|Your current health status is in part dependent upon your nutritional intake. Developing a healthy lifestyle begins with learning more about what makes up foods and how to organize the proper foods into your diet to create an optimum healing environment. Your body is composed of millions of cells that that are dependent upon an adequate intake of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins, and minerals. Deficiencies in one of more of these components will lead to less than optimum cellular function, decreased vitality, and if unchecked over a long period of time these deficiencies can lead to sickness and disease.
How does one begin to make changes in the diet to optimize health? It starts with the basic understanding of the components of foods. As stated before the main components are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins, and minerals.
Carbohydrates are complex branches of simple sugars. Some examples of foods composed mostly of carbohydrates are pastas, potatoes, cereals, beans, vegetables, and fruits. According to the research of Dr. Barry Sears, the author of Enter the Zone, the proper percentage of carbohydrates in each meal is aproximately 40%.
Proteins are composed of substances called amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of your body's genetic material, namely DNA and RNA. Also, amino acids are the primary make-up of your body's proteins and enzymes. Thus, adequate intake of proteins is very important for optimum health. Some examples of foods high in proteins are meats, fowl, fish, and soybean products such as tofu. Approximately 30% of each meal should consist of a good source of protein.
Fats are an essential component of cellular function. The brain is composed mostly of fatty tissue, as are the walls of every cell in your body. Fats come in different varieties. Saturated, poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats are the three main forms. Saturated fats are the type to avoid. These include butter, whole milk, sour cream, fatty meats, processed meats and hard cheeses. Sadly, with the advent of fast foods, the saturated fat content of foods has increased dramatically. This is partially to blame for the increase of overweight people in the U.S. Poly-unsaturated fats cause less of a problem within the body. Some examples of poly-unsaturated fats are vegetable oils. Finally mono-unsaturated fats are considered to be the best fats to ingest. Approximately 30% of each meal should consist of fats, preferably the mono-unsaturated form.
Adequate intake of water is a must for the performing artist. Cellular and muscular function is severely limited when dehydration is present. It is estimated that muscles lose 30% of their contactile ability when dehydrated. Unfortunately, our bodies do not have a good mechanism of advising us when to drink water. Usually when we begin to feel thirty our bodies are already dehydrated and in dire need of water. People who have more sedentary lifestyles should take in at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. Artists who exert a great deal of energy and sweat during their performances may need greater than 10 or 12 glasses the days before and after their gigs. Make sure the water is purified (not distilled). Purified water simply tastes better than tap water, and therefore goes down easier. Many people don't drink water simply because it tastes so bad. Consider athletic drinks that contain minerals and a sugar solution if you are excessively sweating during gigs or excercise routines.
Vitamins are coenzymes that are essential for thousands of chemical reactions in your body. Vitamins are found in many foods, most potantly in vegetables and fruits. Many people take vitamin supplements to add insurance that they are taking all of the needed vitamins daily. I often recommend this especially to busy musicians who work during the day and play gigs at night. I do not recommend mega-doses of vitamins, but I do recommend vitamins that slightly exceed the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). The RDA is, in my opinion, too low. Make sure your vitamin supplements do not contain fillers, binders, additives, sugars, or aspartame. Yes, I've seen vitamins with aspartame- that's criminal if you ask me. Of course, it's best to obtain vitamins from fruits and vegetables. In these forms they are readily absorbed into your bloodstream and the cells. There are plenty of sources to determine the amount of vitamins in foods. You can even find information on the internet on this topic.
Minerals are just as important to bodily functions as vitamins are. In fact, musicians who are excessively sweating during performances are loosing a tremendous amount of minerals through their sweat. I often recommend a mineral supplement and/or a liquid colloidal trace mineral product that has been shown to be helpful in replacing depleted supplies of minerals.
Finding the right combination of foods
Now that you understand the essential ingredients of foods, the big question is how do you eat properly to make the most out of your meals. You may have noticed that when the percentages of carbohydrates, proteins and fats were stated, they mentioned "in each meal." This is because every meal should be balanced with each of these essential ingredients. The best proportion is approximately 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fats.
Figuring out these percentages doesn't need to be very difficult. In fact, just some common sense will lead you in the right direction. For example, if you have a large pasta dinner with garlic bread, you are really overdoing the carbohydrates, in proportion to proteins and fats. To improve this, reduce the amount of pasta and add some form of meat or non-meat protein such as tofu. This will balance the proportions better. Most likely the fats will already be included because of olive oil in the spaghetti sauce and the butter on the garlic bread. (Remember that butter is a bad form of fat, so use sparingly).
Eating dessert is not a travesty- just remember that if you are planning to eat dessert, ease up on the carbohydrates during the main course. Since desserts are mainly sugars and fats, you have to decrease the amount you eat of both during the main course. Again the purpose here is to provide a balance between the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Avoid large proportions of desserts. Large sugar and calorie-laden desserts will throw your body's chemistry out of balance. If in a restaurant, share the dessert with a friend to decrease the portion size.
Why are these percentages important?
Overloading on carbohydrates causes a hormonal reaction throughout your body. The hormone insulin is released when sugars enter the blood stream. Its function is to take the excess sugars from the blood stream and deposite them into the cells. Large carbohydrate or sugary meals cause a huge release of insulin. After the meal your body goes from having a large amount of sugars present in the bloodstream to having very little sugar in the bloodstream due to the huge influx of insulin. This explains the hungry feeling just hours after eating a large carbohydrate meal. Your body thinks it's low on sugars! Since your brain soaks up about 80% of the glucose in the bloodstream, it attempts to maintain the blood glucose level at a constant state. Avoid this scenario by maintaining the percentages mentioned earlier.
Your diet is one of the important factors that determines if you stay healthy and symptom-free as a musician. The more you know about nutrition, the better off you will be. The goal of this article is to teach you to perform at optimum function. You must take an active role in developing this optimum state. Nutrition is the easiest and most accesible self-help technique to get you there. Changes in your nutritional state will have wide-spread affects throughout your body's systems. It will allow you to perform with more energy and vigor!
For more information on helpful hints to avoid injury, visit my Musician's
health website. (www.musicianshealth.com). It may really help your music career!
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