Health and Fitness column: Nutrition is key to fitness maintenance

Nutritional logic! It eludes most of us on a clear day, but it gets worse when you add it to heat and exercise.

Life isn't consistent and neither is your food consumption. One day you're at the pizza parlor, the next you're living on strawberries.

Do you ever consider what this lack of nutritional logic does to your body? Every day your body demands proper consistent nutrition to function successfully. And, each day, you add changes to that demand. Less sleep, more beer. You know how it goes.

When I taught college classes, I gave my students three tests to perform.

The No. 1 test of nutritional fortitude for each student was to make it through one day without sugar. Not the natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables, but the white stuff that creeps into your cereal and mushroom soup. Didn't know canned soup has sugar, did you? Surprise. What this teaches you is ... to read the labels!

One day in your life without sugar isn't much, but you'd be surprised how hard it is to find the hidden sugar in our daily food supply.

Next, count the calories in everything you put in your mouth for one day. That's gum, Certs, and martinis, too! The point? You will be amazed at the calorie cost of those little items you thought were calorie cheap. Raisins, nuts, juice, etc. Most of my students seem to feel that if it slides down in liquid form, it doesn't contain any calories. You will need a calorie counter for this test. I don't care how many calories you consume, but get a calorie counter that contains fudge.

Now, give yourself 1,000 calories for one day. That's it. If you decide to have a Big Mac, there goes your lunch and dinner. One day at 1,000 calories will not kill you. Again, you need to count those calories, and I don't care if you have sugar.

See how it works? You are getting an education without pain. You can live through three days of interesting experiments. Drag the kids along with you for these tests. They usually have more fortitude than mom and dad, anyway.

Finally, consider the advantages of eating more fruit during the summer, and fruit is mostly water, an item you need a lot more of in the summer. Muscle is 70 percent water and 20 percent fat. So those of you with low body fat should be aware of your extra need for water.

Habits that center around food are hard to break, good habits for fitness and food go well together. It takes both to make a "new you."

(Jerry Vance is certified by the American Council on Exercise and teaches fitness at the Carson City Community Center and for the American Lung Association.)


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