It seems everywhere you look these days, everybody has a very serious opinion about nutrition. As a longtime personal trainer and gym owner, I’m often times even startled as to what I hear from people. I had one female client assure me that vodka was fine in any amount while dieting, as it has zero calories. It’s only the brown liquors that are caloric. I’ve been told that it’s healthy to eat 5 pounds of cheese every day. Yes, you read that correctly. The punch line? It came from a 5’2 300 plus pound certified nutritionist! There was even a movie taking aim at some of the myths of pop culture some years back called Super Size Me. In it, Morgan Spurlock, the producer, writer, and star of the documentary ate solely at McDonalds for 30 days straight. Nothing but. They had his bloodwork done throughout the process and the end result after 30 days would surprise only a few. He basically was going to have some of his vital organs shut down if he was to continue on that same path. The funny thing about it, however, was that of the many nutritionists he interviewed about his dietary intake during the filming of the movie, a handful said what he was ingesting was nutritious and wouldn’t pose any health risks in the short, nor the long term.
I suppose this all should come as no surprise when you consider the amount of misinformation there is out there regarding nutrition. There’s one study that says you should do this, and then another contradicts it. In fact, a major revolt against sugar is happening right now as it has been unearthed that in the 1960s, researchers were paid a lot of money by the sugar industry itself to give favorable grades to sugar and instead, label fats as the major health risk nutritionally. Even notable scholars were toppled from their mighty perches in some Ivy League schools as a result of their participation in this fraudulent group of studies showing biased and impure findings with the only truth being the underlying motivation of greed from lobbying groups, and the industry itself.
What about fad diets? There is no shortage of them seemingly. There are plenty of celebrities that have attached their names and likenesses, for a hefty fee, to a lot of these products and methodologies, but does that mean they work? More importantly, does that mean we can count on them to be safe for consumption? Surely, if you eat like Cher, and do the cleanses she does, you’ll look like Cher? Probably not since Cher came form different parents than you did. How about the low carb craze that vilified carbohydrates? Atkins made a fortune off his system of weight loss, but ironically, he himself died a very obese man. Carbohydrates are the body’s best form of fuel, with fats ranking a distant second, and proteins bringing up the rear. The omission of carbs from our diet will have you drop some water weight, albeit temporarily, since the kidneys secrete sodium during the digestive process thus returning a yield of about 2.2 grams of water stored for every 1 gram of carbohydrates ingested. Therefore, if you omit them from your diet, you can shed water weight far faster. Considering the human body is comprised of roughly 65% water, on average, of course, you can make the needle on the scale move, but are you truly changing your body’s composition? No. What about when your body assimilates to the dietary change? Now, you’re lethargic, your kidneys are unhappy with the vast amount of protein they’re processing, and you are about to replenish all of that water weight. The human body is very adaptive, so trying to trick it is more often than not a futile endeavor. Just look up the HCG diet which restricts you to 500 calories daily as you trick your body to believe it’s pregnant. That one fizzled fast, and thankfully.
So, what’s a guy or gal to do if you want to change your body’s composition? Are drugs the answer? For some, sure, but they aren’t the easy fix that they’re hyped up to be in the locker room. Anything you do, from using anabolics to embracing any type of workout regimen will require both solid, and consistent nutrition behind it, or it’s doomed for failure. This naturally begs the question of what is solid nutrition? That answer can’t be given generically or in any type of formulaic fashion, though many people get paid to do just that. The reason why that too is ineffective is that we all have different genetics, limitations, food sensitivities, strengths, weaknesses, and so on. For me to spell out a great diet for a guy wanting to become a beefcake and then a different diet for the ladies looking to slim down and add a little tone, would be the same as handing out 2 workout programs for my clients. One for the men, and one for the ladies. That is the essence of what I have termed impersonal training. Sure, there will be similarities and some overlap with everyone, but just think about generalizations in the health and fitness world and how ineffective they can be. The vast majority of personal trainers, health and fitness websites, and even sports doctors, are proponents of the antiquated methodology of determining one’s maximum heart rate with the formula of subtracting your age from 220, and presto, there it is. Just to think that if I trained 10 people that were all the same age and concluded that based upon that formula, they all had the same maximum heart rates, what would happen to my liability insurance rates? Employing that type of system, as even a basic guideline, wouldn’t have allowed me to stay in business successfully for the past 23 years.
Where should I start then if I can’t just grab a hold of a trend, fad, or formula? Start with the basics. If you’re looking to add muscle mass, you’ll need more protein. You’ll also need carbs to fuel the workouts, and fats for heart health, as well as for extra fuel. You’ll firstly want to be sure that all of your macronutrients come from a good source. A lean piece of sirloin or flank steak as opposed to chicken fried steak sounds obvious, but you may be surprised at the power of delusion and rationalization we humans posses. Carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates such as yams, cous cous, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and so on. They last longer in your body as a fuel source, don’t spike your blood sugar thus provoking an insulin response when taken in from someone with higher blood sugar levels, such as a great number of women over the age of 35, and are easier to digest. Fats should be coming from avocados, salmon, etc. Dairy and animal fats aren’t the evil aliens as we were lead to believe in our youth, and as mentioned previously in the fraudulent sugar studies. Too much fat, however, is simply too much fat. It stores in your body more readily than carbs or proteins since it posses 8 calories per gram as opposed to 4 grams for the other 2 macros. Yes, too much of any macronutrient will store as fat, but fats store much more readily as fat, due to their density.
If you start with the basics of a clean and balanced nutrition plan, you are off to a great and sensible start. From there, you tweak it to your individual needs. Blood tests will be an easy quantifier as to how you are doing, but how you feel is just as valid, save for lipid panel profiles, etc. Supplements are fine too, but remember that they are to supplement, just as the name says. If you try to live off protein shakes as opposed to real food from good sources, your shortcut will lead you to a dead end. Remember, the path of least resistance leads you to the least, virtually every time.
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My name is Andy Bruchey and I have been a personal trainer in Austin, TX to the pros and the Joes for over 20 years now. I founded the Austin Fitness Center gym back in 2007 and live with my wife of 20 years Aleksandra and our 2 children Ana and Luka.