Aesthetics vs. Performance vs. Health

I think most of us chase nutrition information from multiple sources and wind up confused. A major source of this confusion comes when we fail to distinguish between health, aesthetics, and performance. We lump all of these goals together under the umbrella term: “healthy diet”. Eating with each of these goals in mind, though, requires very different tactics.

Let’s start with health. I actually think that eating for health is the simplest, but it has been severely complicated by the both the food industry and the fitness industry. Here is the secret to good health: Eat REAL food. The food industry has created billions of food like substances that now make up the bulk of most Americans’ diets. These foods have been processed with unwanted chemicals and the nutrient balance has been altered. As creatures of this Earth, we were meant to consume the food created by the Earth, not in a lab. If you eat a variety of plant-based whole-foods you will very quickly improve your health.

Aesthetics is a very different beast, as it is focused completely on the outside appearance and inner health is irrelevant. This is where an “if it fits your macros” or “flexible dieting plan” works well. Simply altering your calorie intake and macronutrient balance can drastically alter your body composition, regardless of the quality of food you are eating. This is why we see body builders with amazing physiques eating poptarts and pancakes to get their carbs for the day. It works, I’ve lived it, but remember that just because you look good on the outside does not mean you are healthy on the inside.

Performance goals are my favorite, as they require the most thought. The first necessity to perform well is eating a proper quantity of calories. Food provides us fuel for our workouts, so if you don’t eat enough you won’t be able to perform at a high level. The next step would be finding the proper macronutrient balance. We use both carbohydrates and fats to produce energy. Carbs are utilized for high intensity anaerobic activities. Fats will be utilized better in a long, low intensity aerobic workout. It is important to eat the right type of fuel for your workout to optimize performance. The final consideration is the quality of your food. Our bodies are enduring and will learn to function on almost anything, but that does not mean the “anything diet” is an optimal one. The better the fuel you put in, the better the machine will run.

I think too often we look to people who diet for different goals than us because we don’t realize that there is a difference. You need to decide what your goal is and eat according to that. Can you improve all three areas simultaneously? Absolutely, yes. BUT if you want to take any one to the extreme I believe you will have to make a small sacrifice to the other two.


For help with nutrition plans based on your goals sign up for our nutrition coaching here: Plant-Based Nutrition

Bulking on a Vegan Diet

Many people I come in contact with are convinced that it is impossible to get big on a vegan diet. I strongly disagree, and am hoping to prove it over the next 15 weeks.

Switching to a plant-based diet makes it easy to lose weight, and hard to gain it. I will admit that this is absolutely true. Plant-based foods have a much lower caloric density than animal-based foods, which means we will feel full after consuming fewer calories. This is great when you are trying to lose weight and be in a caloric deficit. When you are trying to gain weight, on the other hand, it can cause problems. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it simply means you have to have a solid plan in place. It becomes more important to track your calories and macronutrients, because if you simply go based on hunger you will likely not consume enough.

My boyfriend, David, switched to a mostly plant-based diet about 6 months ago, and would currently help my opposition prove their point. He has had a hard time putting on muscle since making this transition. We are now going to do an experiment to determine whether it can be done when you follow a good program.

Meet David:

In August of 2017 I decided to go plant based. After 24 years of eating a heavily animal based diet I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but I felt that it would be a great challenge for myself. I currently subscribe to a vegan at home, vegetarian when I’m out kind of diet, and have been for the last 6 months now. When I initially made the lifestyle change I didn’t really have a plan in place. I knew that I wanted to go on a plant-based diet while still competing and training at my usual intensities. I also knew that I wanted to continue to gain lean muscle mass and strength, but I didn’t think about it much beyond that. I made the mistake of simply taking out all of the meat, eggs, and dairy that I ate every day, and with that came a huge portion of my daily caloric intake. Over the course of 4 months I ended up losing about 6 pounds, and with that, quite a bit of strength. I became extremely aggravated with what was happening to my body and performance, things I have been working for years to develop. I reached the point where I was fed up with a plant based diet and strongly considered switching back, but I knew that the diet wasn’t the real issue. I knew that I needed to take charge of my day-to-day nutrition and focus more on how I was training, so today is my first day of taking those steps. Today I’m going to start dialing in my nutrition and following the Train Untamed template written up by Sophie (with some Olympic lifting added in).

I currently weigh 180lbs @ approximately 9% body fat. I would like to get up to roughly 186lbs. while staying below 11% body fat over the next 15 weeks of the program. I will do check in blogs periodically to keep up with my progress as well as maintain accountability. I’ll talk a little about the steps I’m taking each day to reach my goals, and I’ll go more into the backstory of my personal transition to a plant based diet. Stay Tuned!  

Follow his journey on instagram @davidbrock_22

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Goal Setting

I am a goal junkie. I am completely obsessed with goal setting. I set goals every day for every aspect of life. While I may take it a bit overboard, I do believe that goal setting is a very beneficial technique for accomplishing anything in life.

