I was recently asked a really interesting nutrition question, which is great, because I love big chewy questions, and it brought up a discussion of a common issue I encounter with my personal training clients.
It goes like this.
Most of the questions people ask me about health and fitness, are not simple questions. The simple questions are the sort of thing you pick up at school, or can quickly google for a solid consensus, so it makes sense that those aren't brought to me.
The questions people ask are always the tricky ones, the contested issues, the ones where my short answer is "well... yes, and... no".
Sometimes it's because the answer is disputed, or there's not enough empirical evidence to support a definitive answer. Sometimes it's because the answer is population dependent; what's good for a pro athlete isn't necessarily right for an office worker who exercises for fun and to ward off heart attacks.
And sometimes the topic is derived from a gym myth which requires a lot of unpicking to find the truth in it.
Much of the time, the topic isn't relevant to the individual asking it.
The thing about fitness, is that the basics are fairly simple. Good coaches don't "sell" information, they provide accountability, support, guidance - in other words, you employ a person, not a human search engine.
But the fitness industry also includes a lot of businesses that want to sell on a grand scale, and to make that product seem worthwhile, they need to make out that they have insight and knowledge that you (and their competitors) don't. They want to sell you the "secret to a flat belly" or whatever. So they need to make it seem more complicated.
Let's take weight loss as an example. The "secret" to weight loss is caloric deficit. There are a number of ways you can approach this, there are ways to make it fit your lifestyle, ways to adjust your mindset, but ultimately the laws of thermodynamics apply.
Maintaining a caloric deficit consistently is challenging, and when people aren't getting the results they want, it's more comfortable to look for a reason other than "you just aren't consistently in a deficit". And this is where people start worrying about carb intake, or meal timing and generally looking into the minutiae of nutrition, because somehow, that feels like a more hopeful prospect that "eat less, move more".
A good coach's response should be "why are you struggling to maintain your deficit? What barriers do we need to remove for you?" but on a large scale it makes better business to sell an idea about how eating fruit only between 2 and 3 pm will make a difference.
Anyway, the point of this blog was to talk about simplicity, so let's cut the coaching talk and look at one thing that's going to help you figure out what serves you. It's an awesome concept I encountered when I was doing my Precision Nutrition certification and it goes like this:
"Don't mow the lawn while your house is on fire."
What even does that mean? It means focus on the big rocks. Build your fitness from the foundations up. It's tempting to focus on small things that seem easy to implement, but you might not be seeing the wood for the trees.
You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you are scrutinising the pros and cons of 2 different ways to build biceps, but you're rushing your sets and not using full range of motion.
You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you don't eat after 8pm to promote weight loss, but having seconds of dessert at 7pm.
You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you don't eat fruit because it "makes you fat", but you are in a caloric excess from your other food groups.
You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you're downing BCAAs for muscle growth at the gym, but not getting 7-9 hours of sleep at night.
You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you are taking a high intensity fitness class twice a week, but not doing any other kind of activity.
There's no shame in any of this. We've all done it, it's pretty much a rite of passage. I'm just suggesting you take a deep breath, take a step back and look at what's really important.
Take care of the big stuff. Fitness for good health in the general population is simple:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Eat mostly fresh, minimally processed foods
- Do exercise that you love
- Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week
- Sleep well
- Manage your stress
Want to train with me? Click a link to apply:
I offer online personal training to people with chronic pain and movement dysfunction.
Semi private online training for mums.
I also offer in-person training for:
- Correcting movement dysfunction
- Strength training and powerlifting
in Somerset UK.
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