super fat burners!

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Previously, we explored how endurance training can help us become efficient fat burners.

Let’s take a look at Fat Loading:

A few studies have found that in general, fat loading does improve performance during endurance based activities [1 , 2]. During an endurance event, intramuscular triglycerides (muscle fats) contribute a significant amount of the total fats used [3]. Consumption of a high fat diet has been shown to enhance the utilisation and storage of these muscle fats. This is the adaptation seen when undergoing endurance training.

However, note that high fat diets only seem to improve time to exhaustion in moderate intensity activities [4].  This is hardly the case in real world racing where there will be times of acceleration, uphill surges, midway and finishing sprints which are moments of high intensity bouts. Such a diet will not work for shorter higher intensity races (5K or 10K race) [5]. Also, a prolonged high fat diet seems to impair endurance performance [1].

The Protocol

Remember that you are not depending on just ONE TYPE OF FUEL at any one time during a race, it is a combination of the different types of fuel. Research has found that it was better to have the best of both worlds – a hybrid diet. A typical fat loading protocol would include a few weeks (1-1.5 weeks) of high fat diet to stimulate the fat oxidation capacity followed by a period (2-3 days) of high carbohydrate diet preceding a race to top off glycogen stores [6].

If you start off with low glycogen levels, performance will indeed be impaired!IMG_6893

Carbs and fat!

The Downside

There’s always a downside. The thing about fat loading is that while it enhances fat metabolism at moderate intensity activities, the use of glucose as a source of fuel is impaired. Studies have found that prolonged fat loading has been associated with a decrease in hexokinase activity (enzyme involved in the first step to using glucose as fuel) and pyruvate dehydrogenase activity (another enzyme involved in using pyruvate as fuel) in trained individuals [7]. This can affect the individual when the demands for muscle carbohydrates are high.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Personal Thoughts

I’ve gone through a few research papers and they all seem to have very different results/conclusions due to the heterogeneity of the trials.

Every individual is different. Some people can thrive on a high fat diet whereas the same diet might leave another person sick in the stomach. It is quite hard to screen for people who can adapt well to high fat diets to improve performance.

FullSizeRenderJust when I thought I could EAT ALL I WANT!

I personally don’t think I can go on a high fat diet. I have not tried though! But I guess for anything below the marathon distance, going on a high fat diet does not give any significant benefits.

Energy gels are readily provided throughout a race to help you avoid the dreaded bonk and maintain blood glucose levels.


However, if you are planning to explore ultraendurance events, it may be worth your time to give this protocol a go. *At your own risk!* Experiment with 7 days of high fat diet followed by 2 days of carbo loading before an endurance event, who knows, it just might help!

*Don’t try this before your race though, practice first!*

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At the end of the day, TRAINING is inevitable! It guarantees improved performance and turning you into an efficient FAT BURNER!

Proper training coupled with a wholesome well-balanced diet DURING training is much more important when it comes to improving your performance.

I am curious to know what you think! 🙂

Keep Running!



Where do vegetarians get their protein?

Before we jump into where vegetarians/vegans get their protein, we need to know how much protein our body needs to function optimally. The Institute of Medicine suggests that the average adult should consume about 46-56 grams of protein a day. By looking at it in terms of percentage, 10-35% of your daily calories would have to consist of proteins. Unless you’re a serious body builder or somebody who is keeping track of your macros, you probably wouldn’t give a hoot about these numbers. To help you visualise this, one large chicken breast contains about 30 grams of protein. So, if you’re happy, healthy and eating a perfectly normal diet, you should be getting enough proteins into your system, maybe even more.

Many plant-based proteins lack certain amino acids that are found in animal protein. Vegetarians/vegans would need to combine a few plant-based proteins, like tofu and brown rice, in order to get the complete set of essential amino acids that are found in animal protein.

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My personal favourite green proteins in no particular order are:

  • TOFU!
  • Black beans
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Quinoa (you can buy cereals that contain them)
  • Chickpeas
  • Brown Rice
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds

Just thinking about that list makes me HUNGRY! If you cannot stand their individual taste, there are many ways that you can incorporate them into your meals. You can toss them in your salad, make soups or even add them to your breakfast yoghurt or froyo!

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Froyo and pumpkin seeds, my favourite! Trust me, your taste buds would sing! Also, you’ll be getting plenty of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that come with eating plant-based proteins (plus points!).

Don’t worry if you end up consuming too much protein, just as long as they’re plant-based proteins. Recent studies have shown that increasing plant-based protein intake to 20-25% of calories while cutting out refined carbohydrates can reduce the risk of heart disease.

I still get stares and I can feel the people around me rolling their eyes when I eat a very vege-fied meal. Even my kakak has a few things to say about my lifestyle. Well, I don’t really blame them. Throughout history, meaty meals were a symbol of an affluent lifestyle. Meals without meat were for the poor. These are just perceptions that humans have created.

Do it for yourself and your health. Famous Olympic coach Joe Vigil did not say “…eat as though you were a poor man…” for no reason! That translates to lots of whole grains and vegetables!


Have you eaten your veges?