Athletes are a good example of people who really do need to track their diet and exercise efforts in order to maximize their performance. Sure we’ve heard some athletes boast that they consume candy and caffeinated soda to “fuel their performance” - we’ll never know if they were to shift their consumption to healthier choices if their amazing performance would become…even more amazing. What we do know is that Celtic’s guard Ray Allen did realize that eating a cheeseburger or two before practice at age 19 did not translate into an amazing practice effort.
Today at 34 he defies the usual injuries and complaints that plague fellow athletes his age. He credits his strong commitment to a pristine diet and his fitness regimen as two tools that have kept him in incredible age-defying shape. He had the intelligence at a relatively young age to understand that what he did and did not choose to eat, would impact his energy levels, his ability to sustain an excellent effort even till the end of a game, his ability to fuel that constant running up and down the court for the game and even overtime.
He admits to making an huge investment in his career at a young age which included no alcohol, getting enough rest and the payoff has been a body he could depend on, season after season even till today. A typical menu of the day?
Egg whites, spinach and orange juice for breakfast
Chicken, rice and asparagus before a game
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich during halftime
Cheese pizza, after a game.
He does allow himself a treat now and then but much of the year his diet supports a focus on good food choices that fuel his athleticism. So what can we mortals learn from this story? If we want to be healthy (lower our risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cancers, arthritis) - if we want our bodies to perform (and lower our risk of osteoporosis, degenerative knees) - if we want longevity and a quality driven life - then we need to eat to live and not live to eat. We need to address weight issues and re-think how and why we eat. What you put into your body (and your kid’s bodies) has great relevance when it comes to how you perform physically and mentally; whether your risk of developing certain diseases will be amplified; whether you will reach your senior years and still be mobile and active; how much money you will spend on medications and treatments meant to battle those lifestyle related conditions.
The phrase “you are what you eat” has managed to remain a valid commentary on the relationship most people have with food. Overeat foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt and you will gain weight and increase your risk of disease. You will also very often feel sluggish and unable to be active. The reverse of course, holds true as well. Nourish your body with a healthy diet and more often than not - the payoff will be a strong, energetic body that will indeed stand the test of time and years.
Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”