Masters Evangalism – Youth and Clean Eating
Want to share the love with the knowledge you’ve gained? Pass this along to a child or a parent, be a living example, be a masters fitness evangalist!
The typical American youth diet is absolutely awful, and getting serious about youth health and fitness means changing their diet – a lot. No maybes or half-ways on this one, total youth health and fitness only happens with proper diet. Young Americans can exercise all they want to, twenty times a day, but without a disciplined diet they won’t get the body composition or the level of health that’s possible for them. In fact, if choosing between exercise and diet, excluding one over the other, diet would be the right choice, hands down. While diet and exercise absolutely go hand-in-hand, diet is really most important of the two factors. And while diet is that important, it’s also hard to manage, harder than exercise for most people and especially for a busy youth population immersed in today’s youth popular culture of consumption, leading to failure on their diet and nutrition goals.
At the most basic level, America’s youth should understand two types of nutrients exist: those providing building blocks for their bodies and those providing fuel for energy that runs their bodies. This is a vast oversimplification, and understanding this concept better comes through additional readings on this subject, but this is probably the most important distinction to make in managing youth diet. And by focusing on maximizing the building blocks and minimizing the energy sources, optimized muscle growth and body fat reduction occurs.
When properly balancing the mix of building blocks and energy sources under an umbrella of total calorie requirements, a young person’s diet can be dialed in. However, it must be understood that this is not how roughly 95% of the American youth population presently eats, and this needs to change. So here’s something very important that’s critical to understand:
Great Bodies are Made in the Kitchen
A popular saying in bodybuilding and in the health and fitness genre generally is that great bodies aren’t made in the gym, they’re made in the kitchen. This is an important way of saying that the two go hand-in-hand, and in aspiring to look great and feel great, America’s youth must hold mastery over what they eat.
When you think about it, everyone – yes everyone – already has a great physique even if they don’t work out much or don’t work out at all. The problem is that wonderful, beautiful physique is buried under body fat. For an overweight youth, imagine what they’d look like if you snapped your fingers and almost all of that body fat disappeared, leaving nothing but a layer of skin over those muscles. With that mental picture, imagine in addition muscles more fully developed through resistance training. Viola! There you have it! Lock that image in your brain. But the point is young people can develop a sound muscle base, but looking and feeling their best won’t occur with that muscle base blanketed by body fat.
Also think of this: a young adult weighing, say 200 pounds, with a 30% level of body fat is carrying around about 60 pounds of fat with them. With a much lower body fat level of say 10% and some added lean muscle mass through resistance training, this same person now weighs about 165 pounds with only about 16.5 pounds of body fat. Think about it – how differently would they look? How differently would they feel? Try something, go find a 60 pound weight and a 15 pound weight, try walking for just 5 minutes holding the 60 pound weight and then do the same with the 15 pound weight. Get it? And, on top of all that, they’d be stronger too. Imagine even putting a dollar value amount on what the difference means in quality of life.
Taking Diet and Nutrition as Seriously as Workouts
If you wanted to find one single reason why young Americans don’t hit their fitness goals -especially when the goals revolve around weight and body fat reduction – it’s diet and nutrition, hands down.
So what’s the problem?
Because maintaining diet and nutrition discipline is hard, that’s the problem, and for several reasons.
First, in American culture crummy food and massive calories surround us, they hunt us down like dogs. Much of our society’s approach toward food is carried over from earlier times of scarcity and malnutrition, and we’ve come to see food as a celebration of prosperity and plentitude – values passed on to our children. Not bad things to celebrate, but we’re not very smart about it. Additionally, the manufactured food industry, in its quest for cost efficiency, has devised multiple ways to make food cheaper and to have a longer shelf life. Good and reasonable goals, but not always very congruent with sound nutrition. There’s also a little thing called the glycemic index, it’s a hidden diet killer that few people know about but is absolutely critical to a healthy diet.
Second, our bodies are programmed to scream loudly at us when they think they’re starving to death. Just like when you’ve been underwater in the swimming pool too long and your brain says “I need air… quickly!” When going into a caloric deficit needed to lose body fat the brain says the same thing, “we’re starving to death, do something!” Anyone who’s dieted seriously before knows this, it can be an overwhelmingly strong urge that interferes with concentration and the simplest of daily tasks.
So just like pushing weights and climbing the Stairmaster requires focused effort, managing diet and nutrition also takes focused effort, and anyone, young or otherwise, who wants it to all work must push through some discomfort. Sorry, no shortcuts available here. For a great looking, healthy body, diet and nutrition are equally important with working out and have to be taken just as seriously. Too many times young people start out with resolve to “get in shape” and hit the gym only to be disappointed that their body composition isn’t changing, and they become disheartened, lose motivation and they quit – and it’s because they neglected or forgot the diet end of the equation!
Know the Glycemic Index
While the entire subject of diet and nutrition takes ongoing study and practice to internalize, grasping one key element is critical: a simple concept known as the Glycemic Index, or GI. We should teach young people to walk around muttering “low GI diet, low GI diet”, and although that may seem weird, they will have taken a giant step toward truly healthy eating.
The GI, in its simplest form, describes how quickly our bodies turn a specific carbohydrate into glucose, or energy. So for example a low-GI carb breaks down slowly (broccoli, green beans, etc…) and is kind of a glucose energy drip into our blood that our bodies can use up over time. Conversely, a high-GI carb (table sugar, cake, cookies, high-fructose corn syrup, etc…) almost immediately converts to glucose and floods your system with energy. So here’s the problem: your body can only do one of two things with excess glucose – 1) burn it up as energy, or 2) store it as fat. And when you get that much glucose, unless you’re running up a mountainside, it will be converted to stored energy – BODY FAT! Get a copy of the Glycemic Index, tape it to your refrigerator or to your forehead if you have to. Know it forward and backward, make it your life, it will make more difference in your diet than anything else you can do. For more about the Glycemic Index and an index chart click here.
Youth and Clean Eating
In bodybuilding and generally in health circles you will hear the term “clean eating”. No, this isn’t referring to sanitation. It’s a very simple concept where you eliminate the crap from your diet, and you need to adopt it – right now! Clean Eating is simply eating foods in their most natural forms.
You may have heard about shopping your grocery store’s “perimeter”, and a good rule of thumb is that at least 80% of your food should come from the perimeter and no more than 20% from the interior. That’s because natural foods in their most whole state tend to be merchandised around the supermarket’s perimeter, and the processed, ingredient-laden foods tend to be stocked in the supermarket’s interior.
So clean eating is primarily three categories:
1) Carbohydrates and fiber primarily from fresh fruits and from vegetables (the low GI stuff)
2) Healthy fats primarily from walnuts and from fish oils
3) Protein from lean meats, primarily from fish and from poultry
If you’ve never experienced clean eating, I guarantee you’re missing out on one of the best and easiest ways to improve your health and to start feeling better almost immediately. Lots of good resources exist on the web, or you can subscribe to resources like Clean Eating Magazine. Don’t make excuses, just go do it.