Garbage in, Garbage Out:
How What You Put Into Your Mouth Affects What You Get Out of Your Body
By Bill Boylan, Home Bodies trainer to the North Shore
This isn't another mindless article about cutting carbs, protein, or fats, or some new dietary "revolution" that will go the way of step aerobics and animal print leotards within the next 5 minutes. What we're discussing here today is eliminating the junk from your diet and replacing it with healthy, filling and nutritionally packed foods! You may be making some common mistakes I see amongst my clients, and be not truly getting the most out of your Home Bodies sessions. For the first part of this article I will highlight some so called "healthy" foods that aren't in fact that healthy when you really look at them. In part II I will go over my top five "superfoods" that you should be incorporating into your diet on a daily basis.
Here are some culprits that may seem healthy at first glance, but for most of us they just provide empty calories. Unless your Home Bodies trainer has specifically suggested you use one of these items, I would limit them in your diet. Remember we all have unique body chemistry and your trainer may have decided, with good reason, that these products are for you.
1. Gatorade. I know, the marketing scheme is slick—they even have pro athletes chugging it while wiping purple droplets of sweat of their forehead. Yes, research shows that you lose carbs and electrolytes when you sweat, but unless you are playing in the superbowl you probably don't need extra carbs during your workout. You will also replace electrolytes by your dietary intake. The excess calories in Gatorade will for the most part replace any calories you have burned off during your workout. Now if you are running an endurance race, or participating in a competitive sport, this is beneficial and desirable. But if you are like most of us, you want to reduce your bodyfat % while increasing your fitness levels, those 250 extra calories from Gatorade have to be burned off or they will be stored somewhere, possibly in your fat cells. Why spend the extra 30-45 minutes exercising that off when you could have taken in 0 calories from fresh cold water in the first place?
2. Fruit Juice. I know this one is controversial, but hear me out. A glass of apple juice has as many or more calories as an actual apple and is not filling at all. You are missing out on vitamins and minerals found in the apple, as well as the dietary fiber that keeps you full. Juices contain lots of sugar, from natural sources mind you, but sugar none the less. Compounding this problem is that many "juices" are actually cocktails including about 10% juice and 90% sugar water. Additionally, the chewing of a real fruit gives your mouth something to do. It may take 5 minutes to eat an apple, time in which you can decide if you are still hungry. A glass of juice can easily be ingested in 30 seconds, and does nothing to halt the feelings of hunger. Always choose the fruit over the bottle when possible.
3. "Fat Free" + "Low Carb" Foods. Anything that comes in a box is generally not something I advise my clients to eat in the first place. Even worse are foods that are altered in some way. Low carb foods are always going to have more fats and artificial sweeteners added to them to make up for the lack of taste. The same thing is true for nearly all reduced or fat free foods. Looking at a jar of reduced fat peanut butter leads you to think it is a healthier alternative to the regular version. Guess what? In order to make up for the absence of fat, the lovely folks at JIF just add more sugar. When comparing the two versions, the reduced fat jar had 30 more calories per serving than regular peanut butter! I'd rather enjoy the real thing and intake fewer calories at the same time, but that's just me. Which leads me to...
4. Commercial Brand Peanut Butter. While peanut butter can be part of a healthy diet, the regular varieties are not. You may be surprised to hear that this is not due to their high fat content. The fats in peanuts are of the healthy un-saturated type, and do not contribute to the clogging of your arteries. The reason this food should be limited is that it contains both sugar and dangerous hydrogenated oils. There is no room for a large discussion on this topic at this time, but Google "hydrogenated oil" and see exactly why you wouldn't want to put it into your body. These oils are added simply to keep the texture of the peanut butter smooth and to prevent oil separation. You can be sure your PB doesn't have these ingredients by reading the label where they will be listed under "trans fat.” But don't just trust the trans fat listing on the label. A food can have up to a half gram per serving of an item and the FDA allows the maker to list it as 0. This means a 16 serving jar of PB can have up to 8 grams of trans fat and the label can legally read 0 grams. Always check the ingredient list for hydrogenated or rapeseed oils, this lets you know it’s a product that is better off on the shelf than in your cupboard. Scary isn't it? You can avoid all of this by buying natural PB in the organic section or whole foods store and stirring it together when you get home.
5. Yogurt. “Is he out of his mind!?" Okay, take a deep breath, let me explain. Most of you are probably eating yogurt because your trainer suggested it, and with good reason. Yogurt is a good source of protein, healthy carbs, and calcium, when the right type is chosen. First of all, if your yogurt has a special container on top that holds any kind of cereal meant for your children, or...gasp...sprinkles, I think we both know that it doesn't belong in the fridge! From here it can be a bit tricky. I know, I know, it says "Fruit at the bottom", but check the ingredients--fruit is probably last on the list somewhere after, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, about 4 FDA food colorings, as well as several other ingredients that I can't spell properly. So how do you make better choices? Buy plain yogurt and add a cup of your own fresh cut fruit. You could go crazy here if you wanted and add other flavor enhancers as well. I personally love natural sweeteners like stevia, as well as spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder or instant coffee.
So those are some foods that you may want to watch out for that may be hindering your health and well being. This article is not meant to make you feel bad about what you are eating. Remember nobody is perfect all the time, nor do you have to be to achieve success. We all want to get the most out of our trainers and our sessions. You put in 100% during the few hours with your coach, so why not make the same effort during the rest of the week and see even more dramatic results? My hope is that by being more aware of this information you will make reaching your goals even easier. Remember always read labels, ask questions of your trainer, and make informed decisions when it comes to your health. Stay tuned for part II of this article when I break down my top 5 "superfoods" for health and well being.