Top 5 Dietary Changes

In case you haven't noticed, the theme of this month is oriented towards achieve the physical goals (be it body composition changes, athletic performance, or increasing levels of Jedi Mastery) that are most frequently established January 1. On Wednesday, Jarrett covered 6 rules/tips to enhance the overall efforts to achieving said goals. For those of you who like to click on links, this post is for you; for today, I have 5 changes specifically for the kitchen. Why the kitchen? Because what goes on in the kitchen can make or break your physical fitness goals.

Trying to train and perform (be it for physique or performance, or both) on a woefully crap-o-licious diet is like trying to throw a 10lb medicine ball from half court and expect to make the basket... try it and let me know if it works. Sure, you can get by on eating cheetos, candy, and guzzling soda and "feel fine," but sooner or later my friend (I'm looking at you teenagers...) it WILL catch up to you. If you don't believe me, just take a gander at this article about nutrition in the NBA. Just because you look invincible on the outside, doesn't mean you are invincible on the inside.

To our readers with some, shall we say, years of experience, who may be struggling to accomplish your goals but can' BAH! (throws hands up in frustrated desolation) Do not give up hope! Today we'll lay out some simple, yet effective, dietary changes that can turn the tide when it comes to battles of the health nature. The following suggestions are applicable to the teenager who needs to fuel athletic competition and practice as well as their parent(s) who is seeking to improve overall health and stamina.

Public Service Announcement from the Desk of Kelsey Reed: These are all small changes. I would encourage to try one or two changes a week (or 2 weeks) in order to acclimate to the alterations. I don't recommend trying to overhaul everything at once, unless you're confident it won't drive you crazy, since incremental changes are much easier to adjust to than large ones. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is converting a not-so-healthy lifestyle into a  healthy lifestyle. It takes time and patience. Read on!

1. Learn how to read food labels

Read this --> Kitchen Ninja Skillz. While this is not a direct food change, the ability to read and interpret food labels will greatly enhance your discernment when it comes to "healthy" foods. Many foods are labeled as such, but in fact, they lie. The ingredients is where the truth resides! Ignorance of what's in your food sets you up for failure. Knowledge is power! (and in this case, health!)

2. Reduce overall sugar intake

Now, you can go commando on all sugar and eliminate it entirely (with the exception of fruits. Some diets will tell you to do that, I'm not so sure about the wisdom in that. When a diet calls for you to eliminate an entire food group (outside of a medical need), there's something wrong with that.) or eliminate the extra processed sugar-laden foods first, and then work to replacing said foods with whole, natural foods. This is a 2-for-1 deal in that, if you're whittling down the amount of processes sugar you eat, you'll also be removing the fake food crap and increasing your real, whole food intake. Bonus!

There are numerous studies out there that demonstrate the negative effects of added/refined sugars (here's a small sampling). Imagine how great you'll feel if you take out all the junky-junk! This is applicable to both sides of the population (those seeking to gain weight and those seeking to lose) since a super high sugar intake can hijack glucose metabolism and processes (think back to the NBA article about Dwight Howard, he was having all sorts of neurological issues that were affecting his performance!).

Perhaps the first step is to not use creamer and sugar in your coffee, instead try either plain milk and a touch of honey. I prefer stevia with a little bit of coconut oil. Swap out baked desserts (like cookies and cakes) and instead try a baked apple, raw fruit, or maybe some yogurt with frozen berries (or if you wanna get snazzy with your yogurt). There's even a way to make your own sorbet! There are SO many options and recipes out there that do not use processed, refined sugar and are a sweet, healthy replacement for desserts and snacks. EXPLORE!

Take a gander at what you eat daily, it should be fairly easy to identify which foods contain the most refined sugar (since you know how to read food labels right?). Ensure that you examine what you drink as well. Fruit juices are, more often than not, the opposite the pancea of health. Replace those foods/drinks with whole foods, i.e. fruits for baked goods, water/tea for sodas, etc. Again, make the adjustments small and manageable.

3. Eat more vegetables

I've said it over and over and over. EAT MORE VEGETABLES! I'm not going to belabor this point too much, because, if we're honest with ourselves, we ALL KNOW THIS, but choose to ignore the little Jiminy Cricket of Nutrition on our shoulders.

Let's do a quick list on why this will make life better:

- Vegetables are bulky and will make you feel full on less calories (and the calories you do intake are JAM PACKED with nutrients that can only enhance your bodily functions).  Eating less calories = weight loss.

- Phytochemicals, minerals, vitamins, and compounds with funny names are found in abundance throughout the vegetable world. I'm not going to get into all of them, you can read some specific things here and here if you're so inclined. Simply, if you're body's internal functions (think metabolism and all those various processes) are working properly, the more external functions (think exercise and recovery) are going to be a cinch.

- Fiber and well lubed tubes. Need I say more?

How does one go about this? Small start: Add one vegetable to each meal (that didn't already have one). This could be tossing in spinach and chopped veggies to your scrambled eggs in the morning, replacing rice with cauliflower "rice," (cauli "rice" instructions),ordering a side of steamed vegetables instead of fries at a restaurant, if you like to be sneaky you can puree some steamed cauliflower or broccoli and hide it in meatloaf, or simply, just adding some steamed or roasted vegetables to your meal. You can make a whole, huge batch of roasted veggies and just scoop out a few spoonfuls throughout the week.

4. Drink water, lots of it

Depending on where you read about the body, it's anywhere from 70-80% water. Don't you think that means we need to ingest a lot of it in order to function optimally? Water does the following:

- Hydrated joints are happy joints. Painful joints hinders training.

- Hydrated kidneys (which process toxins and such) are happy kidneys. Dehydrated kidneys cannot do their jobs well, therefore, they must call upon the liver to help out. Whilst the liver is busy processing toxins and such, stored body fat just hangs out (and accumulates depending on your caloric intake). Hydrate your kidneys!

- Promotes weight loss via appetite suppression. Sometimes the "hunger" cue gets confused with the "thirsty" cue thus you eat more than you need... and we know what that leads to.

How do we do this? Grab a water bottle, fill it, and drink at least two of them throughout the day. Combine that with the normal volume of liquid and you should be good to go. Essentially, you should be peeing a light yellow to clear. That's when you know you're drinking enough.

5. Get tougher

Seriously, the tips above aren't anything earth-shatteringly new. And they really aren't that hard to begin implementing into your daily life, especially if the changes are small, manageable, and incremental. Stop seeking the "quick fix," or the new "diet" that leads to miraculous body changes.

Suck it up. Life is tough and things worth having require hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance.

I'll admit (this probably makes me a horrid person according to some schools of thought) but I have very little compassion or sympathy for people who moan and groan about their lack of progress who do NOTHING to change. As a coach, my job is to help people reach their goals, I'm ALWAYS delighted to do so and love encouraging people to continue striving to better themselves. However, I don't coddle.  If you're an capable, reasonably intelligent adult, you don't need me (or any coach for that matter) to hold your hand. I'm not Sam from above, I'm more like:

Elrond will fight with you, give you advice, but he won't lie to you. And he certainly won't hold your hands. How do you teach a kid to swim? You don't hold them up the whole time or give them floaty things forever do you? NO! You let them struggle and strive until they figure it out. The same principle applies to life-style changes. IF you're relying on others to "make" you change, you're setting yourself up for failure. You are responsible for your body, take ownership.

Are you going to have bad days? Yes. Will you mess up? Yes. So what? Shake it off, and get back on track. Wallowing helps you none.

Get up. Take action.