How do you tell if taking an extra rest day (or 7) is self care or excuses? This post breaks it down.Read More
If you've ever felt like you need to get in shape before you join a gym, if you feel disappointed that you "only" did the scaled weight, if you're constantly in your own head or if you feel like all eyes are on you, judging your athleticism, body, fitness or life choices when you're in the gym, this post is for you.Read More
It’s no surprise to anyone that the health and fitness world is one with LOTS of noise. The problems in this industry range far and wide, from old science and just BAD information, to assaulting you with you with “shoulds” every minute of every day, to preying on your own insecurities to make you feel guilty or ashamed of your body or your lifestyle. As such, there’s A LOT of things I could rant on here (and I tend to address some of these points in most of my posts here on this blog), but today I wanted to focus on the following four, as these misconceptions can leave us feeling broken, hungry, frustrated or, at worst, sick. And notably, all of these are coming from industry leaders.
Because even as most of us become more knowledgable, more confident, and more aware of the fitness and nutrition industry nonsense machine, a few messages still seem to be getting through that I wish my readers (and everyone!) would stop believing.
And of course, all of these could be their own post (or book!), so I’m touching on the most important points briefly. You ready? Here goes.
#1: EAT LESS, MOVE MORE
This one can be confusing, because not only is it age old advice that we’ve all heard in some capacity a million times over from doctors and nutritionists and magazines and even our coaches or trainers, but it CAN actually work for some people.
For some folks, all they need to do to change their health, body and life is to begin to move more, and mind what they're eating; usually dropping their daily caloric intake and going for a run. These people are usually severely overweight, untrained, sedentary, or otherwise totally new to their own health journey. As such, this advice can be impactful for this population, at least for some period of time.
However, if you have been training for a while, are a regular exerciser or a regular intense exerciser (hello, CrossFitters!), this strategy simply does not work. At some point, being on a severe caloric deficit actually begins to work AGAINST you, and if you’re trying to fix it by training even more and eating even less, you will not only feel it in the gym and in your overall energy levels, but you'll probably see it on your waistline too.
The path to a hard body, a healthy gut and a happy mind is paved with smart training and sufficient fuel. Not lettuce for dinner and 3 hours of cardio. In fact, spending hours on end at low or moderate intensity (jogging, etc) can also be working against you. Want to get lean and strong? Ditch the cardio and pick up the weights. And eat to support your training.
Eating more can be a scary thing for a lot of women, because the industry has told us it's wrong or bad. The best place to start to ensure you’re eating enough to support your muscle, fat loss efforts, energy levels and overall health and well being? Enough carbs and adequate protein. (And no, I don’t just mean 2 eggs for breakfast and a yogurt snack pack). This leads us into myth #2.
More reading on this topic:
#2: YOUR BODY CAN ONLY ABSORB 20-30G OF PROTEIN PER SITTING
Years and years ago, there used to be a concept swirling around in the nutrition world that said that a human body can only absorb 20-30g of protein in one sitting, and all protein consumed beyond this point would either go to waste or be stored as fat. These days, this is widely understood to be a myth (any quick Google could tell you that— this topic is WELL researched, with many definitive studies), but yet I STILL see it being perpetuated in some circles. This can be especially misleading and confusing for those who are trying their darnedest to up their protein intake and properly address myth #1. You're eating too much, you need to eat more. You need more protein, you're eating too much protein.. So, let’s talk.
First of all we need to remember that protein does a hell of a lot more than just support our gainz. Studies have shown that 20-30g of protein seems to be the amount that tends to be used towards protein synthesis, or muscle repair and building, and about how much we absorb at any given time. But just because we don't absorb it ALL AT ONCE doesn't mean it doesn't eventually get absorbed and used! Our body’s use for protein does not begin and end with muscle building. And most studies on this topic have shown that upward of 90% of the protein you eat, eventually gets absorbed and gets put to good use in one way or another.
