I’m probably going to catch hell for this blog post, but here it goes anyway.
My darling sister sent me a link to a blog titled “Seven Reasons As To Why Running is Bad For You” the other day. I read the rather scathing blog and thought, hmm, this dude makes a few good points. I didn’t care for the way he bashed running (as a person who loves running), and his general negative attitude, but the first reason was rather interesting: “Have you looked at distance runners?”
The author points out that most runners, especially distance runners, are…well…out of shape. If you look at the majority of people crossing the line of a marathon, they are not the gazelle-looking athletes you would expect. The author points out that they have, “man boobs” and “spare tires”.
He says his goal is to look good naked, and I agree, if you work this hard, you should look good naked! If you want to look good naked, I give my take on how to do it in this blog.
I would argue that this fact is true for many athletes. Cyclists, swimmers, runners, the people at the gym who show-up for boot-camp or Crossfit, whatever. Many of them are still not the ‘ideal image of fitness’.
So why? Why are these people who workout an hour a day, seven days a week not fit? Why is it that a marathon runner who goes out for four-hour training runs still has a set of man boobs? Why does the guy doing Crossfit three times a week still have a barrel chest with a gut? Why does the cyclist who rides one hundred miles in one day still have a muffin-top riding over her bike shorts? I’ll tell you why, but first you have to promise not to get upset. Don’t shoot the messenger and please DON’T assume I am ignorant as to the difficulties of weight issues.
Here’s the reason. Your physical appearance has much, much, much more to do with what you put in your mouth than how many calories you burn.
We ALL have six-pack abs, though some are more pronounced than others. The difference is that if you have a thick layer of fat covering them, you won’t see your ab muscles. A person can be extremely fit and look just like anyone else.
One of the biggest problems people run into when they do any fitness routine, is they over compensate for the calories they burned. A one hour run, on average, burns about 600 calories. If you go home and drink a tall glass of chocolate milk and eat a bagel, you’ve replaced the calories you just burned. And if you are like most fitness junkies, you think you are entitled to eat whatever you want since you work out so hard. “We need to carb-load” they say. Bull shit. You need to eat well, and pasta is not the best choice.
The person who works out sporadically tends to ‘reward’ themselves after a difficult workout session with a special treat like a candy bar or a Big Mac then wonder’s why they haven’t lost any weight. When weeks and weeks of this effort at working out results in weight gain, they lose all confidence in themselves and create a downward spiral. They run to the comfort foods to heal their pain.
I’ve been on long endurance rides with some of the best cyclists in the area and am appalled to see them noshing on gummy bears and a coke at the rest stop. It’s no wonder they don’t fit the image of the extreme athletes they are. I can’t help but wonder how much faster and better they could be if they fueled their body with real food.
The fact is: if you want to be the image of an athlete, you need to eat correctly and work out. If you want to feel healthy, you need to eat well. If you want to be a healthy weight, you need to eat well. No amount of exercise gives you a pass to eat like crap. As an athlete, eating well will fuel your workouts and feed your fitness level like never before. Even if you are not an athlete, you can look better and feel amazing if you just eat well.
What do you mean by ‘eat well’?
Okay, here’s my take on how everyone should eat in as few words as possible. Take it or leave it. But if you want to feel great, look great (even naked) and be the best athlete you can be, you might want to give it a go.
STOP rewarding yourself with junk food. Cut out all the cakes, muffins, doughnuts, candy, and chips. It’s junk, it’s filled with sugar and ultimately it will ruin you. It’s not worth it. A little dark chocolate on a rare occasion may be fine but that’s it. Sugar feeds cancer cells (and we all have cancer cells), it spikes your blood sugar creating a feeling of hunger and a craving for more sugar. Get off the sugar and you will stop the cravings. It’s a cycle, it can be broken. One week without sugar and you will be a new person.
NO sugary drinks. Drink water, lots of it. Not only does water hydrate you and make your skin look fresh it flushes toxins from your body and makes you feel full. Often people eat when they are dehydrated because they mistake the signals for hunger. Add lemon to your water for flavor, to aid in digestion and cleanse your system. Other great options are green tea and unsweetened tea. Beer is fine and so is wine (in moderation).
No artificial sweeteners: Not only are they bad for you, like eating toxic waste (in my opinion) they cause your blood sugar to fluctuate just like sugar does. These spikes in blood-sugar cause you to feel hungry. If you avoid sugar and artificial sugar, you will feel satisfied. Trust me.
No processed foods. If it comes in a box or a bag it is probably processed. Examples are crackers, nutrition bars, rice crisps, pretzels, chips, pasta, gold fish, wheat thins, most breads, lunch meats, fake cheese, etc. Real food is perishable. Processed foods are filled with preservatives, chemicals and most of the main ingredients like enriched flours turn into sugar when it is digested. This crap food, as I call it, is toxic to your system, makes you feel hungry, unsatisfied, (can’t eat just one!), lethargic and is the most detrimental to a lean healthy body. (Even ORGANIC processed food is bad for you!)
