Diet & Exercise: Dangerous habits

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

In our efforts to get in shape and stay healthy, many of us tend to stick to habits that not only tend to hinder progress, but can be downright dangerous. Let’s explore some of these “healthy” convictions and why taking them to the extreme can throw a monkey wrench into our health and fitness programs.

#1. “I don’t eat sweets.” While it’s true that we should cut way back on simple sugars like candy, cutting out all sweets can backfire. As humans, we’re hardwired to want sugar. That’s the way we can tell fruits and vegetables are ready to eat. Also, people who cut out all sweets tend to binge eat. My suggestion is to make fruit your “sweet tooth” mainstay, but occasionally have that decadent dessert.

# 2. “I rarely miss a day at the gym.” This is one mistake I see quite a bit from intermediate and advanced exercisers. You need to spend time out of the gym, no matter your fitness level. Rest, or sleep, is the state in which your body repairs itself. Also, during rest, your body dips into its fat stores, and your muscles tone, tighten, and get stronger.

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I tell clients to view rest two ways. First, think of rest as an active, not passive, part of an exercise program. Then, think of fitness as a pie with three equal slices; rest, exercise, and nutrition. If any one piece is too big, it makes the other pieces too small. In other words, if your exercise piece is too big, it makes your rest piece too small. Remember that rest is the glue that holds your program together.

#3. “I’ve gotten my body fat down to 10 percent.” Fat plays an intricate role in the formation of hormones. Women especially are at risk for bone loss if body fat levels dip too low, because they can’t produce enough estrogen, which is involved in the formation of bone. Reducing fat levels too much is dangerous too, because fat cushions internal organs, thereby protecting them.

#4. “I’ve cut way back on carbohydrates.” Remember, you can’t live without carbs. Carbohydrates are converted to something called “glycogen” by the body. Glycogen is to you, what starch is to a potato. It’s animal sugar. It is stored primarily in the liver, and is converted to glucose (which fuels our muscles and our brains) when needed by the body.

My advice is to cut back on “simple” sugars like candy and other sweets, and choose more complex carbs like whole grains and vegetables. Remember that as with many endeavors, moderation is key to the success of your fitness and nutrition program.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years.