With all the news appearing to state that cholesterol and fat are not that bad for you, it might be tempting to jump to the conclusion that you can eat whatever you like. But the Dietary Advisory Committee’s report on which these news stories are based is far more nuanced. The report makes definitive conclusions based on scientific research. It is quite long, and I have been able to read only a tiny fraction of it. But here are some conclusions which can help inform us about how to choose what we eat when we cycle.
- We get too little: vitamins A, D and E, folate, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Also, adolescents and some women get too little iron.
- We eat too little: fiber, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy foods.
- We get too much: sodium, saturated fat, refined grains, solid fats, and added sugars.
- We drink way too many sugar-sweetened beverages.
- The cholesterol we eat has no bearing on “serum cholesterol” — cholesterol in our bloodstream.
- When we take vitamin pills and the like, we tend to consume dangerous levels of certain micronutrients (e.g., folate, calcium, iron, or vitamin D).
- We don’t get too much caffeine.
- Obesity levels are alarmingly hight: “…65 percent of adult females and 70 percent of adult males are overweight or obese, and rates are highest in adults ages 40 years and older.”
The report has an extensive section on physical activity, and identifies key components to obesity. We eat too much food prepared outside the home. This is a problem because we have little control over the calorie content. Additional factors include:
•The U.S. population has become increasingly sedentary,3 with daily hours of screen time exposure becoming a serious public health concern due to its potential negative influence on dietary and weight outcomes. For example, it has been hypothesized that TV viewing time has a negative influence on dietary habits of individuals because of unhealthy snacking while watching TV and through exposure to advertisements of unhealthy food products.4 …
Suboptimal sleep patterns associated with today’s busy lives also have been identified as a potential risk factor for poor dietary behaviors and body weight outcomes.
The study concludes that, in young people at least, limiting TV viewing had a positive effect on obesity. Also, self monitoring among women improved obesity, too. Little evidence supported a conclusion that calorie labeling improved food selection. The report then makes the following recommendations to adults on the amount of physical activity required:
- All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.
- For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
- For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.
- Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
(Recommendations for youth and older adults is also available in the report.) This is just a taste of what is in the report. Although I recommend giving it a review, you might prefer some cycling-specific tips on diet. I’ve written a few blog posts, a list of which follow. I also plan on writing with specific recommendations for long ride.
- Eat. Your guide to what and how much to eat before, during, and after your rides.
- Sleep like an Athlete. Includes information about hunger, hormones, and proper nutrition.
- Eating Right: Don’t call it Diet.
- Magical Diet.
- Nutrition: Its not Magic.