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Nutrition and Coding
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What is Nutrition?
What is nutrition? This may seem like a silly question, but many cannot succinctly define it. Nutrition is simply the materials in which an organism uses to grow, maintain and reproduce. As humans, we eat food which breaks down to macro- and micronutrients to allow us to live our lives. Macronutrients are materials that are required in larger quantities by an organism, while micronutrients are required in smaller quantities. With the more fitness-conscious generation and all the marketing that comes with that, you’ve probably heard of carbs, fats and proteins. Those three, including dietary fiber and water make up your macronutrients. Your micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals. Ok so now that we have a baseline knowledge of nutrition and how it applies to us humans, let’s continue on to the nutritional parameters…
How Can Nutrition be Good or Bad
I think the second piece of baseline information we need to establish is what denotes good and bad nutrition. This can be a highly contentious topic, especially with all the fad diets out nowadays. To give the following explanation some scope, we will be discussing what makes nutrition good or bad with respect to the overall health of the organism. Quite simply, good nutrition is any food that will improve or maintain the health of the organism and bad nutrition does the opposite. Makes sense, right? A greasy slice of cheese pizza compared to fresh avocado on toast, while not diametrically opposed, are very different forms of the same macronutrients. Now I won’t venture as far as to say that the greasy slice of pizza is bad nutrition, though. Why? There are quite a number of factors that come into play when looking at nutrition with respect to overall health.
Other Nutritional Factors
So, what are the other factors when talking trying to determine if a food is “healthy” or not? The two I’ll briefly discuss, since I am the most familiar with them, are overall caloric intake vs expense and food allergies. What the heck is overall caloric intake vs expense? Great question! Every day we burn calories. We burn calories while we sleep, while we work, and even while we eat! We also take in calories every day. As soon as you take that first bite of food or drink your morning cup of joe with creamer or sugar, your body starts metabolizing those nutrients: breaking them down to useable blocks to either build, rebuild, or to be burned or stored as energy. One key proponent of good nutrition is the dance between the number of calories you consume per day vs the amount you expend.
The other factor to consider is food allergies. Let’s revisit that slice of cheese pizza and avocado toast example again. If you have a food allergy to avocados, it wouldn’t make sense for you to eat that over that slice of pizza. Depending on the severity of your allergy, it could cause mild discomfort to a trip to the hospital. Internally, food allergies also cause a lot of inflammation due to your body’s overreaction to an innocuous substance which can affect your metabolism through digestive problems, increase your blood pressure, or can even manifest itself externally on your skin in the form of a rash (most common form).
Nutrition to Improve Coding
Cool, now that you have a well-rounded idea of nutrition and some of the key factors that come into play, let’s get to why you’re here. How does good nutrition make you a better developer? In short, there is actually no direct correlation here. *gasp*. While there is no direct impact that improving your nutrition will make on your ability to do your technical job, there are a plethora of indirect benefits. These indirect benefits include better sleep, more natural energy, less brain fog, etc. Let’s circle back to the different facets of nutrition we talked about and draw some lines between the points…
Source of Nutrition Matters
The first point we talked about was the source of your nutrition. Remember the pizza and avocado toast? Yeah, they’re back again. Assuming you don’t have food allergies or intolerances towards anything in either of these foods, the avocado toast is a much healthier source of nutrition than the pizza. From a macronutrient standpoint, the fats you’re getting from an avocado will typically be higher in monounsaturated fats. That slice of pizza will most likely have trans fat which provides no nutritional value and you should avoid excessive amounts for a healthier lifestyle. You’re also receiving the benefits of the micronutrients and little bit of dietary fiber that the avocado offers.
Caloric Trade Off
The avocado toast also has less calories than the slice of pizza, making the avocado toast more nutrient-dense. The more nutrient-dense foods you eat on a daily basis, the more improvements you’ll see in your overall health and well-being. You’ll also be surprised at how satiated you’ll feel compared to eating “junk foods”. By being more selective in your food choices, you’ll be lower your daily caloric intake, which in most cases is the safer side of the coin. If you find you didn’t eat enough calories the day before, your body will release hormones such as ghrelin to make you feel hungry and cause you to eat a little more today. Generally, it’s easier to gain weight than it is to lose weight because the former is biological whereas the latter is psychological. But it is also unrealistic to look at calories on a daily basis. It’s recommended to take weekly “snapshots” of your caloric intake vs expense because somedays life happens and you don’t stick to your plan!
Allergies and Intolerances
Finally, isolating and eliminating any foods that you are allergic to or have intolerances for, will make you and your body much happier. Elimination foods that cause bad reactions may seem obvious, but many do not realize that they even have specific allergies or intolerances. Most of the time, the reactions are so minor that you would never know unless you had an allergy test performed. While I don’t think it’s necessary to visit your local allergist unless you’re showing moderate symptoms, it doesn’t hurt to do some simple food eliminations and see if you don’t feel better. If you feel better and you’re still able to get all the macro- and micronutrients from that same food, then your body probably had some form of intolerance!
Let’s roll through everything again before we wrap this up. There are a lot of facets when talking about nutrition. We briefly discussed food sources, caloric intake, and allergies and intolerances, but this is just the tip of the nutrition iceberg. While nutrition cannot directly make you a better developer, being more conscious of, and improving, your nutrition can have many indirect benefits. Eliminating dairy because you found that you have an intolerance can lead to more restful sleep, which can lead to more energy throughout the day as well as better memorization and processing during the REM portion of your sleep cycle. Substituting avocado for butter on your toast can increase your monosaturated fat intake, helping your cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy for years to come.
That’s it for this week folks. If you enjoyed this article and want to see more content like this, be sure to give us a like! With a Kinesiology and Nutrition background from college, I enjoy marrying professional best practices with the best practices I’ve learned from fitness and nutrition. I may delve into why I believe that the pomodoro technique is imperative to a developer’s long-term success in a future article. Until next time!