Alright, i know that most people want to use fitness and nutrition to look good. In fact I wrote a post about that not too long ago, here.
Beyond trying to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Megan Fox in Transformers, fitness and nutrition provides numerous benefits above and beyond good looks.
Most people know that eating well and being active is good for them, but may not fully understand the purpose, well no more. L
et’s get it all out on the table and discuss some deeper more meaningful ways to make fitness and nutrition impactful. In writing something like this, I hope you’ll find a spark of some kind that resonates with you, something you can associate personal meaning towards.
Fitness and Nutrition essentially do 4 things:
1) Controls Energy Balance and Body Composition
Seems obvious right?
Well some of you may recall that I wrote a post a couple of months back on why counting calories sucks, so why would I — a supporter of not monitoring calorie intake for pretty much 80% of the population or more — talk about energy balance?
Well because energy balance is a little more complicated than just calories in versus calories out and it’s still important.
Essentially referring to that post, not all calories are created equal.
Protein digests much differently than fats or carbohydrates and fiber isn’t even absorbed — though fiber is listed as 4 calories per gram on all food packaging, interestingly enough?
There are also possibly other factors at work — like gastrointestinal health — that we do not even fully understand at this point and in a small percentage of the population some genetic predispositions — genetics are rarely an excuse though — or health concerns that may be affecting our energy balance.
We do know a lot, however, about what works and what doesn’t and we continue to learn more and more about that each day.
Likewise, not all exercise is created equal, sure walking will help, doing some stairs here and there, jogging may burn more calories but don’t forget intervals, mobility work or resistance training either.
I still can offer no definitive physiological research evidence that resistance training is most effective for maintaining energy balance but anecdotally, I am 99% sure it does.
This may have something to do with excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), it may have something to do with the rebuilding process of tissues that takes place after more intense forms of exercise or maybe our bodies shuttle nutrients differently, we don’t presently know for sure, but I do know that ‘calories out’ are not necessarily the same either.
If you are in balance, however complicated it may turn out to be, you will at least know it because your body composition won’t change significantly in either a positive or negative direction, or at least no appreciable amount over an extended period of time.
The purpose of fitness and nutrition at that point then becomes whichever outcome is desired, gaining weight is not always a bad thing if it is muscle mass instead of fat mass.
Losing weight may not always be exactly what you think is going on either as you may be losing bone density and muscle mass — often desirable things to a certain extent — in favour of more fat mass — less favourable.
This is the aesthetic factor that fitness and nutrition offers, but this also relates to the energy you have throughout the day.
You can eat to feel energized or sluggish and exercise to feel energized or sluggish, this is also primarily related to your energy balance.
2) Enhance Performance
This is not necessarily what you may think it means. When I say this, most people think athletic performance but by performance I simply mean;
the act of performing, achieving, accomplishing or doing something successfully; carrying into execution or action; representation by action; a thing done or carried through; a deed; an act; a feat; using knowledge as distinguished from merely possessing it; a process or manner of functioning or operating.
With regards to obtaining an ideal body composition, for example, which often results in achievements like touching toes, being able to walk to and from a location, being able to pick stuff up and move it, we can effectively increase our performance in every day tasks.
Essentially being capable of carrying out numerous forms of daily living activities, leads to enhanced performance.
The requirements of that ‘performance’ are unique to the individual.
If you were a basketball player your performance needs would be much different from a rower which is still much different than the average parent who works a traditional day job. Enhancing performance also means training and eating to maintain homeostasis.
If your daily activities drive you away from homeostasis — like sitting all day or eating junk food — then fitness and nutrition need to be geared towards achieving balance again.
For instance, athletes can generally tolerate, and in fact need a higher caloric intake because being active is their job.
They need to fuel up with carbohydrates sometimes before big competitions and focus more on glycogen repletion post-workout too.
This is why Michael Phelps can tolerate a 6,000 calories diet made up mostly of McDonald’s, and you can’t — bad habits, like dishonesty, almost always eventually nip you in the butt eventually, it’s only a matter of time.
If you jog — which requires a lot of sub-maximal hip flexion — or sit a lot during the day, you may need to elongate the muscles that get flexed the most, via some stretching or mobility work and strengthen the muscles that don’t get as much work. In order to achieve performance balance, the hip musculature needs to be balanced out, or often you end up with pain.
3) Provides Optimal Health Measures/Markers
If you’re over the age of 40, you went to see your doctor this year right?
They probably hooked you up with some blood tests to look at your HDL levels, your LDL levels, your triglyceride levels and some other odds and ends lipoproteins, mineral levels, red and white blood cell counts, hormone levels and vitamin levels.
Fitness and nutrition can help regulate a lot of that.
Cholesterol levels too high, and the doctor may recommend you exercise more and reduce your salt intake, before putting you on a statin drug like Lipitor.
Well imagine you tried to eat and exercise well before it became an issue?
Not only would you live longer, but your quality of life would remain high throughout that increased longevity, leaving you independent and more capable of performing a variety of daily tasks.
Optimal health is the absence of disease or injury.
The two most common recommendations before drugs are always diet changes and exercise — if you aren’t presently active, being active alone without diet changes does not always seem to be effective and vice versa — when dealing with abnormal markers of health via our medical system.
Similarly, can you touch your toes, or touch your fingers behind your back?
There are also some clinical physical markers of optimal health by way of flexibility at a joint, total body mobility and strength outcomes.
Non-contact injuries are most often caused by completely preventable imbalances between flexibility and strength relationships.
The deep overhead squat for instance, in my experience, has provided one of the best indicators of likelihood of injury, it is also one of the hardest positions for a lot of people to get into comfortably.
4) Improves All Other Aspects of Well-Being
Richard Branson, billionaire, founder of Virgin Inc., was quoted a few years back as saying that working out provided him with at least 4 more productive hours a day. Thus exercise has helped him be more proficient at work, or his occupational realm.
He’s not the only one, nor is he any more special than you or I when it comes to fitness and nutrition.
When I say aspects of well-being, I use that interchangeably with the dimensions of wellness, as seen here.
As I’ve discussed before, these dimensions interact with one another and are not mutually exclusive but rather inter-related.
I’ve actually witnessed all kinds of cool changes in people’s lives over the years and often, very little of it has to do purely with physical changes alone, though those are certainly a nice bonus too.
Most notably here is a — by no means exclusive — short list of stuff I’ve witnessed:
- greater appreciation of life (renewed spirituality)
- greater energy levels
- greater productivity
- greater satisfaction from work
- greater physio-social interaction with their children or grand-children
- greater self-esteem/confidence
- greater emotional control and stress management (improved emotional intelligence)
- improved understanding and working knowledge of your own body
- improved sense of, and sensitivity to, surrounding environment
- positive changes in social status/group
- greater understanding of self (purpose, goals, capabilities, strengths, weaknesses)
- improvements in cognitive ability
- improved focus
- enhancement in markers of intelligence (physical activity (like music) can actually make neurological changes)
- greater sense of duty, contribution, growth and significance
Think I missed something? Leave some comments below if you think there is something I’ve overlooked.