Nutrition is the most important element of your fitness program. The second most important element is your nutrition. In other words, all the hard work you are doing at the gym is grossly underserved if you have a poor diet. Essentially you have to give your body what it needs when it needs it, and learn what is the right amount for you, so that you get enough nutrients and energy to sustain your body and to exercise, but not so much that it builds body fat. This amount will vary from person to person and according to the activity level of your day.
What you eat is as important as how much. My personal recommendation is to favor a high animal protein diet, with nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and good fats, with a minimum of grains and cereals. A paleo diet as it is called. See robwolff.com for more information on this diet. This is a diet which promotes a lean, inflammation-free body and combines excellent advantages in athletic performance and body composition as well as general health promotion. Yet it goes against much of what is traditionally given as fitness eating advice, which is usually to recommend a diet high in lean proteins and whole grains (brown rice/whole wheat pasta/whole grain breads) with a strict control on fats. In fact, there is a certain phobia abounding about fats, that they lead to high body fat, heart disease, high blood pressure and contribute to early death. A half-century of this health mantra has left us with what? Decreased mortality due to heart disease, diabetes, etc.? No, on the contrary, we are experiencing an enormous rise in these. Of course it is a contributing factor that people are more sedentary and eat higher amounts than they should, but the increased reliance on carbohydrates as an energy source plays a huge role in this also, as ingestion of carbohydrates causes insulin, a storing hormone, to be released, causing the body to store the carbs as...fat!
In other words, we should not be afraid of eating fats and in fact should favor them as an energy source over carbohydrates. Following this type of diet, or as close to it as you can, provides you with the best nutrition base for your fitness program as well as arming your body in the best way to fight HIV, or indeed any other disease. In terms of supplementation, having tried and researched many for years, I do not now believe that excessive supplementation is of use. Apart from any deficiencies (vitamin D, calcium, iron, etc.) which may be detected through blood tests, I believe that our micro nutrients should be obtained through food sources. Some useful additions to your diet are: fish oils, which provide many health benefits; selenium, a vital mineral in immune function; and a high quality chelated mutli-vitamin.
There is some research on the changes HIV and HIV medication provokes in the stomach lining and intestines, and some of these suggest that HIV can affect absorption of nutrients. For this reason it is helpful to have vitamin and mineral deficiencies checked for through blood tests. See thebody.com/content/art59335.html for more information on this.
The timing of your eating also plays a major role in the success of your exercise program. Indeed your daily intake of food should be organized in such a way as to compliment in the best way your workouts. Always arrive at your workout fueled and ready to work, i.e., with a store of ready energy, so never hungry! Ideally some carbohydrate and protein about 90 minutes before you work out. You should have some simple carbohydrate (fruit) and some protein as soon as possible after completing your workout and make sure you have a good meal an hour or so after that. By ‘good’ I mean a balance of protein, good fats and carbohydrates.
Eat as much food as is necessary to maintain excellent performance in your physical activity and to sustain you through the day, but not so much as to make your body store the excess as fat. For each person this will vary according to other energy needs throughout the day, age, etc. Eat regular small amounts throughout the day, and find the amounts which work best for you. As always, feel free to email me questions or comments.
John Dunlea is a certified personal trainer and Level 1 Crossfit Trainer. He can be contacted at email@example.com.