Getting Real About Nutrition and Exercise

Holy Donuts from the Holy Donut in Portland, ME. These are the bomb.

Holy Donuts from the Holy Donut in Portland, ME. These are the bomb. A treat for me a couple times a year!

It’s January 2016. The start of a brand new year. During the last week or two many of us have given some sort of thought to our health and weight. Maybe you’ve thought about getting healthier in general; eating better, sleeping more, stessing less. Or maybe you’ve thought about what it will take to lose some weight. These days there is a lot of conflicting information about how to do any of this. Additionally, nutritional needs can vary greatly from person to person. I’ve had many people ask me about weight loss and “getting lean” and I always try to give the most honest answer. The answer will also typically include the words, “It depends…”.

Over the last year or so more and more athletes have been seen indulging in donuts, pizza, and even beer. WAIT! I thought they only ate salads and steamed chicken!? Talk about confusing. The tides are changing and while a few years ago everyone was on the Paleo wagon, there is more and more evidence that performance athletes might needs more than meat, veggies, and healthy fats. There are two key words in the last few sentences: indulging and performance. 

So while Mat Fraser and Brooke Ence eat their pasta and donuts and Ben & Jerry’s, keep in mind the amount of work and energy output they have endured. Literally hours per day of training and movement. This means that they have earned the right to occasionally indulge in these foods and actually might need to eat these to get the amount of calories required the perform at such a high level. Additionally, their goal is performance which doesn’t necessarily translate to healthy! Junky food actually puts more stress on your body. This is why treats need to be occasional. Most of us cannot get away with eating treats all the time while still looking and feeling they way we want to.

Unless you are performing at a level similar to or near Mat or Brooke I suggest you go easy on the donuts, pasta, and Ben & Jerry’s and opt for the grilled chicken, sauteed broccoli and a sweet potato. If you are going to a CrossFit class three days per week but doing nothing else for activity outside of that and you want to lose weight, your nutrition must be on point. That means an occasional treat or small indulgence. I am a huge fan of this rule: Be active on most days each week. This means 4+, ideally 5 or 6 days. This doesn’t mean you have to go to CrossFit everyday. This means adding more activity to your daily life. A walk a lunch time instead of scrolling Facebook, a snow shoe hike, a day or half-day of skiing, ice skating, a dance party with your kids or a yoga class. Another way to get more activity is to arrive at the gym 30 minutes early for an extended warm up on the bike or rower.

If you’re consistently logging activity on most days of the week, you might be able to handle an indulgence each week. As in a cookie, beer, or glass of wine (or 2). If you’re working out more than this or are training for an athletic event or competition, your diet has to supply your body with all the nutrition and energy it needs to perform the best it can.  So if you’re training for 90 minutes to 2 hours or more each day it’s a good bet that you can have a donut or pizza now and then if you so choose.

HOWEVER…this all hinges on what your body can tolerate. It sometimes takes some experimentation and elimination to figure out what works for you! If you are lactose intolerant or have a gluten sensitivity, or if you have an autoimmune condition (celiac, Hashimotos, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc) there are probably foods that you must avoid in order to feel and function at your best, including donuts, pasta, and pizza and more. If you have special concerns your diet might need to be tailored to fit those concerns. Also, if you have a significant amount of weight to lose and that’s your goal, as I stated above, your nutrition must be on point most of the time (consistency!) – good quality protein, lots of veggies, some fruit, good starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, and carrots.

If you’re not sure where you fit in, talk with one of your coaches or email me! I’d be happy to hep guide you in the right direction.