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Training: imperative for health, fitness, quality of life, longevity, mood, esteem, and your ability to manipulate your body comfortably throughout your days.
Nutrition (tracking/manipulation): crucial for achieving physique goals, gaining awareness on your intake, and overall education on food groups, macros, calories, and partitioning of energy to help improve every function of your body.
These are necessary components to your health, but at what point can they negatively impact your health?
Context is Necessary, Let’s Start With Nutrition
Let’s break up dieting goals into 3 brackets:
Bracket 1: 80/20 “Lifestyle Goals, Lifestyle Lean, Lifestyle Sustainability”
Bracket 1 is where most people will reside if they’re looking to make changes. The goals in this bracket are reasonable, they don’t require an entire makeover of your life, they’re truly healthy, and these goals can be sustained long term, and year-round. Flexibility is present, and you’re never in a state of “hyper-restriction.” 80% whole, real foods, with the remainder being up to your preferences to enjoy.
Bracket 2: 90/10 “Photoshoots, Significant Events, Weddings, Vacation, Beach Season”
Bracket 2 is where the successes of Bracket 1 will likely aim if the appropriate events arise, or they’re looking to challenge themselves. Bracket 2 is absolutely fine, BUT, those looking for stricter, more short term goals of Bracket 2 should have already been able to sustain successfully Bracket 1. Reason being, it can be unhealthy physically, psychologically, and hormonally to jump into Bracket 2 endeavors. These goals won’t last longer than 1 quarter of the year, and there is still diet flexibility, but inherently less, and more discipline will be required. 90% whole food based, with the smaller remainder being a bit more tediously planned, and enjoyment-based foods.
Bracket 3: 95-99% “Physique Competitions, Sport Weight-Cutting”
Bracket 3 is not an option until Brackets 1, and 2 have been successfully completed. Bracket 3 is also not a viable goal for 99.5% of the population. This is sport-based, and it must be a true love, and passion for you to commit to the discipline, restriction, and lifestyle change necessary. I will never be a proponent of anyone committing themselves to this restrictive of a diet unless this is their true ambition. These diets can be very damaging physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and hormonally, and must be approached with intelligent preparation, and with a proper exit strategy. 95-99% whole, real foods, 1-5% strictly planned, and partitioned caloric gifts to bestow upon yourself to maintain the sliver of sanity you do have.
Bringing This Into Context For You
Have you been at it a full calendar year, without it feeling like a diet? Enough restriction for results, with enough flexibility for sanity? If not, Bracket 1 is your target.
In fact, most people should just stay in Bracket 1 forever. Dipping your toes into Bracket 2 is short term, remember. Spending that time in Bracket 1 is vital, because that’s how you learn your preferences, what you need, what you want, and what you can do without.
It’s not about eating a rainbow-medley of rabbit food and the highest quality protein sources at every meal or snack; it’s about the foods that you don’t eat in excess. 80/20 Is the foundation, once that’s been laid, you build.
Bracket 2 will take most of us to the epitome of where we want to go, but it does require more restriction, more planning, more discipline, and more stress will amount, but after successfully getting Bracket 1 dieting under your belt, you will be well equipped to see it through.
Bracket 3? Do you really want to be that restrictive? Many people dive into dieting, or initiate their embarkment towards their goals with this Bracket 3 type of restriction, which is why 95% of diets fail people.
This is another level of dedication, which clearly depicts how when any couple you know “turn over a new leaf” on any random Monday after a binge-ful 3 day weekend, it rarely lasts 2 months. Because. Excess. Restriction. Is. Unsustainable.
“Overtraining” & How It Applies to You
Overtraining is a term that gets tossed around a bit, and that’s understandable. We don’t want to sour the fruits of our labor by overdoing it, but what is overdoing it?
I’m a firm believer in the “there is no overtraining, there is only underrecovery” camp. Training is individual, recovery is individual, dosage is individual.
What I would like to shine some clarity on is the damage a “train everyday” mindset can amount to over time.
A Slippery Slope
It’s common for people to have that 99% mentality when they decide to commit to a change. Within a week they go from no real structured exercise, to 7 days a week of HIIT workouts.
(Even more prevalent now, because the quarantine wreaked havoc on training schedules. There was no Monday, Wednesday, Friday gym days with a cardio day tossed in the mix. People began training daily, with less intensity due to in-home limitations and lack of equipment; which leveling out the imbalance of gym versus home workouts were necessary for some.)