NO FAST FOOD: I don’t care what kind of bullshit they feed you on the commercials, NO fast food is a good option. If you have to choose between paying a dollar for a burger or a dollar for an organic apple, chose the apple. A chicken wrap is crap. Subway is NOT fresh, it is actually highly processed meats filled with nitrates, veggies that are mass produced and grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with toxic pesticides, and breads made from dough that is made in a factory a long, long way away with an ingredient list longer and more toxic than the Ohio river.
All fast food is bad for you. It is not really food at all, and your body will treat it as such. On top of the fact that it is bad for your body, it is horrible for the environment. I could go on for hours about how horrible fast food is, but I think you get the picture…I’m anti-fast food.
What the hell can I eat then?
Fruit and vegetables, organic whenever possible. I pay for organic because I am investing in my future. I am willing to buy fresh, organic produce because I know I will live longer with less health complications because of it. In the end, it will cost me less.
Eat them raw throughout the day. Dip your veggies in humus or bean dip, not ranch dressing. Saute your veggies in olive oil and butter. Add salt and spices for flavor.
Eat a variety of colors. When you crave sweet, eat fruit. Eat as much as you want, there is not limit to how much you can eat. This should be the bulk of your intake.
Oil and Balsamic Vinegar: Huge organic salads loaded with veggies and some cheese should be topped with oil and vinegar based dressings seasoned to your liking. Balsamic vinegar is very flavorful and the best one for you. Avoid the creamy dressings.
Dairy: Raw is best. Most people are allergic to homogenized, pasteurized dairy (the milk at the store). I am able to purchase raw milk and use the cream to make butter and sauces. If you have to buy milk at the store you should buy organic and limit the amount you drink. The processing it goes through turns it from a whole live food into a product your body doesn’t deal with well. Cheeses are not as bad. Limit them though.
Beans: Beans are super foods. Buy organic whenever possible. They are very filling and a great source of healthy carbs, fiber and beans.
Meat AND Fish: Meat is good for you, but it is also not necessary. It is up to you whether you want to eat meat or not. Some of the leanest, meanest athletes are vegan or vegetarian. I think lean cuts of meat are over-rated. Fat is not bad for you, if you want to eat a fatty meat than eat it. I think that most of the issues supposedly caused by fatty meats are due to processed foods in combination with fatty meats. If you cut out processed foods, you can eat a fattier meat.
I personally buy local, grass-fed beef and meats whenever possible. Animals raised on a high-corn diet are not healthy animals. I also don’t support feedlot practices. This is a personal decision but I encourage you to do your research before making a decision.
Fish is high in protein and filled with Omega 3’s (the good fats that make you smart and your body function well). Do some research to find the the safest fish that is caught or raised in the most sustainable and healthful way. It’s challenging but once you find a good source you can stick with it.
Eggs: Farm fresh is best, organic is second best. If you can find a farm to supply your eggs you can buy them 4 dozen at a time if you want. They keep in the fridge for months. (Store bought eggs are months old by the time they get to you). Very high in protein and very portable (when hard-boiled) eggs are a wonderful for you, yokes and all. Eat them up. As long as you cut out the processed foods, you don’t need to worry about cholesterol in eggs. Real food is good for you.
NUTS: Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats, both which are very important and make you feel full. Raw almonds are ideal since you are not as likely to overeat them like you would smoked almonds.
Rices: Organic is best. Brown, black, wild, whatever. Rice is a whole food and if you really need carbs as bad as you think you do, rice is a decent way to get them.
Whole grains: If you are going to eat grains, eat them whole. When eaten whole they don’t cause the spike in blood sugar that processed grains like flour does. Most athletes are very efficient when it comes to utilizing food and don’t require this type of carbs unless preparing for a long distance race. Over-doing these types of carbs however, will result in excess fat, especially around the waist.
Real food is always good for you. Real food has not been processed, it is in its original state. Real food still has all the good stuff in it and hasn’t been stripped of the important stuff your body craves…or will learn to crave.
Once you stop eating sugar and processed foods for about a week, your body will stop craving it. It may be painful at first while you detox your body. It is also hard to break habits. If you are used to having a pop with your lunch, it will be hard to have water with veggies for lunch. If you always celebrate a long run with a giant chocolate chip cookie, eating four or five clementines may not feel like a celebration at first. But once your body is ‘off’ the crap food and fully fueled by real food, it will begin to crave real food and expect it.
When you start to see the muscles you have worked so hard to develop and you see the fat melt away, it will be easier. When you reap the benefits of a well-fueled body with faster times you’ll never go back.
As always, thanks for reading my blog. I look forward to hearing your response.