“And the new…”
Seeing all 245lbs of Anthony Joshua consolidate his status as a four-belt world heavyweight champion earlier this month not only led me to tread Cardiffian concrete for the first time since my heady (read: in bed by 9 pm every night) uni days but also ignited one very particular thought: Now there’s a man who laughs in the face of extreme dieting.
AJ doesn’t hide from the fact he eats well. He eats really well. According to his nutritionist, the Hertfordshire hero (just a few miles west and we could have claimed him) consumes 5,500 calories per day. A typical breakfast will consist of eggs, fruit and porridge, but it will also involve bread, pastries and jam. He eats hard. He exercises harder. Ergo, he finds a healthy balance. No awkward relationship with food. No extreme dieting (Dieting. Bleurgh. I don’t even like using the word, nor any variation of it. Nutrition? Yes. Diet? No. Trawl through all my previous blog entries and I’ll give you a free session if you find it.)
So, while I understand a male boxer whose primary goal is to maintain a substantial weight gain in the sport’s heftiest weight category perhaps isn’t the most obvious case study for those reading this blog, the reason behind such a reference is to reinforce the need, not to fad.
Depending on a number of variables, the average daily calorie consumption for men and women can range from 1,500 to 3000. Plummeting drastically below your required intake can catalyse serious side effects and a potential fear of food for the rest of your life.
No one wants that, right? Here’s why crash diets are trash diets.
Guess what? Extreme diets can actually make you put weight on. Depriving yourself of calories will force the body into starvation mode; energy levels drop, metabolism slows and fat deposits are conserved, so when you resume a normal diet that fat is retained. You could also experience a loss of muscle mass. Not ideal if you’re attempting to trim down and tone up.
Extreme diets put the fat in fatigue. Blood sugar levels decrease, leading to lethargy and a resulting lack of focus and awareness. Motivation to exercise is affected and, even if you do manage to maintain a training program, the quality – and intended fitness gain – is often compromised. Research even alludes to a lower sex drive. Just saying.
By omitting certain food groups from your diet, you’ll naturally eradicate essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to uphold a strong immune system. Aside from constant bloating, you could be more susceptible to illness with an increased likelihood of dehydration, sinus problems, malnutrition and gallstones to name but a few. Harsh, but sadly true.
In addition to the physical debilitations described above, extreme dieting can have negative implications for your mental state. Enduring such an ordeal without benefiting from the expected results is a direct route to depression, while the aforementioned half-hearted exercise won’t provide the rush of endorphins you’d naturally produce from a fully-committed camp. Chuck in social angst, a lack of confidence and an uncomfortably irritable relationship with food (it’s not uncommon to experience substantial hunger pangs which ultimately lead to “crave, cheat and punish” scenarios) and it’s all quite literally mental.
From tapeworms to cabbage soup, baby food to cotton balls and all that juicing jazz in between, healthy lifestyle goals can and should be successfully achieved through sensible nutrition alongside a manageable exercise program. As always, if you’d like to discuss any of the above in greater detail then please do not hesitate to pick up that phone, log in to that email or, for the traditionalists out there, grab that pen and write me a letter.