I’m the first to admit I’ve been pretty hardcore when it comes to working out, and have been for most of my adult life. Running has been my mainstay, and over the years I’ve added cycling, yoga and CrossFit to the mix. And yet more often than not I was feeling like a castoff spaghetti noodle during workouts, limp and weak and unworthy, watching others bask in the glow of their challenging workouts. I had very little or no energy and my exercise abilities had plateaued and were spiraling downward.
As I aged out of my 20s into my early 30s, it got even worse. While my diet isn’t terrible, I knew the root of my issue was probably connected to what I was putting in my mouth every day. Yet I was clueless where to even begin — and old habits die hard, including my longstanding sugar addiction.
Through Flywheel, I met a couple named Lindsey and Steve Justice. Steve is an instructor and also played professional football for the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. He and Lindsey were both standout college athletes at Wake Forest University; where they also met. They now run their own fitness training facility, Justice Fitness LLC, based out of their home and offer nutrition-counseling services. (I should note here that they actually train some local celebrities, but I’ve been asked to not to share any identities.)
I shared my energy and workout struggles with Lindsey, and she had me track my eating for three days. After evaluating my exercise levels, resting metabolic rate and nutritional needs, she came back to me with the news that not only was I eating many foods detrimental to the physical activity I was doing, I wasn’t giving my body enough nutrition to sustain my physical activity. Her tailored clean eating plan for me included foods I don’t eat often, including quinoa, kale and other greens, beets, sweet potatoes, almond milk and protein shakes from plant-based sources.
To say I was iffy and even a little nervous is an understatement. But I decided to go for it. I noticed changes within a few days. I felt healthier and my skin looked better. Since I started clean eating in December, my energy levels working out have skyrocketed, and would you believe it if I said that beets have become one of my favorite foods?
I am still learning about clean eating, but here are my takeaways so far:
- Eat plants and foods from the ground, including roots. Anything Mother Nature makes is good. Things humans manipulate and put into packaging are not so good.
- Meat is okay. I don’t eat red meat or chicken, but fresh, unprocessed meats, including salmon, other fish and chicken, are good for you.
- Drink lots of water. Drink more than you think is enough. It helps flush everything out.
- You need carbohydrates, especially if you are active. The carbs I am eating, including black and garbanzo beans, brown rice, quinoa and more, are whole and haven’t been altered in any way, and they pack a punch of nutrition. They will not make you fat.
- Ingredients matter. Try not to purchase items that have more than a few ingredients on the nutrition label. Think unprocessed and natural.
It’s impossible to get healthy and have the energy and fuel to maximize your workouts without eating right. You can feed yourself junk all day and workout for 4 hours (probably not a good idea either), but the right foods are key to the body and health you want. I still haven’t quite kicked my sugar addiction, but I’m in a far better place nutritionally than I was before.