Why Eating Healthy Isn't Always Enough

The following is a guest post from Sports Performance Nutritionist and Coach, Elizabeth Inpyn.

SPN Liz Inpyn discusses why todays diets are not enough

Why Eating Healthy Isn't Always Enough

Here you are dutifully filling up the Vitamix with spinach, blueberries and wheatgrass and loading up your dinner plate with greens and veggies, all the while patting yourself on the back for being such a “healthy” eater and properly fueling your 'athlete body'. Unfortunately the picture on the inside isn't so pretty.

Depending on which study you cite, research shows that anywhere from 70-99% of the American population is deficient in one or more minerals. Many don't even know what minerals really are. Minerals are substances that occur naturally in non-living things such as water, rock, soil and some plants and animals. Minerals are essential for almost all bodily functions and some – potassium, sodium and iron – are of particular concern to athletes. Minerals are more likely to have an immediate effect on the health and performance of an athlete than vitamins.

Food Alone May Be Difficult To Achieve Micronutrient Needs

The goal is always to meet increased micronutrient needs through food alone. But that can be difficult to achieve consistently. This is especially true with athletes who have longer training hours, restricted eating patterns (intentional or unintentional), disordered eating, a food allergy, or by following fad diets.

Five Reasons Why Todays Diets Aren't Enough

The question then becomes why is eating healthy not enough to keep mineral count in the optimal range? There are 5 main reasons that help explain chronically low levels. These outside factors are inhibiting the benefits you may be getting from eating a well balanced diet.

  1. Soil – Modern agricultural methods have stripped away the nutrients from the soil that grows the food we eat. Studies have found that our fruits and vegetables have between 30-70% less vitamins and minerals now than they did in the 1950's. Organic produce has been shown to contain slightly higher levels of minerals but still nowhere near the amount we had at the turn of the century. Another point to consider is that the food in your grocery store may have traveled thousands of miles to get to your shopping cart. Most of it was picked unripe to survive the transport, depriving it of developing a rich mineral content.
  2. Sugar – Sugar is not a friend to the body's minerals. For every molecule of sugar you consume your body must use 54 molecules of magnesium to process it. Sugar also depletes potassium and chromium at a faster rate than your body can balance. Insulin surges (i.e that spike you get after downing a gel pack on mile 15) use up your zinc stores. Sugar consumption has increased by over 30% in the last three decades and endurance athletes are among the offenders. Training “fuel” and hydration products are full of sugar; bars, gu's, gels and waffle-like cookies are packaged as performance enhancers but many contain as much sugar as a soda or candy bar.
  3. Medications – Cholesterol drugs, birth control pills, antacids etc. all interfere with the absorption of minerals. For example, acid-reducing drugs can impact the absorption of B12, while antibiotics can destroy “good” bacteria in the digestive system that play a role in the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
  4. Processed Foods / Caffeine / Alcohol – Processed foods are often nutrient void and contain artificial ingredients and chemicals to preserve freshness or enhance taste. Caffeine and alcohol consumption inhibit the absorption of calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and sodium.
  5. Stress – Stress (either from lifestyle or training) lowers intestinal absorption of nutrients. It stimulates your adrenal system, which causes an increase in the secretion of hormones that lead to a loss of minerals. Chronic stress changes your metabolism and the body will slowly lose its ability to adequately store minerals for later use... i.e. during long training sessions, races and while you're trying to recover.

Minerals play an important role in energy production, maintenance of bone health, adequate immune function and the synthesis and repair of muscle tissue. The reality is that most of us are not consistently eating as well as we could be. We lead stressful lives, work and train long hours and ask a lot of our body. We take medications, eat processed foods, can't always afford to buy organic and consume more than our share of packaged sugar -laden performance enhancing foods. While a healthy diet is crucial for performance and long tern health, it’s also your responsibility to ensure you're supplementing wisely to overcome any deficits.

Elizabeth Inpyn is the founder, creator and NAME behind inpynCoach Elizabeth Inpyn has a long and successful career as an athlete and coach. She transitioned into triathlon after college and is a multiple podium finisher at the Olympic and 70.3 race distance and a USAT National Qualifier at the Olympic distance.

Coach Elizabeth has an undergraduate degree in Humanities from UCSB, an MA Education in Health Sciences and a CA Teaching Credential in Health Sciences and History.  In addition, she is a certified sports nutritionist from the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition), holds a plant based nutrition certification from the T Collin Campbell Institute and carries a USAT Level 1 Tri Coaching certificate.  

For more information on nutrition counseling and coaching services you can visit her website at www.inpyn.com