(But on the topic of muscle building, studies on intermittent fasting and protein consumption have shown that consuming an entire day’s worth of protein in a short window did not negatively impact muscle retention and growth, which further shows us that protein absorption was not hindered by high intake all at once).
And evolutionarily speaking, how could that really make sense? When our primal ancestors hunted and feasted on a rare animal protein, do you think their bodies simply stopped absorbing more than a neat little 3 oz serving at one time? Um, no. As Mark Sisson puts it, "Digestion takes a long time, and it’s not a segmented procession of different meals through the gastrointestinal tract. Food isn’t separated into 'meals' in your stomach. It’s just all food, all mashed together. If you still have breakfast in your stomach when your lunch enters the picture, lunch and breakfast will meet and mingle."
Now, I will say there's a variability element to consider here. For example, a petite, 5’ 2” 100 pound sedentary woman might not absorb and utilize the exact same amount as a 250 lb, 6’ 4” strongman competitor or linebacker, because your body will absorb and use what it NEEDS— it doesn’t just stop at some arbitrary number or "meal". (And how much do you really need? That's a huge source of confusion, too. But no. it's NOT the RDA, and no, you're not getting enough. Read this & the links below).
Other factors, like your protein sources and your body’s levels of micronutrients like zinc (along with anti-nutrients like lectin and phytate) also play a role in absorption. And wild excess CAN start to work against some bodies at some point, just like anything else (we’re talking WILD excess though).
The research and science is clear here. So can we put this myth to rest already? Your body will use ANY amount of protein you feed it in a sitting, somehow, someway, so always be sure you're getting enough.
Read more on this topic:
#3: PLANT BASED IS THE HEALTHIEST DIET
So I do want to preface this section with this: I am a firm supporter of the Do You Boo system. Meaning, if plant based makes you feel fucking radiant, then do it. I also realize that some people choose this eating style for a variety of reasons, like simple taste or texture preference, and I understand that. This is mostly for those who feel like they NEED to be plant based in order to be healthier.
If you are opting to go without any animal products (or animal protein) simply based on the claim that this is the superior diet for ultimate health, I encourage you do some more reading on this topic.
(And there’s no denying the health benefits of plants here— I’m NOT suggesting you stop eating veggies! We must make sure we are getting adequate greens and micronutrients in a large variety and volume on a daily basis for our health, period. But if we stop there, we are coming up short.)
Because there's SO MUCH to unpack in this topic, and the rabbit holes run DEEP down every single argument to this claim, I decided to just offer some extra reading for you here, if you're interested. Again, do what makes YOU feel BEST.
But I do want to say this, as it builds off out last 2 myths: If you are attempting to sustain yourself on solely plant based protein sources, man alive have you got your work cut out for you. Adding hemp seeds to your salad just isn’t going to cut it. If getting TRUE adequate protein while eating chicken breast and steak is a lot of work, can you image how hard it is to get there with seeds and grains alone? (Which, btw, aren't protein sources, they are fat and carb sources, respectively, with a little protein).
And while there are some legit plant based protein sources, most of the popular ones actually work against internal health: namely things like soy, grains and legumes.
There is no one diet that is perfect for everyone and I encourage you to experiment with everything to find what works for you, but if you're feeling pressure and think "plant based is the only route to health", you need to know that this concept is simply false.
Read more on this topic:
Also see: any book from my favorites shop
#4: NO PAIN, NO GAIN. WHAT'S A "REST DAY"?
Lastly, we have another popular belief that drives me crazy to see, especially as a coach! Closely related to the first myth, "move more, eat less", this idea that you have to push your body to it’s absolute limits to either see results, be healthy or fit, or that rest days are for the weak, is not only misleading and wrong, but downright dangerous.
More is NOT better. The concept of “minimal effective dose” is an important one to keep in mind when it comes to intense exercise. Meaning, while movement and pushing your limits is great for your body and mind and health, it can absolutely be taken too far. Getting in the minimum effective dose (one that brings you fitness and health and mental clarity and makes you better) is essential, but taking it beyond that starts to erode a few very important systems-- and ultimately, your health.
