By. Garrett Guzman
So often, I am bombarded with health and fitness questions. Whether from clients, family members, friends, or even from random strangers who happen to find out what I do for a living. And to be 100% honest, I actually love the questions. As cheesy as it sounds, I truly love what I do, and I love helping people improve their lives.
However, the challenges I face are vast, and growing every day. It seems like every daily news show has the latest fad diet or fitness craze. The diet recommendations typically offer dramatically different macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat) variations, from a higher-fat, lower-carb diet (think ketogenic) to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which recommends a higher-carb, lower-fat diet; to every other ratio in between. Then, you have diets that recommend removing various food groups, such as the vegan or vegetarian diets (or their other variations that allow the inclusion of fish or eggs) to paleo (which removes dairy, legumes, and grains), to the latest carnivore movement (that includes meat and water only). All claim to be the answer to your health and wellness, and most often, your weight loss goals.
And, on the fitness side, it typically involves a new or “retro” piece of equipment, such as the return to boxing/kickboxing, or cycling/spin, or rowing/skiing, and now even versaclimbing. Then, you have the battle between high-intensity classes (such as Crossfit, Orange Theory, or Barry’s Bootcamp) versus lower-intensity classes (such as pilates, yoga, or barre). All claim they will get you stronger, leaner, and in the best shape of your life.
These diet and exercise battles will continue for all-time, and people will be left with question after question with what is best for them. Below you will find my top five recommendations to figuring out what is truly best for YOU:
1. Basics: Eat whole foods; fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts/seeds. Eat less. Avoid processed foods. Drink water. Enjoy alcohol in moderation. Be active daily. Exercise frequently. Get outside. Manage your stress. Get adequate rest. Build healthy relationships. If you do just these items consistently, you won’t have to worry about 99% of chronic health diseases.
2. Personalize: I listened to a podcast from Layne Norton (arguably the most popular “contest-prep” coach for physique athletes) last week that really stuck with me. When asked what the best diet was for losing weight and maintaining that weight loss, he said it ultimately boils down to the diet that each individual can actually stick to. While I think there are very few well-educated dietitians and nutritionists that would disagree with the nutrition basics I mentioned in recommendation one, many still try to (or in the case of dietitians . . . must) force their “agenda” onto their clients. The honest truth is, with research strongly backing this statement, I believe a client can lose weight and maintain that weight loss with various macronutrient ratios, as long as they are in a slight caloric deficit (assuming he/she doesn’t have any current hormonal or inflammatory issues that must first be addressed). And to be 100% clear, you can’t always be in a caloric deficit, nor can you continually decrease your calories; both of these are common mistakes that often worsen one’s overall health and metabolism. But looking beyond the calories, I still recommend finding a diet or macronutrient ratio that truly resonates with you. If you love carbohydrates, then have your carbohydrates, but realize you will have to sacrifice some fats. Likewise, if you love your fats, then have your fats, but also realize you will need to sacrifice some carbohydrates. And titrate protein into the diet based one’s specific goals and needs. If you have extremely complicated circumstances (as in specific disorders or diseases), then seek out the guidance of an experienced dietitian or nutritionist for further assistance. Finally, before you get too excited about this recommendation, please fully read the next recommendation, as you can’t enjoy this one without the next.
3. Quality: And with regards to overall health, quality is the most important aspect. We want to consume our meat and fish as much from grass-fed and grass-finished beef, pasture-raised chickens and eggs, pastured pork, wild game (buffalo, venison, elk, boar, etc.), and wild-caught fish; ideally without the use of hormones and antibiotics. And try to integrate the animals from nose-to-tail, as many of the most important and most abundant nutrients are found in the organs (such as the liver, heart, kidneys, etc.), and even the bones and connective tissues (think bone broth). We want to consume our fruits and vegetables (and nuts and seeds) ideally from organic farms. We want to drink high quality, filtered water; ideally avoiding plastic (in eating and drinking) as much as possible, both for our health and our environment. And, every study to date shows that when processed foods increase in a community (or country), ALL forms of disease increase (in addition to weight gain and obesity). So, while you may want to consume a higher or lower carbohydrate diet, or a higher or lower fat diet (with both optimal health and weight management in mind), please strongly consider getting these carbohydrates and fats (and proteins) from the whole food sources above, not processed foods.
4. Move: Going from nutrition to exercise, refer back to number one, keep it simple. Be active every day. Whether this is taking your dog for a walk, tending to your yard or garden, playing soccer with your kids, or going on a nice and easy bike ride, simply move your body more. And beyond additional activity, exercise vigorously a few times per week. In other words, elevate your heart rate and get a solid sweat going – think sprinting, jumping, or lifting something heavy. But, with all good things, people tend to overdo them. Do not be a chronic over-exerciser, especially with regards to high-intensity forms of exercise. This can often lead to injury, illness, and burnout.
5. Find: As with number two, find a form (or forms) of exercise you can do for the rest of your life, and then do it often. If you love to run, then run. If you love to cycle, then cycle. If you love to swim, then swim. Does it mean it will always be fun every time you go out? No. Does it mean it will always be your favorite form (or forms) of exercise? No. But that is why there are hundreds of different exercise options. And you can participate in as many as you would like (not that you’ll have all the time in the world to fit them all in, but you get the idea). If you all of a sudden have an urge to start playing golf or tennis, go play golf or tennis. If you want to try yoga for a lower-intensity form of exercise or you want to try boxing for a higher-intensity form of exercise, go try it. Who knows . . . you may end up loving it. My only caveat with this recommendation is to simply ensure you get in some form of resistance training a few days per week, in addition to some form of cardiovascular training (whether higher-intensity or moderate-intensity) a few days per week for optimal health and disease prevention. And when in doubt, seek help from a professional on specific recommendations within each form of exercise.
That’s a wrap for this week. I hope you all enjoyed this edition of the Refined Fitness Report. Please feel free to share your likes and dislikes with me (don’t worry, I can handle the good with the bad), and any thoughts you have on my five recommendations for figuring out YOUR nutrition and exercise plan.