It’s common knowledge that you are what you eat. It just makes sense that what you put into your body will reflect how you feel and your performance on the court, field and in everyday life. The crucial part of healthy eating is balance, and a balanced diet means consuming from all the different groups in the right quantities. Nutritionists say there are five main food groups – whole grains, fruit and vegetables, protein, diary, and fat & sugar.

Here’s a refresher of these groups for your reference.

Whole grains (Starches)

According to the USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture) we should consume at least 3 ounces of whole grains per day. A whole grain, unlike refined grains, still has the bran and the germ attached. Whole grains are rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables have a high vitamin, mineral and fiber content – these nutrients are vital for your body to function well. Several studies have proven that a good intake of fruit and vegetables may protect from developing heart disease, diabetes type 2, and even cancer. A good rule of thumb is to consume five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

Protein

We need protein for the building and repairing of tissue in our body. This is essential for the athlete as active muscles are constantly being broken down and built up with vigorous activity. Protein-rich foods also include essential minerals, such as iron, magnesium, zinc, as well as B vitamins. Some examples are: Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans, Nuts, Soya (includes tofu)

Dairy Products

This food group is mostly associated with milk but also includes cheese and yogurt. It’s an essential food group for the young and old that’s rich in carbohydrates, primarily lactose, protein mainly casein and fat. Further minerals like calcium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium and magnesium are also present in appreciable quantities.

Fat and Sugar

Most people in the western world consume too many fats and sugars. But don’t feel bad, fats and sugars are a good sources energy for the body, and let’s face it, they make food taste good! Did you know that there are different types of fat? Saturated fat, the “bad fat”, is found in foods such as pies, sausages, butter, cakes and biscuits. Saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease, so try to stay away from this type of fat. Unsaturated fats, the “good fat” on the other hand, can help to lower cholesterol and provide us with the essential fatty acids needed to help us stay healthy. Oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oils and vegetable oils are all examples of the “good” unsaturated fat. Many nutritionist advise that we consume fish at least twice a week, preferably fish rich in omega oils, such as trout, fresh tuna, sardines, mackerel and salmon to get our “good” fat requirements. Some people even take food supplements to get their “good fat”.

To perform your best requires that you direct some attention to what you eat. Being conscious of what you’re eating is a basic requirement for a healthy and active sports life. Some may call it a “diet” but I prefer to think about it as a lifestyle habit. Not having to “diet” or to watch what I eat is one of the benefits of an active sporty lifestyle.  An active person can easily eat what they want and enjoy their food without the ghost of Weight Watchers looking over their shoulder.

Am I missing something?

So how do you check that your “healthy lifestyle” is appropriate for an active lifestyle? One step in the right direction is to check what you are putting into your body . I recommend that you keep track of what you’re eating over a one week period. You’ll then get a good picture of your diet and can knowledgeably make adjustments in your eating routine. In the past this sort of food tracking was a real chore and something only a professional nutritionist could do. Thankfully today’s technology makes this much easier with the availability of online calorie tracking services.

Tracking Services

There are many sites promising assistance in your fitness and health and many offer free online tracking services. The problem is that you’ll have to sign up, and then be subjected to their very muscular marketing machine. Luckily I’ve done the work for you this time. Here are the best of these services.

  • Fitaday (http://www.fitday.com)

This site is more for the dieter than the athletic sportsperson, but they do have some nice tools and a good system. They also offer a free mobile application, so if you’re a mobile head this could be your system. Sign up is required of course.

Free Basic Online Service, Premium Membership ($49.95/year), Downloadable program ($29.95), Mobile Application (Free)

  • Armstrong (http://www.livestrong.com)

This site from legendary bike racer Lance Armstrong is both inspiring and motivating. You’ll be able to track both what you eat and the physical activities that you do. The site also features loads of hints and ideas for a healthy sporty lifestyle. You’ll need to sign up for the free service and even then the tracking service is constrained in function and time. This site is recommended if you need a bit of help with your motivation and can spare the investment.

Free Basic Online Service, Gold Membership $45/year.  Mobile Application $2.99

  • CRONoMeter (www.spaz.ca/cronometer)

The CRONoMeter is my favorite and recommended way to “check your oil”. It’s free, comes in both Apple and PC flavors and simply does the job. Most of the common foods are listed, from a Whopper (with cheese) to the daily apple. The graphics aren’t all that flashy or impressive, but it’s still very functional. For a full check of your system you can also track your activities. Figuring out how many calories you burn is a bit of a mystic science so this is left to your own (hourly) estimation of your burn rate.

 

Download CRONoMeter

 

Using the CRONoMeter

  • Step 1: Set your “Dietary Nutritional Targets” is as easy as entering your age, height, weight and normal activity levels. The CRONoMeter then calculates your recommended nutritional targets as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but you can also set your own targets.
     

  • Step 2: Record everything that you eat and drink. Select “Add Serving” and select the items that you have eaten. Repeat… This can get tedious and you’ll quickly see why I recommend that you only do this sort of tracking for only a week. Hint: Carry a piece of paper and note what you eat at each meal, later enter this in the program daily
     

  • Step 3:  Check out your results. In most cases you’ll see pretty quickly what you’ve been missing (according to the USDA or your own targets). Your calories, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins and minerals are all displayed along with what the your recommended daily amounts. For specific information in each category you can select the category you’ll get the specifics.

 

Many people will find that the addition of a multivitamin will fill the gaps exposed in your diet. Add your chosen multivitamin to the system along with it’s specifications for Minerals, Vitamins and other ingredients and then add the multivitamin to your daily routine. I think you’ll find that most  of the requirements will be satisfied with this tiny addition to your routine. In any case you  can now look for the foods rich in the areas that you’ve been missing. Protein is especially important for athletes and a consistently low protein intake can be a good reason to introduce a protein supplement to to your diet.

 

So how about it? Isn’t it about time you give your body a checkup?