When I begin training new clients, the first thing I do is ask them about their diets. Because if you want to get major results, you have to cut out what I call “food porn”—food that’s doing nothing to fuel your body, and in some cases is actually doing more harm than good. To keep things simple, I tell them there are 5 things that they absolutely, positively, MUST stop eating and drinking if they want to achieve their fitness goals:
1. Processed sugars. I’m talking about white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or pretty much any kind of sugar that came from a factory instead of a piece of fruit. Processed sugar negatively affects your metabolism, your insulin response, even your mood—and all for totally empty calories. Cutting sugar out of your diet means you’re going to have to read some labels, because it is by far the most common food additive in the U.S.
2. Alcohol. Calories that are as empty as sugar, and at 7 calories a gram, booze can really pack it on. Alcohol also dehydrates your body, which compromises muscle growth. Plus it slows your metabolism, so you burn fewer calories. In short, drinking gives you less muscle and more fat—you’re just undoing everything you’re trying to achieve with your workout.
3. Caffeine. I know there are a lot of people out there who say caffeine can give your workout a little extra “oomph.” Obviously, it can give you some extra energy to make you push harder, but the cost is that it increases cortisol levels in your body, which inhibits lean muscle growth. Plus, it can negatively affect your sleep patterns, and you’re better off working out when you’re rested than when you’re juiced.
4. Anything with a face. It used to be that you could find some decent lean meat sources, but in the last few decades, the hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals that have been used to process meat and fish make them pretty worthless as a source of protein. There are plenty of excellent vegetarian protein sources, like beans, tofu, and nuts, so you can eat clean while you get lean.
5. Gluten. Gluten is a grain-derived protein found in lots of different foods, mostly wheat, rye, and barley products. The name comes from the Latin word for “glue.” You don’t need to eat glue. Even if you’re not one of the millions who are sensitive or allergic to gluten, you’ll be operating a much cleaner machine if you cut it out of your diet. There are plenty of other healthier gluten-free alternatives, like millet, amaranth, quinoa, and oats.
By eliminating these empty or harmful “foods” from your diet, you can start turning your body into the well-oiled machine nature intended it to be. By eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you can give yourself the premium fuel to get into the best shape of your life.