Clients are often very eager to hit the gym and get help tackling what they see as their physical limitations, but often they don’t perceive the impact of the rest of their lives on that gym work. My job as a trainer, however, is to try to see my clients holistically, in terms not just of how much weight they push at the gym, but how their entire lifestyle is contributing to their overall wellness, including their fitness goals. The fact is, no matter what our goals may be (fat reduction, muscle gain, athletic performance), the majority of us tend to ignore the very basic truth that what we put in our bodies has a huge affect on our health—and on our fitness success.
As a trainer, I am not in the business of prescribing food for my clients (and if you’re really serious about changing your physique, it’s worth working with a nutritionist). But there are a few basics that are recognized industry-wide, and that over the years I have seen make a huge difference in clients’ results in the gym. So I recommend that each of you take a look at the following list and see what positive changes you can make to your lifestyle and diet in order to make the most of your energy, workouts and results:
- Get rid of processed foods in your diet. Here’s an easy rule of thumb: If a caveman did not have access to it, then most likely you do not need to be eating it either. Go through your daily diet and replace your processed foods, cereals, shakes, etc., with real, whole, organic meats, vegetables, fruits, grains. Your body has been designed for all of human history to process these food, so they are the fuel that will let your body will run at more optimal levels. Anything else will slow down your body's processes, spike your blood sugar, and generally make your system work too hard to get rid of the excess. This especially holds true for any processed foods containing artificial sweeteners (gum, diet soda, shakes, yogurt, etc). Artificial sweeteners are toxic to the body and should be avoided at all times.
- Organic fruits and vegetables really are that important! Your body replaces two million blood cells each minute. And what do you think it's using to build these blood cells? Exactly what you give it. Just as your car runs poorly on old gasoline or dirty oil, your body will do exactly the same thing. Conventionally farmed fields have up to 85 percent less micro-organisms in the soil, leading to reliance on chemical fertilizers to grow our plants (and eventually our animals). This leads to food with chemicals that our bodies do not want, and often food with extremely reduced levels of phytonutrients. The increase in toxic chemicals and a corresponding decrease in the compounds used for body detox often lead to liver and intestine problems in addition to health problems and overall body toxicity. I often hear people say, 'but organic is too expensive!" I ask you to think about priorities, and really ask what is more important: the food we put in our bodies or big cars, expensive clothes, and luxurious vacations. Moreover, this may even be a false choice. If you shop at the farmer’s market instead of the grocery store, and eat seasonally, it’s far more affordable to eat organic. Take advantage of local organic certified farmers (be sure to look for "100% Organic" or "Organic Certified" on all foods you buy) and farmer's markets. Ask your local restaurants if they buy their meat, produce and vegetables from local certified organic farmers, and try to eat at those establishments that are on board for healthy eating.
- Organic meat and animal products are even more important! Go see the movie (or read the book) Food Inc. for all the details you could ever want. If you are eating any meat (grocery store, restaurants, or especially fast food) that is not “Free Range, Organic Fed Meat", you are giving your body large doses of chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones. The majority, if not 100 percent, of commercially farmed animals are on antibiotic drugs to keep them disease-free due to incorrect diets and/or inhumane living conditions. And these animals store all those toxins in their fat—so as a basic rule of thumb, the fattier the meat the worse it is for you (and that includes chicken eggs). It's a double whammy, since the fattier meat will contribute to heart disease and weight gain, and the toxins in that fat will attack all your body's systems. The solution is not necessarily to avoid meat altogether. Rather, just as when you want to get in shape you consult a trainer for specialized knowledge, for your diet you should consult someone who really knows meat. Visit a local butcher shop and speak directly with them about their meats. Ask about the best local farms and ranches to find organic, free range, grass fed beef or pasture chickens and pasture chicken eggs, and try to work with a butcher supplied by those farms. If you plan your meals and your week, you may find you have time to stop at the butcher once a week (or visit the meat stall at your local farmer’s market) rather than buy meat at the supermarket. And it might actually cost less in the end, since you can get the cut you want carved to order, and thus waste less.
More to come on the idea of holistic ideas for optimal health and fitness!
Note: A reference for this information is Paul Chek's You Are What You Eat.
About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is co-founder of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Billy is a certified Exercise Coach through the Paul Chek Institute as well as a Certified Personal Trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want Billy and Diakadi co-founder Mike Clausen to answer? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.