Thoughts on Nutrition with Fabio Comona, NASM director of Education

4 September 2012, Comments 0

Coach Jose, Fabio Comona, and myself.

Last Sunday I spent the day learning something new. I’ve always considered myself to know “just enough for a trainer” when it comes to nutrition since I grew up with a nutritionist for a mother and there were always a lot of nutrition books laying around the house. I knew what was bad for me and what was good for me, although what i liked never really meshed with that was good for me. Nevertheless I tried to adapt a lot of different nutritional habits that my mom taught me in order to improve my exercise and athletic performance. It’s still a pretty diverse world that I want to eventually master but Sunday gave me the opportunity to go deeper and learn a little bit more about what fuels us (literally) to live everyday.

What I got was much more than I expected, considering that it was supposed to be the intro course. It’s hard to summarize the entire lecture on one post, and I’m not gonna bombard you anyway with technical jargon. What was interesting though were some of the “nutritional solutions” that Fabio suggested to help us stay disciplined in our eating habits and improve our overall performance without leaving us feeling deprived.

Here’s 3 of those tips

1. At a Buffet, get everything you want first before sitting down to eat.

Filipinos love buffets. There are plenty of buffets in the country and you can see how popular they are just by the long lines you have to go through to get a table. Maybe we love it because of the value it gives us, everytime we see “EAT ALL YOU CAN”we instantly think of how we can stuff as much as we can in our stomachs to justify the price that we pay. More often that not also, we end up saying at the end of the meal, I ate too much. A simple solution according to Fabio is to get everything that you want to eat in your first trip. Get your soup, salad, appetizer, mains, starches, sweets, and everything and arrange them in your table. Thereby, when you see just how much there is to eat, your brain instantly says to you that “wow, that’s a lot” and you end up eating less.

2. Use smaller plates

photo from

The picture above has the exact same amount of food. But when you get the plate on the left, what will you tend to do? You’ll want more right? Because your brain is telling you to fill up that empty space with more food because, again, you feel deprived. One thing that Fabio also taught us was that the brain can trick you into wanting more food when the body already has enough. One way to curb this is to satisfy or “trick” the brain into satisfaction.

3. You need carbs to prevent your body from using muscle as fuel

photo from the muscle diary

No offense to my paleo and carb-phobic friends but according to Fabio, hi quality carbs do have it’s place in our daily diets. The body not only needs carbs, it also prefers carbs for fuel. True, there are carbs in vegetables but not enough to replenish the glycogen stores that your muscles and your liver needs to remain healthy and active. The process for energy production is a complicated one but in simple terms, Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins are broken down into simpler molecules that bind with each other to give us energy. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose or glycogen and you need this for energy. It’s true that you can derive this from proteins and fats but the one thing that you need to get rid of with protein is nitrogen. This is filtered by your liver and kidneys and go straight to the urine. Guess what happens when your liver and kidneys have too much protein? Imagine your aircon filter after years of use without cleaning, that’s what happens. So why not get high quality carbs and save yourself the hassle? The problem with carbs again is we have too much of it. As a general rule, divide your plate into 4 quarters, a quarter each for proteins, starches, vegetables, and fruits.

I’m sure I’m gonna get a lot of flack for this and people will be saying I don’t know what I’m talking about when I criticize paleo. It has nothing to do with the crossfit community, alright? But here’s my final thought on paleo:

Paleo was patterned after the paleolithic times (hunter, gatherer) the assumption is that if our ancestors were able to survive with no carbs then we could to. (I’m not talking about processed foods of course which are understandably bad) But the reality is our ancestors DID eat carbs during the summer and then they survived on proteins and fats from left over carcasses during the winter. But still, they did eat carbs when they could. In Fabio’s words, “Im sure if I gave them a big mac and fries , they would eat it”.

I’m not saying paleo is bad. It has a lot of things going for it, but still, we need carbs, we won’t survive without it.

What I’m saying is, ALL DESIGNER DIETS ARE BAD. Just adapt a balanced diet getting nutrients from all three macros (carbs, proteins, and fats) and eat your vegetables and fruits. And when you do crave for the sweets, always remember: MODERATION.

EDIT: One more thing about paleo, the average life expectancy of our ancestors in the paleolithic times were in the mid-30s. Of course there was drought and harsh weathers and all but do we really want to base our diets on a population who didn’t really live to be that long? If there were more long term studies then probably it would be safer. but then again, goes back to stop Dieting: DIET = Do not Include Eating This. 


Fabio Comona is the Senior Fitness Educator at National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), presenting education and application at national and international events. In addition, Comana serves as a faculty member teaching courses in exercise science and nutrition at San Diego State University, and UC San Diego.

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