Balanced Nutrition, Balanced Life

It is a little after noon time and I am sitting in beautiful Liberal Kansas while my co-driver finishes our second to last freight delivery for this run. I will soon be taking the helm of our semi here soon, and only want to get this trip over as we have had heavy rains on the road all this week. Rain is not much of an issue for daytime driving over short distances, but a large portion of my running is at night where the oncoming lights from other motorists gets magnified in the rain drops on the windshield only to cause eye strain after a while. That last hour before the sunrises when your circadiam rythem says you are supposed to be asleep anyhow is the roughest period for most truckers.

Early this morning, it was 2:30 am when I pulled my rig away from our loading dock in Kansas City. A full two hour late departure time that seems to be a regular occurrence and with no relief in sight for improvement. It is a systemic problem with my employer which has come from an expansion of our operations. Now to add to our lateness Kansas Highway 54 is down to one lane for road construction, at least is not raining for the time…

Whether you live a busy life or not, being able to draw a balance is key to your well being. Balance in nutrition, your stress levels and physical fitness. Let your balance in any of these areas get off, and your sense of well being will only suffer for it. A large component in keeping stress levels and your physical fitness in balance is through proper nutrition.

In a perfect world, we would not be so busy that there is a need for foods of convenience which do little to nourish us properly. In a perfect world, we could all sit down each day to a dinner which fits the standards set by www.ChooseMyPlate.gov where we get the perfect balance of protein, vegetables, fruit, grain and dairy with every plate of food we consume. If you are like myself, you do not live in a perfect world. I know for sure that in a perfect world, I would not be working a 60 to 80 hour work week 52 weeks a year. However, this is no excuse to not take care of eating right and maintaining a good nutritional balance.

No matter how busy your life may be, you should really consider your daily caloric needs by your Basal Metabolic Rate. Your caloric needs will depend on your age, gender, weight and activity level. Once you know your caloric needs, you can then figure your macro-nutrient needs in order to lose or maintain your weight. You owe it to yourself to know these numbers for healthful living which will enable you to work productively, enjoy life and to feel your best. For weight management, or to maintain your current weight, government standards for macro-nutrients per AFPA Cengage Learning is 10-25% protein, 45-65% complex carbohydrates and 20-35% of total calories come from fats. Preferrably liquid fats over solids. The current consumption trend for most Americans is 15% protein, 49% carbs with 16% coming from refined sugar and 34% fats. This trend has resulted in our curent obesity epedemic. For weight loss, and for those who strength train or particapate in other vigorous physical exercise I recommend consuming 50-60% of calories from protein, with complex carbs not exceeding 25-30% and the remaining calories coming from fat. I recommend this for a couple of reasons. First is we need protein to build and or repair muscle mass which is not only needed for strength and endurance athletes, but is also important as a part of weight loss. You do not want to lose your lean muscle mass while losing your body fat. Losing lean muscle will happen during a caloric deficit which will only serve to slow your metabolism. Know that the more lean muscle your body retains, the more efficient you will be at burning fat. The next reason I advise the higher protein intake is it will keep you satiated much longer than carbohydrates, especially simple carbs. The more your hunger is satisfied, the less likely it is that you will want to snack between meals.

If your life is remotely as busy as mine where you find yourself eating on the go a lot, then by all means ensure that your food choices are healthy. Ensure that you are getting a good variety where you will consume your recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals in order to maintain your nutritional balance. Unlike carbohydrates, fats and proteins, vitamins and minerals do not supply energy or calories. Instead, they regulate the release of energy and other aspects of your metabolism. Minerals also perform important functions. Calcium makes up the structure of bones and teeth. Others such as sodium help regulate crucial body functions such as heartbeat and muscle contractions. You can meet all these nutrional needs by eating fresh fruits and vegetables and by reading labels on your canned goods. While this may seem inconvenient for a little bit, after a short time, you will have most of this information remembered. It helps also to have regular staples that you buy from your grocery store each week. If you keep basic regular food items, you can always add to them with other foods or change your flavor profiles by experimenting with differnet seasonings. For example, I might use a half dozen different seasonings on boiled eggs in order to never get bored with them.

No matter how busy your life, there are always healthy alternatives ou can choose over unhealthy. If you must eat on the run, ensure that you consume whole grain breads over eating white bread. Be sure to read the labels with wheat breads as sometimes, these breads do not contain whole grains and are only brown because of food colorings and are no more good for you than white bread. Whole grain breads will provide good nutritional value with protein and complex carbs along with fiber. Choose lean meats for your sandwich and pile on the vegetable fixings such as lettuce, tomatoes and onions. If you like a little something to crunch on during the day, pack 1-1 1/2 ounce of nuts such as almonds. Almonds are a great source of magnesium which regulates diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. As a supplementation to cover anything that may be missing from the meals I consume on the road in my semi and at home, I like to have protein shakes made from 2% milk and flavored whey protein. There are many great tasting whey proteins on the market which are also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals as well as branch chain amino acids which help boost muscle growth, enhance exercise performance, and help reduce fatigue after exercise or hard work.

Last but not least in nutrional balance is by all means do not over eat your caloric needs as the obvious weight gain will happen. Next is do not under eat your caloric needs by too much of a margin as your metabolism will only slow which will impede your weight loss. A good rule of thumb to lose 1 pound per week is to consume 500 calories a day less than you daily needs to maintain your current body fat levels. This is the most healthy rate of loss for most people. If you keep your nutrition in balance, you will find that it is much easier to keep the rest of your life in balance. By keeping nutritional balance, you will feel much healthier, more energetic and your mental focus will be much sharper.

Stay balanced my friends, stay balanced.

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