Because at the end of the day, what your body sees this as, is STRESS. Your body doesn’t know the difference between stress from work, from that fight with your partner, from that one rep max back squat, from that epic to do list, and that half marathon you ran last weekend. It all gets processed the same.
This doesn’t just make us feel tired-- it actually sets off a “cascade of biochemical responses that can cause serious damage to one’s health in both the short and long term”, as Chris Kresser puts it.
This idea of bragging about “no rest days” or pushing our bodies so hard we get ill makes me CRINGE. It is not cool, not “hard core” or disciplined or impressive, and most certainly not a healthy relationship to exercise. If you are feeling like you are addicted to your training (or stimulus); if you struggle to take a rest day; if you're training like a pro but you're not a pro; if the thought of going a week or 2 months without your exercise of choice sends you into a panic; then you really need to take a long, hard look here.
Movement is so important to health, and I believe firmly in the benefits of a tough, physical challenge and regular exercise. But there's a fine line between training hard and overtraining, or even exercise addiction. How many rest days are you taking and how often (not "active recovery"). How much and how well are you sleeping? Are you allowing for quieter seasons or pushing hard 24/7?
It's important to know the distinction between pushing hard and muscle burn/fatigue, vs a real injury or pushing too far to stay safe and illness/injury free. And you must be recovering JUST as hard as you're training if you intend to see any lasting results from your hard work.
And it's always a good idea to take an honest look at our relationship to exercise, and ask ourselves if it's truly serving us with how we are using it.
More reading on this topic:
TO SUM UP:
Ditch the hamster wheel and pick up some weights. Eat! Be sure you're getting enough fuel to support your training and build strong bones and lean muscles, especially protein. And yes your body will absorb and use it all, so don't skimp. Don’t be pressured into thinking that plant based is superior to omnivorous diets-- while it's not for everyone, eating high quality animal products and protein IS part of a healthy diet. Train with intensity, not intense volume, and be sure it’s fun. Four hours of cardio every day is not effective and likely woking against you in myriad ways. Rest and recovery is JUST as important as your exercise, and should come at a 1:1 ratio. And, don't fear the slower seasons. More isn't better. Better is better.
Find me across the socials:
Fitness, sleep, work, family, friends: pick 3. Or maybe more accurately: pick 2. Can we really be the super mom and the CEO and the fittest chick in the gym and the supportive wife + awesome friend, while taking time for self care and recovery, all at the same damn time?
I get asked regularly how I find balance between being a business owner, a wife, pursuing health and fitness, taking time for myself, and more. And it gives me pause every time. Is the idea of a happily balanced life a utopian dream? Is it just an illusion, something we’re told to believe is out there but actually isn’t, like comfortable heels and “one size fits all”?
In my experience, the short answer is yes, it can be done, for some time, for some of us. But the long answer is a little more complex than that.
You see, over the last few months, I’ve been hustling hard. I’ve been building this here lil business and investing all my time, energy, focus and did I say time? into it, to be able to create a product that can change the lives of my readers. I’m so proud of what I created and the work I’ve done, but make no mistake my friends: it came with a steep price tag.
The process of growing my business cost me my ability to spend 2 hours a day in the gym, 5 days a week. It cost me my ability to make interesting, fun meals. It cost me my weekends, my time with friends, and most of my social life. It cost me date nights with my husband. It cost me the ability to kick back, relax and hashtag self care. (What is a "day off" again?)
Because I was (am!) going HARD. And when you’re committed, on a mission, with Eye of the Tiger metaphorically (or literally) playing on repeat in your head while you’re laser focused on a specific, big, goal, this idea of “balance” usually takes a seat. When you’re giving 100% to something in life, you don’t have leftover effort and attention to put into other things. Because, math.
