Quacks, Hacks and Misinformation: How to Avoid Screwing up your health

Ok I’m pissed off today, in fact I’m livid. Lets look at what has made steam pour out of my ears.

‘Try eating white fish for a few weeks…just to see how you go’

‘Only eat 30g of greens per meal’

‘Don’t eat spinach – its too high in sodium’

‘expect to feel like shit’

look fairly innocuous so far doesn’t it?

well no.

It isn’t. Not in my book.

This is ‘advice’ that I’ve heard recently being given to people preparing for competition by ‘experts’ in a position of trust who have the responsibility of someones health in their hands. When you have someone else’s health in your hands it is your responsibility…no…it is your duty to have the best, the correct, the safest, the most ethical information at your disposal. It is your duty, to obtain your information from a number of credible sources so you have the most up to date, in depth understanding of how to apply that information and specifically tailor that information to your clients needs and progress so that you can do the right thing by your client. Competition Preparation is about your client being in the best health they can be when they hit stage not necessarily the number on the scales or the lowest % body fat.

When I was being prepared for competition, I was lucky enough to be in the safe hands of Melita Jagic (and Matt Nicholson).  Melita has a vast wealth of experience in preparing men and women for competition. She doens’t turn out girls who look like skinned rabbits, or lose their periods for months or even years afterwards. She doens’t turn out competitors who are anaemic, or sodium depleted or overly dehydrated, she doesn’t subscribe to complicated loading/depleting regimes for sodium/potassium/carbs.  There is no ‘try this’, ‘have a go at that’…just to see what it does…She knew exactlywhat would work specifically for my body, she knew exactly when to change things, she knew exactly when to keep things the same. At no point did I have to change from drinking tap water to filtered/bottles water to minimise my sodium intake. At no point did I have to load with potassium. At no point did I have to eat just one type of protein for 2 weeks. At no point did I specifically have to load or deplete carbs.

For the whole 10 weeks of comp prep, I think Melita only tweaked my diet 3 times, once to take out my afternoon apple, once to take out my brown rice at lunch and once to reduce my breakfast carbs from 100g to 50g. That was it. I was free to eat as much green veg as I liked and I was rather liberal with the flaxseed oil and I was putting salt on my meals right up to 2 days out from competition. Yep you heard that right, I was ADDING salt onto my salads and veggies – just for a little flavour! I was even poaching my chicken in stock on competition day and I still came in lean and hard…and won.

Balance at all times was the key, because it is when you make wholosesale changes or make rigids restrictions, that dietary balance goes out of the window and the body has to react more strongly to keep iteslf going. I think in the last 3 weeks of comp prep I did not change my diet at all. It wasn’t broken, so there was no need to fix it. I came in at a gradual perfectly tapered pace that at no point unduly stressed my body. I had energy to spare and I was doing PB’s in the gym 2 weeks out from comp.

ok, I’m just warming up here.

lets move onto statement number 2.

30g of greens at each meal?

WT!!! what else are you eating to add volume, to fill you up?

Green Veggies are so low in calories and high in fibre that your body has to work very hard to digest it. This increased digestive effort and associated thermogenic impact ultimately causes your body to burn fat faster – I’m not going to go into the more intricate details – thats a whole other thesis!

Why restrict something that actually AIDS the fat burning process? Do you know just how LITTLE an amount of food 30g is???

take a look at this image – each portion of each individual vegetable in the picture is 30g – not much to be re-fuelling your body with after a hard days exercising – sure you’re going to lose fat, but you’re sure as hell going to be losing your muscle as well, not to mention the ensuing deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function correctly

I eat 350g of green veg AT THE SAME MEAL and I eat that amount 4 TIMES A DAY!!

AND in the last 2 months I have lost 6kg….with no exercise!!

You don’t have to starve yourself to lose fat.

words fail me at this point.

right lets get on to too much sodium.

Ok, here a list of some typical competition diet foods:

100g Chicken                                                                                     41mg

100g tuna                                                                                           240mg (tinned in springwater)

100g salmon                                                                                     280mg (tinned in springwater)

100g salmon fresh                                                                         42mg

100g tuna fresh                                                                               39mg

185g tin Sirena Tuna in Oil                                                770mg

100g white fish (raw)                                                                    72mg

100g beef                                                                                           56mg

100g kangaroo                                                                                47mg

100g spinach                                                                                70mg

100g Broccoli                                                                                  22mg

100g zucchini                                                                                  1mg

100g asparagus                                                                               2mg

100g snow peas                                                                              1mg

100g cucumber                                                                              21mg

100g rocket                                                                                     27mg

100g tomato                                                                                   8mg

100g oats                                                                                         7mg

100g Whey Protein Isolate                                                       212mg

100g Musashi ISO8                                                                       101mg

100g Venom WPI                                                                          196mg

Ok so of the typical green veggies people eat on a competition diet spinach does appear to have a lot of sodium. But lets get real here – look at how much sodium is in a tin of tuna or salmon even when its in springwater! look how much sodium is in your average protein shake. I was eating a 185 g tin of sirena tuna in oil everyday for 10 weeks and look how much sodium is in that! If I was really bothered about sodium I would NOT be picking on spinach as the culprit!

cutting out spinach is to cut out a ton of essential vitamins and minerals again – for example, 100g of spinach (spread it over 3 meals maybe??) contains:

48% of your daily folate (B9), 312% Vitamin A, 47% vitamin C, 402% Vitamin K (eesential for blod clotting and bone health - osteoporosis anyone?) , Calcium 10%, Iron 34%, Magnesium 20%

Another thing, when you make your salad its not ALL spinach, you mix it with carrots, tomatoes, rockets, cucumber…whatever you like..this will lower the OVERALL proportion of sodium in the meal. And think about it you’d p[robalby have about 30g of spinach in a typical salad which is roughly 25mg sodium? well the 100 – 150g of chicken you eat with the meal has more sodium in it

So you STILL think spinach should be cut out of a competition diet? Get real.

and lastly ‘expect to feel like shit’

now I’m all for setting peoples expectation to realistic levels, but when you’re dealing with people who are getting ready for their first competition or are at the stage where they’re thinking about it, but they’re not sure and its all a bit scary you don’t go and tell them that they’re going to feel like shit.

Sure tell them it will be hard – because it is. Tell them that they may experience emotional up and downs – because they will. Tell them that they will have days when they’re completely lacking in energy, motivation, willpower or they just want to sleep – because it will happen. Tell them that they may experience cravings – because they will – although if their diet is correctly balanced and nutritious they wont – I didn’t.

Set their expectations that it is not going to be a walk in the park, and that they are going to need support from their friends, family, trainer or communities of like minded people – they need to know that if it was easy then everybody would do it, they need to know that if they do this it will set them apart from everybody else, they need to know that it can be incredibly isolating, they need to know that it takes hard work, discipline, focus and determination but they also need to know that the rewards are worth it and that once they know they can do this then they will be able to do anything they set their mind to.

Tell them all this.

And they will go into their competition much more prepared mentally for whatever is about to come their way. To tell them to expect to feel like shit makes the mountain ten times higher in their heads than it needs to be and is likely to turn them off before they’ve even got started.

Get yourself the right information from the right people to get yourself up on stage in the best shape of  your life inside and out – not your worst.

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