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Q: I just started training with a personal trainer 4 days/week to get "toned-up" for my wedding, which is in 40 days. They urged me to begin taking an amino acid supplement and Life Basics plant protein powder to assist in seeing faster muscle definition because I follow a plant-based diet. I'm always cautious about putting synthetic things into my body, both medications and supplements because I'm concerned about side effects and long-term consequences. I know you used to be a personal trainer so I am wondering what are your thoughts on taking BCAAs and protein powders?
A: Find a new trainer stat — your trainer is giving you really bad advice and clearly doesn't know anything about nutrition. I saw this kind of stuff all the time when I was a trainer — the blind leading the blind into the abyss. Really sad because it's the clients who suffer.
You don't need an amino acid supplement or protein powder — both are dangerous and taxing on the body. You won't look or feel your best. Even professional vegan athletes don't need to take special supplements, they just need to eat more. You're right to be nervous and cautious about putting synthetic crap in your body ;) you go girl!
If you want to tone up and slim down, focus on super clean eating and make sure you've cut out all oils (and added fats if you want to lose weight). (If you have any of the meal plans or the reboot/cleanse on hand, do those, but you can also do your own thing, too. Just really focus on eating as whole, unprocessed as possible — no sugar, salt, oil)
A week before the wedding make sure you're avoiding really spicy food, all salt. And anything that has a tendency to bloat you like broccoli or lentils. When I'm getting ready for a photo shoot I eat a lot of rice, greens, potatoes :)
Q: I don't balance my nutritional needs, especially my protein. Please help.
A: You don't need to "balance" anything — your body does it for you naturally as long as you eat whole, plant foods. And don't ever worry about protein. You could eat nothing but potatoes all day and exceed your needs, but the meal plans are helpful for staying on track and eating well.
For more info on protein and nutrition, see my Herbie 101 Series: Nutrition post.
Q: What is it about sugar and chocolate that gives me such a huge burst of energy when I'm doing a strenuous long-distance hike? How can I hike without sugar and chocolate?
A: It's the sugar (sugar is in chocolate too) that gives you the quick boost — it's what sugar does when we eat it :) That's where the term "sugar rush" comes from — the burst of energy you get from eating sugar (candy, cookies, cake, chocolate, etc). This "burst" lasts for about 30 minutes. A healthy alternative is dried fruits, like dates. My husband and I used to carry dates with us when we ran marathons and still take them with us on long hikes or when we'll be snowboarding for hours and hours. I also like to carry baked potatoes, like sweet potatoes, but depending on what you're doing, that might not be an easy option. Whole foods are the best option because you'll get long lasting energy. Sugar (processed sugar) leaves the stomach too quickly — why you get that burst. During the "rush," your heart beats faster and you (temporarily) feel more energetic but then it wears off and you come down hard. Steady energy is much better for you — and more enjoyable!
Q: I find even with drinking water a lot I tend to get constipated but upon waking elimination is usually okay. Any tips?
A: Exercise! Walking (and yoga) can both be great at helping elimination along. I'm not a doctor, but I've written about elimination on the blog before. Make sure you're not eating any animal products, particularly dairy as it causes constipation in most people. Most often it's your diet, but sometimes other factors can be at play such as hormones (for example, many women experience constipation during pregnancy as a result of the hormonal changes in their body). See the post for more information but if the constipation continues, please see a professional.
Q: I have started a new intense weight lifting program. My trainer wants me to eat 13 grams of protein every 2 hours for 6 times a day. Help — how can I do this? I don't like protein shakes.
A: You don't need to add more protein to your diet, even if you are lifting weights. Excess protein is very bad for the body, even if it comes from plant sources.
No offense to your trainer, but most trainers don't know squat about nutrition. I say this because I used to be a personal trainer and still have many friends in the industry — I hear misinformation being thrown around all the time. The same myths and misconceptions are being regurgitated. That much protein is taxing on the kidneys and dangerous.
You can read more about nutrition in my Herbie 101 Series: Nutrition post (I get my nutritional information from doctors who are experts in the field of nutrition).
And this wraps up Herbie Fitness Week! If you missed the Herbie Fitness posts, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the series, plus our plant-based trainer Herbie of the Week, Jeremy for more info.