I have worked in the health and fitness industry for almost two decades; time enough to gain some perspective on what systems, methods and products are most effective in fueling an athlete's body effectively, and what works when it comes to maintaining a healthy fighting weight.
In retrospect, I can name dozen of supplements and diets that were found to have little or no value. In some cases they were dangerous, in others almost comical, but all sought to relieve weight in pocketbook.
There is and probably never will be a shortage of consumer "hooks." New supplements and diets continue to emerge and desperate people will continue to buy into them. Remember chromium picolinate? At it's height of popularity over $6 million of this miracle supplement were being sold per week. When the clinical studies caught up with the hype, it was found to have no real value for weight loss.
"Super" juices, algae, oxygenated waters, pills, powders, and tinctures of various kinds pop up constantly with little or no quality control, science, or regulation behind them. Diets based on body shape, blood type, ethnicity, high fat, low fat, high/low carb, cavemen and Frenchmen fill the shelves of the weight-loss section of your local book store.
How are you supposed to sort through the ballyhoo and determine what really works and has value? I believe if you stick to just a few basic rules you can go a long way towards promoting your health, performance, healthy weight, and may save yourself a bunch of money along the way.
10 Dietary Fitness Rules
1. The less processed a food is the healthier it is for you. When a food is processed, nutrient value is taken out of it; to the point where it has to be "enriched" in order to add nutrients back in. The closer a food is to its pre-harvest state (the vine) the more nutrient density it will have.
Your locally-grown vegetable stand is preferable to produce that comes halfway around the world to your super market, and whole grains are better for you than highly processed and enriched flours.
2. Good nutrition is all about forming habits. Do you remember what you ate the last time you were starving? Well, you will likely gravitate towards that food again next time you are hungry. Eat healthy foods and you will want healthy foods.
The trick is incorporating them in the first place. Focus on forming long-term habits, not short-term dietary changes, and be open minded to new and different food choices.
3. Plan and execute a dietary strategy. People often fall into dietary pitfalls when they don't know what their next meal is going to be comprised of or where it is coming from. If you plan out your meals you maintain control over momentary cravings.
Even if you are not preparing your own food you should have several healthy options for eating on the fly. Get to know the caloric content and nutrient value of the foods you are putting in your body. Even fast food has healthier options if you choose them.
4. Avoid supplementation when possible. For the athlete, supplements are a convenience during training. But is that expensive energy bar any better than a banana? Is that tub of powder as effective for post-workout recovery as a glass of chocolate milk?
The quality, purity, and benefit of many supplements are suspect at best. We often worry about our food standards but give little regard to the supplements we consume.