Sometimes, it’s hard to enjoy some foods unironically, because the reputation attached to them is so negative. For example, go order a smashed avo on toast at any cafe west of Bondi and expect to be instantly painted as a self-indulgent millennial crybaby.
Avocados are to millenials what Starbucks frappucinos and menthol cigarettes are to fashion writers. Following this trend, the stereotypical diet of a fitness fanatic is chicken breast, steel-cut oats and egg whites.
Athletes, bodybuilders and anyone who’s anyone in the world of fitness can be seen scarfing down these foodstuffs on the regular, and it’s no surprise why: they’re cost-effective ways to get bulk protein without supplements. Easy to prepare and easy to eat, you’d be hard-pressed to find a PT who doesn’t suggest building a diet around foods like these.
However, one English nutrition and exercise expert has flown in the face of conventional fitness wisdom by recommending you don’t follow food plans centered around these archetypal foodstuffs.
James Kew, founder of The Transformation Academy, has built a career out of dispelling common fitness myths and trends. His latest post reveals the inadequacies of common food plans spruiked by other fitness authorities.
“It’s so common to see personal trainers giving their clients the same old meal plan year after year,” Kew explains.
“It normally consists of some combination of chicken breast, broccoli, rice, a few almonds and maybe some sweet potato if you’re lucky. Now, will this meal plan ‘work’? In one sense, yes. It will drastically reduce calorie intake, and any diet that creates a calorie deficit will ‘work’. However, a diet only truly works in the long run if it is SUSTAINABLE. And this sort of plan is the opposite of sustainable.”
Chicken breast and brown rice every day might be very virtuous, but it’s also very boring. The problem with many of these meal plans – as well as with many exercise regimes or diets more broadly – is that they are inflexible. They don’t factor in your day-to-day life, and they don’t leave any room for treats or just, you know, happiness.
“How do you stick to this plan on the weekend when you’re going out to eat,” Kew asks rhetorically.
“[They] will massively increase the risk of cravings and binge-eating. These restrictive meal plans are also so limited in their food variety that you run the risk of creating nutrient deficiencies.”
Perhaps worst of all, they can damage your relationship with food, Kew relates.
“[They can] create orthorexic eating habits as people start to label food as something which is either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. As a ‘guilt-free’ food, or a ‘guilty’.”
Essentially, these diets might look good on paper but they’re not very sustainable. You need intense willpower to stick to them, and even if you do so, you might be doing yourself a disservice anyway because you’re missing out on other important trace nutrients you can’t get from just almonds and broccoli.
We’re human beings, not muscle-making machines. If you can’t have treats every now and then or even season your food, you’ll be unhappy. And when you’re unhappy, you won’t stick to good habits, and will just fall off.
Eating lean meats and consuming plenty of protein is undoubtedly the way to go if you want to build muscle and lose fat. But you need to make sure your diet is interesting and varied enough to support all the other elements of good fitness: exercise, mental health, your social life, etc.
Do yourself a favour and have a burger every so often. Your body will thank you.