The other day I was having a discussion with my brother about what he deemed as “my newfound rigidity when it comes to eating”. It’s true, ever since discovering the Paleo Diet, I’ve been somewhat fixated on the anti-grain gospel and for good reason. But it got me to thinking, and not just about how I eat. With all of the different ways of eating, exercising, dieting, and nutritional recommendations out there, how do people know who’s advice they should take? Today we’re going to throw the car in reverse and re-hash a sturdy, unshakable foundation in the art of eating healthy and staying active that will help you become critical thinkers in the face of any new diet or fitness recommendation.
Understanding The Basic Needs We Satisfy From Eating
Before the conversation turns to caloric intake, percentage breakdowns of fat, protein and carbs and the good old Glycemic Index of particular foods, we must first understand what our body needs and how food goes about getting it for us. Put simply, a variety of whole foods provide the most amount of vitamins and nutrients necessary not only for basic functioning but also for prevention of disease. The two types of whole foods which rarely ever fall under any sort of scrutiny are of course fruits and vegetables (Fruit And Veggies Matter):
Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.”
But just as it is with vegetables, our entire diet must be based on variety in order to deliver the vital nutrients the body needs. Obviously, it is at this point where the discussion becomes an argument, with all sides debating over a numerical breakdown of what constitutes a “healthy” variety. The key to making up your own mind about how you should eat stems from understanding the true meaning of the word variety, making sure that whatever advice you follow stays consistent with this understanding and does not recommend a lopsided nutritional intake on any level. Just because fruits and vegetables are good for you doesn’t mean you should become a vegetarian.
Why Do We Exercise?
It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Most people would answer with something to the effect of, “…because it’s good for you”. equipment but why? What benefits specifically does exercise provide a person? Once you know the answer to this, you can base your workout program around what your fitness and aesthetic goals are, all while stopping your head from spinning in the face of arguments pertaining to exercise intensity, duration, and execution. I personally like the way the Mayo Clinic breaks it down with its 7 benefits of regular physical activity:
Exercise Improves Your Mood
Exercise Combats Chronic Diseases
Exercise Helps You Manage Your Weight
Exercise Strengthens Your Heart And Lungs
Exercise Promotes Better Sleep
Exercise Can Put The Spark Back In Your Sex Life
Exercise Can Be Fun
All of these points work in concert with each other to make you healthier. And if you are providing your body with enough physical activity, without overtraining, you are indeed improving your health. It is at this point in fitness, just as with your nutrition, where the proverbial fork in the road presents itself. You start getting bombarded with terms like HIIT, steady state cardio, weight lifting, circuit training, calisthenics, etc. While I could definitely make an argument that you will benefit from all of these types of workouts, your choice is contingent on what your goals are.
So what are your goals? What are you looking to achieve via nutrition and exercise?
Fitness equipment photo provided by Crossfit Sweat Shop
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