Welcome to the first blog in a series of 5 covering the “5 Factors of Health” that we introduced you to last week. Keep in mind these 5 factors are not necessarily in order of importance, you could argue that they are all the most important, but the order in which they’re presented allows them to build on each other in a rather elegant way. That being said, the foundation is nutrition. Whether you are an Olympic athlete, have been exercising 5x a week for 10 years, or you’ve never touched a weight in your life…you need to eat well.
Healthy Eating 101
In my humble opinion, two people have gotten general nutrition advice right. I come back to these quotes often and I can’t find anything wrong with them.
The first is from a book called “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan. The rules are simple…
- Eat real food
- Not too much
- Mostly plants
The second is from CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman…
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.”
The first one is a bit more comprehensive as it warns not to eat too much, but both quotes overlap pretty nicely. The second quote from Greg Glassman can be seen as a breakdown of rules #1 and #3 from Michael Pollan. It could also be argued that if all you ate was foods from the second quote, you would be plenty full before you ate “too much”, therefor covering rule #2 as well. While I honestly think you could take these two quotes at face value and do pretty darn well, a little more clarification wouldn’t hurt.
1. Eat Real Food: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.” You are an adult, you know what real food is. If you couldn’t pick it, find it, or kill it in the wild…it’s probably not real. If it has a shelf life longer than a week, you should question whether you should put it in your body. Also, an Organic Paleo Vegan muffin from Whole Foods is still a muffin! It’s still highly processed and it still has a ton of sugar.
2. Not Too Much: You know that feeling you have after Thanksgiving dinner? When you feel physically ill from all the food you just shoveled into your mouth. That’s too much, in fact, half of that was probably too much. Eat one plate of food, covered at least halfway with plants (fruits and veggies). Do that 3 times a day and no snacking in between.
3. Mostly Plants: Please read this as mostly plants and not all plants. I know the Game Changers documentary was convincing but you do not need to go Vegan. Think “plant forward”, not “plant based”. Eat as many veggies as you want on your plate. If you’re trying to lose a lot of weight or you have a medical condition like diabetes try to limit your fruit (also talk to your doctor, I am not a doctor). If you’re healthy don’t worry too much about your fruit intake…it’s very hard to get fat and sick eating apples.
The Number One Biggest Food Myth of All Time
Calories are calories, they’re all equal:
While it is true that to lose weight you need to eat less than you burn or to gain weight you need to eat more than you burn, this is only part of the equation. This overly simplistic view leaves your overall health (and body composition) out of the equation. Sure if you normally eat 2,000 calories a day and you start eating 1500 calories a day you will lose weight. But if that 1500 calories is from Big Macs, sodas, and snickers bars you will probably end up looking like mashed potatoes stuffed into clothes. If those 1500 calories came from chicken, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats you would keep more muscle while burning more fat and probably look a lot more like you actually want to look. The same goes for gaining weight, if you’re trying to put on some muscle you can’t do it on sugary cereal, candy, and pizza alone. You’re not going to gain the kind of weight you want.
Here’s as simple as I can make it…a Snickers bar has 250 calories. A 4 oz chicken breast, 3 oz of baby carrots, half a cup of broccoli, and half a medium avocado is also just about 250 calories. I shouldn’t have to say this but the second one is healthier for a few dozen reasons. Real food wins, every time. So if your trainer tells you to just eat less or more with no other guidance…find a new trainer.
Since we’re all doing our best right now to #flattenthecurve and I know you’re looking for ways to kill time here are some articles, podcasts, videos, websites, etc…to help you learn more about nutrition (and stop watching Tiger King)
Awesome podcast breaking down this “Factor” – Chasing Excellence “Ten Principles of Nutrition”
The best nutrition advice on the web – Optimizemenutrition
Ted Talk from E.C. Synkowski – “An elegant diet”
Maybe the best site to spend a bunch of time on (lots of free resources) – Precision Nutrition
Stay strong my friends