Most of us have been taught to use the SMART (specific, measurable, adjustable, realistic, time-bound) acronym for goal setting. I think this is definitely an important step, as it helps to create optimal goals. Because this is a commonly covered subject, I am going to skip it and instead talk about a couple crucial parts of goal setting that I find are often ignored or forgotten.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

I’d loosely define a long-term goal as one that takes 6 months or more to accomplish, and a short-term goal as anything shorter than that. Where we go wrong here is using one without the other. Having both short and long term goals is so important. A long-term goal is the destination, and a short-term goal is the map to get there. If we are missing either one of these we will end up lost.

First, set your big exciting long-term goal (make sure it’s S.M.A.R.T.). Once you have that, fill in the time it will take to get there with smaller short-term goals. There are two techniques I use to fill in short-term goals. One is to divide your goal by the months you have to get there. For example, if you want to lose 100 pounds in a year you would divide 100 by 12 months. Your short-term goals would then be to lose 8.33 pounds each month. The other is to work backwards from your goal date and set milestones. For example, my goal is to lift a 900 pound total at USAPL nationals. My current total is 766. I found a qualifying meet that gave me 6 months before nationals, so I set my goal for that meet at 830 pounds, or about half way between my current total and goal total.

Long-term goals are important so we know where we are going, but short-term goals provide the necessary steps and keep us on track to get there.

Process vs. Performance Goals

The other distinction we often fail to make is between process and performance goals. Process goals are focused on the specific practices you will engage in, and do not take outcome into account. Examples would be things like “I will lift weights 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes,” or “I will run 3 times a week for at least 1 mile.” It is important to include process goals in your plan, because it will enforce the behaviors necessary to accomplish your long-term goal.

Performance goals, on the other hand, are focused on improving your performance in a certain area. “Improve my mile time by 5 seconds,” and “do 5 more pushups,” would be examples of performance goals. The benefit of this type of goal is that it pushes you to be better. It is important, though, that these goals be focused on improving your own performance, and are not a comparison to anyone else.

I highly recommend including both process and performance goals in your plan. I think it is more common to use performance goals, but process goals are often forgotten. Process goals will ensure that you are creating the habits and building the consistency needed to accomplish bigger goals. Performance goals will motivate you to work hard during the process rather than just go through the motions.

 

Goal-setting is much more than coming up with a SMART goal. Ultimately, you should have daily process goals that get you to your short-term performance goals, which are stepping-stones to your big long-term goal. These are all pieces to the puzzle, and without all the pieces the picture won’t come together as planned.

 

Staying motivated for the long-haul

We all get initial jolts of motivation when we are excited to start a new project or goal, but for some reason rarely stay motivated to successfully see it through to the finish. The world of health and fitness is probably the most notorious for this inconsistent motivation. Being a fit and/or healthy individual is a never-ending project that you must continuously work toward your whole life. This is why so many of us work out consistently for a year before quitting for two. I have somehow managed to keep my streak going strong for many years now, so maybe some of my tricks will help you do the same.

Goal setting is a pretty well known motivation tactic. Where I think most people go wrong is failing to set short-term goals along the way to the big long-term goal. People set big goals, like lose 100 pounds or squat 300 pounds, but those goals will take a long time to accomplish. When the finish line is so far away it’s easy to get distracted and lose interest. If you set shorter- monthly, weekly, or even daily goals- it will keep you more excited and motivated during that time period.

Another way to keep yourself motivated over the long-haul is to switch up your training. One way to do this is completely change the type of training- like my continuous switching between sports. It could also just mean changing between phases of training, such as a bulking vs. a cutting phase. Switching up training helps to avoid the staleness that can come with years of training.

These tactics can be extremely helpful for keeping motivation up, but I honestly don’t think it’s possible to keep yourself motivated all the time. Even when you love training, and you do all the tricks out there, there will be days or even weeks that you just aren’t feeling it.

Knowing that slumps will happen at some point, the best defense is having a plan. I used to go into the gym and make up my workout as I went. This worked fine for me most days, but on my unmotivated days it turned into a useless workout. Now I have a structured training plan. On days I really don’t feel like going to the gym I don’t have to think, I just go get the work done. I may not put as much effort in as my best days, but at least I complete the task at hand. I highly recommend having a training plan as I think it can make all the difference when it comes to staying on track during the bad days.

Motivation will inevitably come and go, the real key to success is finding consistency throughout.

 

*Future blogs on how to successfully implement each of these coming soon*

But where do you get your protein?!

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked this question since going vegan 5 years ago. It has been ingrained in our society that we must eat meat, or else we will surely be protein deficient, and probably die. I have fallen victim to this way of thinking, as well. I went vegetarian when I was 9, but continued to eat fish because; how else would I get my protein? It wasn’t until 13 years later, when I finally learned the truth, and went completely vegan. So here are answers to some questions that most people are confused about.

Plants have protein?

All whole plant-based foods have protein. Yes, ALL of them. If you are eating a variety of plant-based foods, and getting enough calories, you are more than likely getting enough protein. Fruit has the least protein per calorie, but most still are more than 5% protein. The higher plant-based protein sources like beans and legumes are all over 20% protein. Soy products like tofu and tempeh are closer to 40% protein. And a fun surprise: Spinach has more protein per calorie than ground beef! So as you can see, contrary to popular belief, you can get plenty of protein from plants.