As the saying goes, “Family, friends, work, sleep, fitness: pick 3”. Meaning, for most of us, you cannot have all of these things working in absolute perfect balance in your life, all of the time. (And especially so when you’ve got a big goal lined up in your crosshairs). Can you decide which 2 or 3 you get to focus on on any given day? Absolutely. But can you REALLY have all 5, all at once, in perfect harmony?
Those athletes you see at the CrossFit Games, or those entrepreneurs who are out there building empires? Here's the dirty little secret no one tells you: their life is spent committed to those goals, and they most certainly do not have what you or I would consider "balance", at least in their hustle seasons. Because the bottom line is this: anything worth fighting for and committing to is guaranteed to throw your life’s balance all out of whack.
Sometimes this is an easy sacrifice, and sometimes, not so much. It can be hard to see our friends all go out for dinner and drinks while we’re at home with the baby or working. It can be tough to see ourselves put on some extra lbs or feel like we just can’t hang in the gym anymore.
But here’s why this unbalanced life is ok: these are simply seasons of our life. They come and they go, they ebb and flow, and they are ever changing and always evolving. So when there was a moment recently when I looked in the mirror and stood in shock for a minute and came to terms with the fact that I didn’t recognize the body in the reflection, within seconds, I shrugged and reminded myself that this is temporary. This is simply the season I am in, and the price of pouring 100% into something that isn't the gym means my body's gotten a little softer.
(Side note: even in the seasons that I'm feeling fit and strong and lean, I still appreciate those moments for what they are: fleeting moments. I do not tie my worth to the way I look or my fitness, because the only constants about our bodies is that they change. For more on this concept, read my blog post on Embracing the Seasons of Your Fitness Journey)
I don’t sweat it because there will be a time, not too far from now, when I’ll be able to commit to the gym a little bit more. And when that time comes, I’ll be ready.
I can’t help but think of the CrossFit theory of the sickness-wellness continuum: I am thankful that I’ve had some seasons of commitment where I’ve been able to build my fitness baseline up to a high enough place, where I can essentially take 4 months off of the gym and still be “reasonably fit”. And if you’re not there quite yet, it’s ok, your opportunity will come.
This is also why I do feel that if you have the interest and want to see how far you can push your fitness and your physical body, I'm not going to tell you not to. Try all the things, count and weigh and measure and commit (and enjoy it!), with this VERY IMPORTANT note in mind: it's more than likely a lifestyle you will not be able to sustain forever. And why not? It will throw your life out of balance. Is it worth playing and experimenting with? Heck yes, if that's what you want! But don't expect it to be able to stick around forever, so remember to appreciate it for what it is: an opportunity for a season of growth.
It won't be long until the sands shift and our focus must be placed elsewhere, either out of want or out of need. Staying with 100% intensity in one area of life is surely not sustainable, but I believe it to be necessary, for most of us, at one time or another.
Because this is how goals get accomplished, dreams become reality, and real progress gets made. And if there's one thing I want you to take away from this little blog of mine, it's that you CAN accomplish your goals, and anything is possible. But no matter what Instagram may have you believe, being able to do it ALL, all at once, in perfect, happy harmony, isn't a reality for most of us.
Now: Does every waking moment of your life have to be spent in pursuit of something bigger or better? No, no no. Taking seasons to reflect, accept, embrace, and actually experiment with true balance is just as important as the seasons where we are forging ahead. This is paramount. But in a culture where the pursuit of balance is ever present, and we're told to be searching for it and happily maintaining all of these perfect facets of our life in absolute harmony all the time, I want you to know that being off balance is ok sometimes.
When you have the chance to chase a goal or pursue a dream, appreciate it for what it is: an opportunity, and commit yourself to it, 100%. And don’t be scared of gaining a few pounds, missing out on happy hours, or having life become unbalanced, because you know what? In life, the only thing you can count on is change.
So enjoy the current season of your career, of your fitness, of your relationships, of your personal growth. Accept where you are while you chase the goal on your horizon, even if it's messy. It won’t be long until the winds shift again.