Lean or Healthy? Can You Have Both?
I was scrolling my Facebook feed this morning when a fellow personal trainer posted the question... "Lean or Healthy?" I'm sure most of us can agree 'both' is our preferred answer but it got me thinking. If you had to pick one what would you choose? Is there a difference?
To expand on this topic, what habits contribute the most to these goals and most importantly - are you actually prioritizing the right habits for your goals?
Note: I'm writing this from the perspective of exercise and nutritional habits ONLY. Many other lifestyle, stress, genetic, medical, age, etc circumstances should be always be considered.
GOAL #1: Lean (weight loss)
It's no surprise the most common goal is weight loss. Whether that means 'lean' to you or not is subjective. Either way, the two generally go hand-in-hand.
If this is your goal, exercise should not be your priority. Say whaaaaat? Nutrition should be. I'm sure you've heard that a hundred times but few take it seriously enough to take action. I've had dozens of clients achieve the lean body they desire without any exercise at all (short time period only).
I've yet to have any achieve their ideal body with exercise alone.
For the general population a 'Goldilox' energy deficit should be your main focus. Not to much, not to little, just right. You can eat Twinkies and lose weight. <- It's been done!
GOAL #2: Healthy
This is the goal we all say is priority #1, but it's just because we don't want to admit to the people around us that our vanity often takes precedence. I won't tell anyone ;) Good news is you can have both, but it takes more self control then getting lean alone.
Like our weight loss goal above, we must achieve our energy deficit AND focus on micronutrients (vitamins & minerals). Easiest way, eat more veggies & fruits. These healthy foods also come with the added benefit of generally being low calorie so you'll get the healthy side effect of losing more weight naturally.
Exercise again should again not be the main priority but that in no way means exercise doesn't have a slew of healthy benefits.
GOAL #3: Anti-Aging
This is rarely the first goal people pick but one that everyone wants.
Here you'll want to prioritize everything from the 'healthy' category along with resistance training. As we age our muscle tends to diminish leading to multiple possible issues. Resistance training can help us maintain, and in some instances, gain muscle tissue to slow this entire process.
Like the goals above, this doesn't mean that other forms of exercise aren't important such as cardio or yoga. It just means from my observation this is the category of exercise people tend to overlook with the greatest benefits.
GOALS #4 Athletic
This is where the fitness nuts shine :) and you'll want to prioritize fitness. Don't confuse "looks athletic" with "is athletic." If you just want to look athletic, see goal #2, maybe goal #1.
Athletic is a subjective term (think sumo wrestler vrs. track star) but unless you're competing at an advanced level, nutrition isn't as vital. Your goal is to train your body to move the way you require it to which only exercise can fulfill.
Of course, your weight, hydration and health will only make your athleticism easier so you'll want to have some kind of level of nutrition (see goal #2).
This is an extremely basic overview of major goals I've observed over the last decade as a coach, personal trainer and nutritional coach. Day after day / year after year I see clients prioritize exercise over nutrition in order to get lean or lose the weight. It's a vicious cycle of poor understanding that must end if we're to end the obesity pandemic.
Nothing with our health is black or white and every person is unique. I don't recommend ever making the choice between exercise or nutrition but a healthy balance between the two to achieve the goal(s) you want to achieve.
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