Four Inconvenient Truths About Health and Fitness

Nobody likes hearing these, but these are four inconvenient truths about fitness and nutrition that you need to know. 

Sleep

If you go to any fitness or nutrition conference and ask someone what are the five, ten, or fifteen most important things you can do to improve your body composition and health, sleep is going to be one of them. 

Sleep is just as important as your workouts and nutrition, so if you’re not getting 7-8 hours a night, you need to start making some habit changes. 

Can you function on less? Sure, but you’re never going to be at 100%.

Lack of sleep increases your stress hormones, which can lead to weight gain around the midsection and increases your risk of chronic disease

  • Lack of sleep increases your cravings for junk food

  • Lack of sleep decreases your insulin sensitivity, meaning you’re increasing your risk for diabetes even with a healthy diet

  • Lack of sleep reduces your ability to recover between workouts, decreasing performance and increasing your risk of injury. Don’t think pre-workout will get around this, you’ll be even more tired after it wears off.

  • Lack of sleep suppresses your immune system which increases your risk of getting sick

  • Lack of sleep might change your microbiome (more research needs to be done)

So sleep is pretty important. What if you can’t get seven hours of sleep? Schedule (yes, schedule) naps into your day or pay back the “sleep debt” another day that week. 

But you can’t make it all up on the weekends by sleeping in for 10-12 hours, that has also been shown to increase your risk of chronic diseases. At most, you can probably make up about an hour a day by either naps or sleeping for 9 hours.

Unassisted Pull Ups

Doing your first pull up is a great goal, but if you can’t do one right now, it’s going to be a long process to get you there. 

Why? 

First off, you need to be pretty strong to be able to do a pull up. You need to be able to lift 100% of your body weight for a pull up. So if you weigh 180lbs, you need to be strong enough to lift 180lbs. This is another reason why gymnasts are shorter. 

Someone who is at a healthy weight and weighs 135lbs is going to have an easier time doing bodyweight exercises over someone who has a healthy weight of 220lbs. 

Second, you need to be (fairly) lean. There’s a reason gymnasts are usually pretty shredded, extra bodyfat doesn’t help you with bodyweight movements. 

For the most part, men need to be under 20% bodyfat and women need to be under 25% bodyfat to do one pull up. You probably need to be leaner if you want to rep out pull ups. Of course there are exceptions to this, but those people are usually training for a strength sport like powerlifting. 

Finally, it’s about technique. Most people don’t use their lats when attempting a pull up, instead they try and lift with their arms.

 Your lats are way stronger than your arms, but most people never learn how to active them properly since they’re not a “mirror muscle” you can’t see it working like the bicep. Learning proper technique will help you complete your first pull up, but only after the above two points are met first (ask one of the GST coaches to help you with this).

I don’t want to discourage you from trying to reach this goal, it just might be further off than you think and you need to set some smaller goals along the way to reach doing an unassisted pull up.  

Weekends

Can two days really blow a diet for the entire week?

Yup.

If your goal is weight loss, you can easily ruin a weeks worth of progress in just two days. But let’s be honest, the weekend starts friday night, so it’s more like 2 ⅓ days. 

Why? If you go out to eat, you’re going to eat way more calories than you think. Restaurants know exactly how to get you to eat more food because they make more money when you do. If you order an appetizer, entree, and dessert plus a few drinks, you can easily eat well over 1500 calories in one sitting while feeling like you might have eaten only half of that. 

A few studies have shown why this is. One study, they had two tables of people and each table had all you can eat wings. Participants put the bones on a plate in the middle of the table. One table they left the bones the entire time, and the other table had a server come by every few minutes and get rid of the bones and replace the plate with a new clean one. The table which had the bones left on it the whole time ate significantly fewer wings than the other table.

Another study was done with tomato soup. Participants in this study had a massive bowl of tomato soup and were told to eat as much as they liked of it. Some of the participants had a regular bowl, others had one where there was a hose in the bottom of the bowl that kept filling the bowl up without the participant knowing. The participants with the refillable bowls ate significantly more without knowing it.

Finally, the stale popcorn study. Participants in this study thought they were just rating a movie, the scientists gave all of the participants stale popcorn. Despite it being stale, almost everyone ate the entire bag. 

You’re not as aware as you think you are about food. Unless you are measuring and weighing everything, you are probably eating more than you think you are. If you’re not seeing the scale move the way you want, take two weeks and track your food in MyFitnessPal and weigh and measure everything for those fourteen days. 

Is it tedious? Yes

But you’ll learn what an actual portion size is for everything you eat. 

It’s very easy to blow an entire week’s worth of progress in one weekend without it being “crazy.” You don’t have to track everyday, but if you’re still pretty new to nutrition, you should do it for awhile to learn more about the food you eat. 

The Older You Get, The More Good Nutrition Matters

Why is it that an 18 year old can eat junk and have a six pack but someone in their 30s or 40s can’t? 

Anyone under the age of 25 is “hormonally” driven when it comes to body composition. While diet and exercise play a part, their sex hormones are the highest they’ll ever be which helps them keep body fat lower and put muscle mass on easier. It’s a myth that your metabolism “slows” down as you age (it does slow some, just not to the extent you think it does). 

The older you get, the less hormones have to do with body composition. You have to use food to create the signals in your body that the hormones once did. Want to build muscle or maintain? Testosterone is lower in your 40s than your 20s, so you need quality protein to help you stimulate protein synthesis. Two Big Macs or a cheesesteak from Wawa isn’t going to cut it. 

To wrap up, food quality is more important as you get older but you still need to track calories if you want to reach your goals. And if you can’t get enough sleep, quality foods and calorie tracking are only going to take you so far. Finally, pull ups are an example of a goal that might be harder or further off than you think, but the same can be said of push ups which are roughly 60% of your bodyweight. If those are goals of yours, don’t get discouraged when it seems like you’re not making progress, learn what the next steps are from one of your coaches to make a game plan to reach them. 

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