First, let me say that my objective here is not to offend, anger or belittle your perspective, regardless of your current practices in exercise and diet. That being said, I do ask that you remain open-minded and consider that the opinions shared below happen to be backed-up with clinically tested and peer-reviewed research.
How Should I Workout?
It can be agreed that all exercise is not created equal. The days of bicep curls and leg presses are long gone; we cannot simply isolate a muscle on an expensive piece of machinery and expect to become a better athlete or healthier human. If you are trying to become healthy, we must be variable in our activities. We cannot deadlift 6 days/week and expect to get a stronger cardiovascular system. We cannot run 50 miles/week and expect to get a bigger/stronger upper body. We cannot do yoga 6 days/week and expect to increase our deadlift or decrease our 5K time.
To vary our workouts, we focus not only on strength, cardio, and mobility, but also balance, agility and coordination. This is considered “functional” exercise and is the foundation of CrossFit’s philosophy: constantly varied functional movement performed at a high intensity. With that, DO NOT ATTEMPT CROSSFIT (or CrossFit-esq workouts) WITHOUT SUPERVISION. In order to get the cardiovascular benefit of a variable program, we must first move properly. A few weeks ago I visited Life Time Athletics in Mount Laurel, NJ. What a beautiful facility. With that, every single person using free weights, barbells, performing “gymnastics” or general core work were doing something incorrectly. Even the members with personal trainers were receiving improver cues or putting themselves into dangerous positions. If you do not have a program or a trainer that knows what he/she is doing, you are leaving yourself open to injury and setback. Does it have to be “CrossFit”? Absolutely not, but do not start a variable workout program conceding that injury is inevitable; avoid injury by finding yourself a facility with programming and coaches that know what they’re doing.
What Should I Eat?
There will be a separate post dedicated only to diet and nutrition but we can certainly expose the tip of the iceberg here and go over the basics. The most simple diet to start is the following: Lean meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. This should be thought of less like a “diet” and more like a lifestyle change; if you follow this formula, you can worry less about portions and “counting calories”. We’ll get into MACROS in a future post. Until then, it is important to realize that not all calories are created equal. You can have a calorie-deficient diet and still gain weight. Even a diet as low as 2,200 calories/day for a mildly active 30-year old 200 lb male will result in weight gain if the diet is exclusively processed carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta). Likewise, that same person can eat 3,500 calories of vegetables, nuts and seeds and lose a little more than 2 lbs/week. When your body starts to digest processed carbohydrates, it becomes sugar. This is why we, as a society, have a very real addiction to sugar. Do yourself a favor and consider all breads, rices and pastas as sugar and AVOID. Once they are eliminated, you can slowly begin to incorporate brown rice and quinoa into your diet to hit those carbohydrate numbers. Lastly, if you are drinking your calories, STOP. Even those drinks that have artificial sweeteners have chemicals that ultimately slow our metabolism. I have heard some people say “But I HATE water”. Guess what? You are made up of 60% water, start to like it. If you don’t drink water, you are not healthy. Period. Take your body weight (lbs), divide by 1.5 and drink AT LEAST that many ounces per day.
Constantly vary your workout program with someone that knows what he/she is taking about. Even the best athletes in the world have specific programs, coaches and trainers working with them, it is valuable. Left to your own devices is equal parts dangerous and ineffective for our ultimate goal: becoming the healthiest, fittest versions of ourselves possible. It’s human nature stay in a comfort zone, but as the saying goes, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”. For your diet, drink water and eliminate sugar (this includes breads, pastas, rices and all processed carbohydrates). I understand that this protocol, while simple, is not easy. You have to look inside of yourself and ask “What am I willing to sacrifice to live a healthy, fit life?” The answer is in this blog. ‘Simple’ does not mean ‘easy’. It’s hard to get off of the couch and off of the carbs but always keep in mind that Fitness is Freedom. No one wants to be obese, suffering from a number of chronic diseases. Who doesn’t want to travel without having to worry about bringing medication(s) or wondering if they can handle a scenic hike? You have the ability to control your health, take the wheel!