Nutrition For The Non-Athlete Vs. Athlete
When I look at a client’s needs it is very important to distinguish the difference between the athlete and the non-athlete. These are two very different people with different needs. Many times I find people implementing “intense” (for lack of a better word) dietary interventions or “diets” because of its recent popularity or use in athletes.
Something I see a lot in the world of nutrition is a lack of distinction between how we should eat for a general healthy life style and how we should be eating as an athlete. Let me be clear that these are two very different mind sets with different end goals. I see a lot non-athletes implementing specialized diets, that are primarily for trained athletes with very specific goals and time frames.
First let me define what I mean when I say athlete. Although, there are many highly active and fit individuals who keep up incredible fitness regimens, that is not what I mean when I say athlete. Athletes are those who compete, not at recreational levels, but at at more competitive levels. These are those who depend on that millisecond difference in time or that compete at levels where every ounce counts, and their form is of paramount importance.
The way an athlete eats while in training is crucial for optimal performance and improvement. However, they are often required to be stricter with their dietary intake. It is this strictness that has often been glorified by many as the ideal lifestyle. There seems to be a silent agreement that those who are on a strict diet must be “hard core” and dedicated. These are generally desirable attributes in our society and so people try to mimic this without a genuine need to do so other then the desire for “hard core” status and fast (yet largely unmaintainable) results.
Here is the problem with this mind set, first of all many of these dietary methods are very difficult adhere to, especially when coupled with our bodies natural desire to adhere to it’s norm, meaning its current fatness level, its current feeding times and its current diet (this is largely due to hormones). Once cravings and exhaustion and mental fatigue set in, most people fail and crash. Hence the term crash diet.
For the average non-athlete here is something you need to ask yourself before going on a “diet”, is this style of eating what you want to maintain for the rest of your life, or would it even be healthy to do so? If the answer is no, then chances are, that is not the right diet for you. The thing is that reaching your goal is only part of the battle. By far the hardest part is maintenance of weight loss, and if a diet does not incorporate healthy long term habits that will help you know how to eat to maintain your goals, then most people gain it all right back (even if they did manage to complete their diet). A diet is something your on or off of, but healthy habits are there for life.
So in conclusion, first determine weather you fall in the range of athlete or non-athlete (and be honest). Secondly find the right nutrition coach or dietary life style that fits your current fitness level. Going from 0 – 60mph sounds good for cars but hardly works with the human body.