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Athletes Eat and Train, They Do Not Diet and Exercise.

02/26/2016 11:35AM ● Published by Keri Sevcik

Athletes eat and train, they do not diet and exercise.  

What is the difference?  The athlete has performance-based goal(s).  That goal typically requires specific work and what some would call sacrifice.  Ask the person with the “big hairy audacious goal” if they sacrifice, and they would say they are sacrificing if they do not do those things that take them closer to their goal.  

Nutritionally, the athlete is focused on recovery, refueling and rebuilding.  It becomes a longer-term focus for becoming better than they were yesterday.  Eating to refuel takes a different approach to taking in food as sometimes the taste is secondary to what the food can do to improve performance.  Vegetables, egg whites, water not soda, no sauces, minimal junk food if any?  What?  These people must be freaks or really weird, right?  Well, maybe, haha.  Really, this group and any group of people who desire to achieve and become better will be making different decisions to do so.  They do not settle for average or what everyone else is doing.

Athletes and people with a longer-term focus on their healthy nutrition tend to pack in as many micronutrients into their macronutrients.  Micronutrient is the big fancy word for vitamins and minerals.  All foods have some but those such as fruits and veggies typically have lots of them.  Macronutrient is the big fancy word for fats, proteins, carbohydrates and water.  If your foods are what we call “nutrient-dense,” they would have a high level of micronutrients for the amount of macronutrients.  

Compare the foods on the chart:


As you can see, in terms of caloric and nutrient intake, if you need a snack, you’d do much better to choose from the first few items rather than the last few.  Nutritional success rarely involves logic, rather the desire for a larger goal.  Without a commitment to a longer-term goal, the reason to improve nutritional habits suddenly fades when your favorite nutrient-empty food jumps in front of you.  I have heard it said that people are on a diet until they get hungry.  

When it comes to training vs. exercising, the same goal-oriented focus assists with the outcome.  

An outline of how an athlete trains may look something like this:


Without getting into specific exercises and how many, we can see what to do based on goals.  An athlete will cycle through each of these areas and even add a “speed/power” category with the long-term focus of increasing performance.  Sometimes their body weight may be a part of the goal, frequently it is completely performance-based outcome.

For many adults, the common goal revolves around an aesthetic ideal: get stronger and have more energy.   This can involve one of the many aesthetic competitions where participants are not usually movement oriented.  

As a trainer since 1990 (for over 25 years), I have worked with a large variety of goals.  Often they have been health-oriented and sports performance-based.  Sure, people have wanted to “lose weight;” however, the real goal is not the scale but an improved lifestyle involving losing body fat and increasing muscle.  

Early on, I had a female client who wanted to “lose weight.”  Guess what?  In a year, she did.  She lost 5 whole pounds.  You read that right, and she thought she (and I) had done something wrong.  Sounds like it, right?  She also went from a size 16 to a size 6 and was really close to being a size 4!  Body fat?  Went from 45% down to 20% -  losing 33.5 pounds of fat while adding 28.5 sounds of muscle.  So, how do you think we would have done if we “dieted” for a year?

The goal is to improve ourselves for a quality of life improvement, not deplete ourselves.

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