Today’s post is about diet. Not about dieting. Diet. In terms of food and diet, my personal experience is that two things change when you start to exercise. It appears (to me) that the first change gradually occurs, almost without you realizing it. The second phases itself in – also gradually – until one day you realize that both of these things have changed and your food intake and diet are different.

Change One:  Awareness (re-awareness) of food’s nutritional values
For the most part, Canadians are well-informed about healthy nutrition. As a group, I would say we are well-informed about many of aspects of wellness. IMHO (In my humble opinion), what we almost globally do is fail to act on the good things we know to do. So. . . I pretty much KNOW what is good to eat and what is not good to eat. At times in my life when I have been deliberately and purposefully more active, one of the first effects beyond the actual exercise is that I start thinking about what I’m eating. I start hearing a nagging voice in my head when I pig out (consume an excess of) the deep fried stuff, or the soft-drinks or the super-salty things like some chips. The voice gets louder the more intense the exercise or the more there is a performance aspect (such as a training for a triathlon). The curious thing to me is that somehow, being in exercise mode makes me think about what I already knew but had not been thinking about. I also start looking more at nutrition labels and actually evaluating what is in the food.

Change Two:  Appetite changes and specific hungers
Once I have been in “workout mode” for a while, especially after I have crossed over into workouts that last more than hour a few times a week, my appetite noticeably changes. It is not that I feel hungrier, although sometimes I do. More exactly, I notice that my body wants protein and vegetables. In my case, I am aware that I want to eat freshly cooked cuts of meat like mostly chicken or pork, although beef has hit my radar also. The point is, it is always fresh cuts that I am craving. I have also had cravings for broccoli (which I already quite like) and one day I just HAD to have spinach!  My appetite for bread and potatoes – both of which I LOVE – has decreased noticeably, and I’m eating more rice (thanks to Jeba and Nelson for showing us a whole lot of interesting new ways to cook rice).

My explanation for all this is that, somehow, under exercise load, my body uses more of certain types of nutrients (and less of others) and basically places nutrient-specific orders to my appetite. As for the awareness side of things, I suspect that diet and nutrition are relevant to exercise and overall wellness (sorry, Captain Obvious). Okay, so I actually know that. What I suspect, then, is that there is a variant of the Ziegarnik Effect (I knew you’d want to look it up) at play; thoughts about healthy, nutritious foods begin to intrude into my general food thinking. I start feeling almost uneasy or guilty until and unless I reprogram my eating to more healthy choices. I already knew most of the information, but was not acting on it. I think that – the not acting on it – is what was causing the unease.

Well, that’s a lot to chew on. I’ll sign off, but I will be revisiting this in the future. I would like to get some thoughts from a dietician for a future post, and you can bet on a follow-up to “The Great Protein Powder Experiment”.