Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Art and Science of Nutrition

You've heard it before... baking is a Science, while cooking is an Art.  Anyone who bakes has their fair share of chemistry lessons, while cooks have their their fair share of innovation and resourcefulness.  The body and the food we put into it is also a Science and an Art.  The body is a chemistry lab, but is also a machine, and an ever changing form that can be molded and sculpted by our own will, by the environment, or by our genetics.

I haven't posted much on food, mainly because it really is no one's place to tell you what to put into your body.  Your body, your needs, your choices all belong to YOU.  Free Flow Academy encourages gardening, or at least being connected with your food and knowing where it comes from, and eating whole foods, organic when available, and reading labels.  Other than that, we don't stress specific diets.  Paleo, Vegan, Gluten free... the list goes on. We aren't going to tell you what's right for you.  However, as individual trainers, we each make our own diet choices according to what we believe is best for our bodies, and for the tasks and functions we wish to achieve.  I can't speak for all the trainers and our staff, really I can only speak for myself. So here's my break down, in case you are wondering:

1) My number one priority in my nutrition is OPTIMUM IMMUNE FUNCTION

This area has been a battle for me.  When I was in my teen years I was really into big gains, pushing to my max, eating tons of carbs and protein, and burning fuel as fast as I could.  I'd work out, go to work, do homework, go to school, when I was tired, sick, and could barely stand.  If there was anyone who pushed their limits, both mentally and physically, that was me.

Fast forward a few more years... I was 19 years old, doing the same thing I always do - push/drive myself into the ground.  I had 3 jobs, Dean's Honor Roll at my university, and of course training in martial arts 6 days a week 2-3 hours a day.  I had the energy to do all these things, so I did them, because I could.  If I wasn't being ultra productive, then I didn't feel valuable, and I didn't feel like I was meeting my potential if I didn't crawl into bed each night exhausted.

Then one day my hair started to fall out.  My hair fell out in huge chunks, and I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata an autoimmune disorder.

I was pretty upset about the whole thing.  Losing your locks at 19 wasn't my idea of enjoying my prime years.  Soooo, let's just say I did some research.  I started to look inward, and make some changes.  I made some big changes to my lifestyle, and the first thing I did, was look to balance my hormones and my lifestyle.  As soon as I made those changes, my hair stopped falling out and grew back.  

Since that time I have spent over a decade monitoring and trying to keep my hormones and lifestyle in check.  3 pregnancies (including giving birth to twins, vaginally, no c-section), and entering my 30's has been a continual "check your engine for maintenance" light.  I must admit, I still push myself, but I'm more on the side of steadily improving myself, rather than driving myself into the ground.

Now I have 4 beautiful boys, I'm in my 30s, and own a company with nearly 30 employees.  Sounds like a freaking LOAD of work.  Well, it is and it isn't.  Here is where my nutrition lifestyle comes into play.  First and foremost my nutrition is prioritized by the following factors: #1 is immune function, because if I don't have the ability to take on my work load in a manner that minimizes stress, and allows me plenty of time to eat right, rest, and avoid the common sicknesses and ailments that come around, then nothing else matters.  There is nothing lively about being sick all the time, and there is nothing good nor glorious about being exhausted and tired all the time.  If my immune system has been compromised, then I need to figure out a new way to treat my body, because there is nothing more detrimental to your quality of life than being sick.  

2) COGNITIVE FUNCTION

I choose a nutrition program that really keeps my brain active and sharp.  Your brain burns a minimum of 25% of your total intake of calories.  Your brain has A LOT to do, so if you feel "spacey" or have difficulty concentrating, I propose that you are not eating for your brain.  If anything you are probably not eating enough, and/or not enough of the right foods.  Our bodies are a chemistry lab, and a machine that regenerates it's own cells.  And it is our brain that is the control center.  It's really important that if you have to do any kind of problem solving, that you have optimum cognitive function, and I really can't stress this area enough.  There are tons of geniuses out there, but I wholeheartedly believe that their are plenty of people who aren't tapping into that genius, because they aren't putting their cognitive function as a priority when designing their nutrition plan.  Rather they focus on "fat burning" plan.  Or "get ripped" plan.  All of which in a nutshell are pretty much shallow focuses if you don't consider the body as a whole.  We are so much more than how many fat cells, or what percentage of body fat we are.  If you think about the thousands of nutrition plans out there, you have to ask, what's the point of all that?  For me, my first question is always, "How does this support my immune function?  How does this support my cognitive function?"  Because if it doesn't serve those two areas, or compromises/diminishes those two areas, then it's NOT WORTH IT.

3) PERFORMANCE FUNCTION

Normally, people within the fitness industry design their nutrition plan around this area of focus. PERFORMANCE.  They want to do know what they can DO.  How they can LOOK.  This is the part that really sells, and is the part marketers like to focus on.  For me, this is #3, and there is no way it's going to ever move up from there.  In my earlier years, like my teens, Performance Function was number one.  I'd do whatever it took to perform, but it came with a very serious price.  It's a lesson I have learned/relearned many times over the past decade, and it has taken me some big life lessons to really truly prioritize.  Here is where I feel wisdom really comes into play.  There are a lot of areas of focus when it comes to performance, whether you are training for a marathon, a tournament, a cage fight, a physically demanding trip - you name it, there are tons of things you can be training for.  I for one, am a mother of 4, wife, business owner - so I need to have lots of energy.  But you won't see me loading up on B vitamins or energy supplements.  I don't drink coffee, nor consume caffeine in any form, other than perhaps the occasional bit of chocolate.  It is my belief that the body creates energy all by itself, all you need to do is let it do it's job, by giving it the right fuel, and letting it rest when it needs.

For me, my performance function is longevity - essentially I need to have enough energy to get through the entire day, alert, and totally present.  Crawling into bed exhausted shows that I exerted way too much energy, and didn't intake the right amount or right kinds of fuel.

That pretty much sums up my own personal nutrition plan.  Many clients wonder about specific areas, like how to lose weight, how to get a 6 pack... and there is nothing wrong with wanting those things. But keep in mind that your body is designed a very particular way, and what works for one person, won't necessarily work for you.  I'll conclude by posing a question: What do you want from your body?  I think that's one of the key's to deciding how to design your nutrition plan.  Once you become very clear about exactly you want out of your body, then you can really start to prioritize and design a plan that works amazing, and is also sustainable.

- Elle Beyer

Free Flow Academy partnered with Lincoln Community Garden to bring free gardening classes to the community (Organic gardening workshops and Composting/Vermiculture workshops are offered quarterly)

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