People know and understand what it takes to gain physical strength. Whether you know the specifics, most people would agree it takes resistance training of some sort, on a consistent basis, and some amount of discomfort will be involved. The discomfort is why most people never start, and why many others eventually give up. The discomfort is part of the process. The discomfort is necessary.
However, when it comes to mental strength, people seem to view the process differently.
Mental strength is developed by putting ourselves in situations that are uncomfortable and require mental strength. Most of our trials and tribulations that contribute to this are things that just happen.
Loss of a loved one, dealing with a disease, fighting thru poverty, major physical issues, etc. Fortunately or unfortunately, many of us have gotten to a place in life where things are pretty good. Not that we don’t have our own set of problems, but we’re not dealing with imminent danger on a daily basis.
And therein lies the problem. When we’re not tested, when we don’t have to flex our mental strength muscle, it weakens. When it weakens, we become susceptible to every thing thrown our way.
You ever see someone just flip the eff out? My 12 year old plays baseball. I watched an opposing coach absolutely losing his shit at a kid on the team for making a base running error. A 12 year old. In Little League.
That man is mentally weak.
I’m sure we’ve all seen some epic road rage. Again, that’s weakness. If you’re allowing your emotions to be wrecked by someone cutting you off in traffic, your mental game needs work. What will happen when something ACTUALLY goes wrong?
There’s a way to combat this and keep our minds sharp and guarded. Much like strength training in the gym, we must voluntarily...uncomfortably...force ourselves into circumstances which require our minds to work past their normal capacity. Since most of us are very averse to creating our own discomfort, it takes an extra effort and discipline to make this happen.
The gym is obviously a great place to push your limits and see what you’re made of.
The mental aspect of obstacle course racing has grown to be one of the reasons I keep seeking greater challenges in that arena.
Gaining greater discipline with your diet can be another. We don’t realize how much random crap we eat until we make the decision to clean things up.
Putting yourself in the elements of unpleasant weather works as well. Forcing yourself to go for a walk when it’s freezing cold or blazing hot outside can test the best of people.
Abstaining from your vice(s), whatever it may be...tv, alcohol, sex, drugs, social media, etc...is yet another way to harder your mind, and maybe the most effective of all of these as it’s often a mindLESS, automatic response we’ve created.
Whatever it is, I encourage you to find ways to test yourself. If life is doing a fine job of giving you opportunities to grow your mental strength, then lean in and take advantage. But if you’re sitting around comfortable and complacent, be willing to embrace some suck every now and then and put your mental game to work.
In the never ending realm of diets and eating plans, one of the more popular of the moment is counting your macros. But what are macros, what does counting them mean, and why is it important to know, regardless of your eating style?
Glad you asked, and even if you didn’t, I’m going to tell you anyway;-)
Let’s start with some education. By definition, macronutrients are nutrients the body requires in large amounts, i.e. protein, carbohydrates, and fats. They are basically the main components that comprise our food, and what accounts for the calories in our food as well.
Here is a graphic to illustrate the values of each macronutrient:
So why are these macronutrients important, and how does your understanding of them benefit your health and fitness goals? Like many things in life, the better we understand what we’re dealing with, the better we can use that information to our benefit. With the constant barrage of conflicting info being throw at us in regards to nutrition, arming ourselves with more knowledge can only be a good thing.
Let’s explore what each macronutrient does in our bodies, and why we need all of them.
Protein structure is made up of amino acids, which group together to form chains. The amino acids in protein are very important to our bodies: they are responsible for things like our body’s structure (muscle building), our hormones, our enzymes, and our immune chemicals. Good sources of protein include meat, seafood, eggs, and legumes.
Fats are made up of carbon and hydrogen elements joined together in long groups called hydrocarbons. The simplest unit of fat is the fatty acid, of which there are two types: saturated and unsaturated. Dietary fat plays a number of important roles in the body: it provides energy, helps manufacture and balance hormones, forms our cell membranes, brains, and nervous systems, and helps transport certain vitamins. It also provides two essential fatty acids that the body can’t make: linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), and linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). Dietary sources of fat include nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado, olives, and egg yolks.
Carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. Sugars, starches, and fibers are all considered carbohydrates. Our digestive system breaks down carbohydrates and eventually releases them into the bloodstream in the form of glucose. Glucose is essential to life (you hear that?! ESSENTIAL): it provides fuel for the brain and central nervous system. Carbohydrates are commonly found in vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes.
In short, most healthy, long term eating plans should include a wide variety of each macronutrient because of the myriad of benefits they all have for our health.
Unfortunately there’s no right answer when it comes to the question “what should I eat?” However, we can use body types, body size, and desired goals to have a great starting point. All of us have an optimal percentage of each macronutrient to lose/gain/maintain weight and body fat.
Everyone can break down each day of eating into macro counts based on total consumption. Using a 2000 calorie diet, and employing a percentage count of 40% protein, 30% carbs, and 30% fat, you would be consuming 200g of protein, 150g of carbs, and 67g of fat. When approaching food from this angle, some people take the liberty to eat whatever they want as long as it can be accounted for within these ranges. This style of eating does allow for more freedom to still enjoy the things you love the most, as long as you are staying within the limits of your macros. However, for optimal health, it’s still recommended that a large majority (90% or so) is still nutrient dense, rather than “empty” calories. For example, while a large banana may have the same carb content as half a snickers bar, the vitamins and minerals in the banana will benefit you far greater than the lack of value in the snickers.
To reiterate, we’re all different and each of us has an appropriate range of macros for our specific goals. It’s not a perfect science, so some of this will have to be viewed as an experiment. Choose a starting point, track things for 2-3 weeks, and ask yourself if you’re getting the desired result. If you are, keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re not, reassess, make small changes, and track for another 2-3 weeks. I want people to get to a place where you do NOT have to track everything you shove into your mouth for the rest of your life because that sounds terribly exhausting! But if you spend some dedicated time learning what your intake looks like, and how to make sure you’re getting what you need for your body, then at some point it should become a part of what you do, not an additional chore.
Since 2003, I’ve been helping business professionals navigate through exercise trends and fad diets, and develop fitness and nutrition programs focused on long term success. If you’re motivated to change, and would like some professional assistance to guide the way, contact me for a strategy call to see how I can help YOU succeed.
In addition to coaching people to better fitness and nutrition, Marc enjoys writing and helping expand people's minds to live their best life.
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