It’s understandable; no one is an idiot because of this. It shows excitement, and it shows eagerness to change. That’s superb.
Recent question: “I’ve been training pretty much everyday, now that I’m back to the gym, I feel like I should keep working out everyday. Is that bad?”
*I will say, objectively, depending on your recovery, biofeedback (remember: sleep, hunger, stress, mood, sex drive, mental clarity, recovery, performance), intelligence of your training plan and periodization, you can train daily and recover more than adequately, if recovery is truly prioritized.
For the majority of people, I am not a proponent, even if you’re not “overdoing it.”
“If you are what you do, then when you don’t you aren’t.”
Let’s say you train for 20 days in a row. (Which is awesome, don’t get me wrong.) After 20 days, something comes up, or your fatigue has really begun to amount and you feel it’s best to take a day. Most people are going to either:
A. feel great about their 20 days, not move at all, and probably “treat” themselves a bit too much and rationalize “well, goddamn I’ve earned it.”
B. Feel guilty they’re not able to train today, because daily exercise has gotten them into thinking it needs to be a daily occurrence.
- We want sustainability. You do not want 20 days incredibly strict, followed by a binge. Remember, 80/20, not 95/5. (Disordered eating & exercise)
- Food-guilt has been proven to be detrimental to your health. Exercise guilt is no different. Guilt leads to stress accumulation, and if you’re embarking on a health-quest, it’s prudent to focus on stress-mitigation.
- I am not undervaluing your efforts. I am simply saying, appropriate structure, and the correct dosing of discipline is all that’s required, and it’s not as much as you may tout it mentally.
Exercising without “Exercising”
Did you play sports as a kid? You likely didn’t participate in sports as a kid because of your superior aesthetic goals, right? No. It was fun.
As adults, everyone is hyper-focused on the exercise plan, or diet that will get them to their end-goal the quickest. There’s no enjoyment in anyone’s mind when they’re pondering their next workout. Why?
Training and exercise has become the sport required of the general population of adults. Choose a method that invigorates you.
Save 1-3 days outside of a gym setting, where you’re not necessarily “training.” Find a hobby, have fun, utilize your body and move.
- Play with your kids, your friend’s kids, your nieces and nephews (kids you’re allowed to play with only)
- Take a Jiu Jitsu class
- Taking a kickboxing class
- Go shoot some basketball
- Get some coffee with friends and walk and talk
- Go to the dog park and beat every dog at tug-o-war
- Work on gardening
- Go walk Target as many times as possible in an hour, and spend less than $50 (lol impossible)
- Go for a swim
- Go for a hike or a scenic walk
- Get a bike, start finding scenic routes
- Home renovations – you ever painted a house, laid flooring, installed new cabinets? It’s work!
- Go for a beach walk
- Go mountain biking
- Go kayaking
- Go paddleboarding
- Find someone with a boat, enjoy some watersports
- Play soccer
- Find a flag football team
- Go on a fishing expedition
- Work your way through a nature preserve
Truly “fit” and healthy people do these things more often, not just because they’re actually fit, but because they realize all of these things play an integral role in their fitness.
I’m not a proponent of “exercise” everyday, because there’s an unlimited selection of activities that will provide you sufficient calorie burn, get your steps in, have you sweating, and elevate your heart rate without you solely focused on either of those things.
We want to avoid the “burnout” of dieting and exercise.
You avoid unhealthy relationships with strange people at the store, why not avoid unhealthy relationships with food, and with exercise?
You shouldn’t be restricting yourself to the point you feel as though you’re suffocating from “diet fatigue.”
80/20 rule for dieting, and until that’s become a holistic practice, of which you can feel comfortable with, no more restriction is warranted.
Train with intent, and utilize a method, or methods you want to see yourself improve in. Don’t employ a method because it’s “gonna help me the fastest” that’s the equivalent of a get rich quick scheme, but for dieting. And how did all those other schemes work?
It’s not necessary to solely focus on training (or nutrition) as your only outlet to improve function, physique, or health. Find another outlet; adopt a hobby that excites you, pick up a lost-love sport, or just go be active.
Saying you want to be a healthier person, but becoming negatively-obsessive with hyper-restriction and punishing exercise is missing the forest for the trees.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, want to apply for coaching, have a blog topic you want elaborated on, or if there’s anything I can help with, fill out the form below!