How much protein do you actually need?

Protein is currently severely over-consumed in a typical diet. Studies have shown that humans only require 5-10% of calories from protein to meet their bodies’ needs. Note that almost all plant-based foods have at least 5% protein. The standard American eats more like 30-40% of their calories from protein. This includes the unhealthy Standard American Diet as well as the “health-conscious” omnivorous diet. While protein is a very important nutrient to consume, that does not mean you need enormous quantities of it to survive.

What about “bulking” season?

If your goal in the gym is to put on muscle mass, or even maintain it, it is true you will need more protein than the general population. This does not mean that you need meat, though. It simply means you may have to be more strategic in how you pair your foods together to make sure you have a higher percentage of protein in each meal. You will need to have more of the protein dense foods with a bit less of the lower protein foods. Aka, a little more beans with a little less rice. There are also plant-based protein shakes if you still aren’t convinced.

Are you sure?

I have been a vegan athlete for 5 years now, and have never had an issue with protein deficiency, or struggled to get enough protein into my diet. I have actually found that I still tend to eat more protein than I really need. Who woulda thought?

*If you want to learn more about plant-based nutrition check out my nutrition guide being released tomorrow morning!*

Why I compete; And why you should, too

Let me lead off by saying that I am super competitive, and always have been. I live for “game day,” and I HATE losing. I am also addicted to the adrenaline that comes with competition day. Over the past three years I have competed in 2 strongman competitions, 2 bodybuilding shows, 2 crossfit competitions, and 1 powerlifting meet, largely for the aforementioned reasons. Though doing what is probably an excessive number of competitions I have discovered some major benefits of competing. So even if you’re not a competition junkie like me, I think you might find it worthwhile to participate in one.

Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Motivation to get started or push harder

If you are struggling to find the motivation to start going to the gym, or your workouts have been lackluster lately, signing up for a competition could provide just the spark you need to get into gear. Having an event to look forward to can make training way more fun and exciting.

  • Keep you focused on your plan

If you are like most people you are easily distracted and will fall off your diet or workout routine more often than you’d like. When you know you have a competition coming up you are much less likely to get off course, and when you do, chances are you’ll get back on track quicker.

  • Stop you from putting it off

Are you a procrastinator who has been pushing your fitness goals off for months, or even years? It’s time to give yourself a deadline. Signing up for a competition will force you to get your act together and (finally) get to work!

  • It’s so fun!

Competition day is so much fun! It gives you an opportunity to go out and do something you love, with a community of like-minded people rooting you on.

Still not convinced its for you?

You don’t have to lift big weights or get on stage in a bikini to compete. There is a competition out there for everyone. Try a Spartan race, a triathlon or a half-marathon. Not for you either? What about a 5k, a fun run, or city league basketball? There are options for all ages and all fitness levels. You don’t have to be an all-star athlete to compete. It’s not about winning; it’s about committing to something and finding out what you are capable of.

So go sign up for a competition and start training hard! I bet you won’t regret it.

 

 

Live Your Values

I believe the number one key to a happy life is to live by your values. That may seem pretty obvious, but there are a lot of people who go through every day living in contradiction to their values. If your life is in conflict with your values you will always have an internal struggle, whether you are aware of it or not. This is the exact realization that led me to quit my job, launch my own company, and start writing this blog.

If you don’t know me yet I am Sophie, a vegan athlete and personal trainer. Ten months ago I got a job waitressing at a burger joint for some extra money. If you have ever waited tables you probably understand that the money can be addicting, so somehow it eventually became a full-time job. I was making great money, had my ideal schedule, and I really don’t hate waiting tables (minus the occasional jerk in my section). Despite all of this I found myself very unhappy, and I couldn’t pinpoint why that was.

Then one day I had an “Aha-moment”. A family of five was seated at a table in my section. They were all morbidly obese. They each ordered sodas, burgers, fries, and multiple sides of ranch. As I delivered their food to them I felt extremely guilty. It was clear to me that I was contributing to their very apparent health issues, and that was not something I wanted to be a part of.

That’s when it all hit me:

“Vegan athlete and personal trainer.”

And yet working in a place that serves animal based foods to the same people I was hoping to help.

How was this not blatantly obvious?!

I found myself in a job that required me to promote everything that I stand against. So with the loving support of my wonderful boyfriend I left that job and am venturing out on my own to instead promote a healthy plant-based diet, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I think so often in this world we get wrapped up in what we think we have to do, what other people are doing, or what is easy and convenient to do, and forget to think about if what we are doing reflects what we truly want. While that probably makes for a simpler life, it’s also probably an unhappy one.

Decide to live your life true to who you are and what you believe in. You won’t regret it.

*Food for thought: If you value health, animal rights, and/or the environment going vegan was/could be a big step toward living by your values. *

“If you don’t live for something you will die for nothing.”