Twice today at the gym I had conversations with individuals that came back to questions of nutrition and fitness goals.
In the first case, it was someone who signed up for an indoor triathlon. He and I were discussing the best strategies to prepare for a race that is just over a month away. During our talk, he mentioned that he is trying to lose weight and that he is starting a diet in January that is basically all animal-based proteins, fruits and vegetables (and nothing else!). Under other circumstances, such a diet might be a great way to lose weight, but while training for a triathlon it may not be the best approach. It is essential to make sure that we are properly fueling our bodies for the intense training we are doing. By the way, most folks training for races find that the rigorous regimen causes them to lose weight in any case. I directed him toward resources about how to best train for the triathlon and what would be the best way to fuel his body. That diet may have to wait until after the race.
Just as I was about to leave the gym a person came to the trainer’s office and asked for a cup to get some water for her husband who was feeling dizzy. I went out onto the floor to find a young man lying on an incline bench looking pretty pale; he had been doing incline dumbbell presses. I adjusted the bench to put his head down and then we put his legs (knees up) on the bench as well. After some water, he began to feel better. I asked him what he had eaten that day. “Salad and some cheese. Oh, wait, I think a piece of fruit. Maybe a slice of bread.” Yikes! This was the early evening and that was his total consumption for the day. I understand that young men and women want to get that “cut” look and try to eat very lean, but again, we have to make sure our bodies are properly fueled for what we are asking them to do. Lifting weights on that few calories–and carb-free–was not a good idea.
I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but my education as a personal trainer does include the background science on how we digest foods, how we fuel our bodies and how we build muscle.
There are lots of resources on the web; before you embark on a serious exercise regimen or training for a race check those our or talk to a nutrition expert. This second young man was lucky that he was with someone else and that he wasn’t on a piece of equipment where he could have really hurt himself had he passed out.
This global study of diet shows that we are at risk not from eating unhealthy foods alone. It is that at the same time we are not eating healthy foods. The reasons are numerous, and this article explains the global and regional implications.
Many folks who try to cut out animal-based are worried that they won’t get the protein that they need–especially if they like to work out or participate in active sports.
I have been a pescatarian for the last dozen or so years; a pescatarian does not eat meat or poultry, but still eats fish (in my case this excludes shellfish and other crustaceans). When I made the change, I knew that I could not feed my children and myself pasta every night; I had to plan in advance. Putting together a week’s meal plan at one time helped me to make sure there was variety in what we ate, sufficient protein and greens, and prevented me from having to run to the supermarket every day. The biggest challenge was definitely what to do about protein; I am ovo/lacto so cheeses and eggs helped out a lot. Even if you are vegan, though, there are lots of options out there. Here is an article–complete with some recipes–that addresses the issue. It also talks about some of the concerns that have come up in the past around tofu.