top of page

Fitness Articles Archive, 2023

10/2  "With so many eating fads and eating plans out there, which diet is the best in your opinion? What about counting calories? Can you share specifically what and how you eat?"

Greetings athletes and exercisists! And this is the trillion dollar question...what and how to eat. Thank you for writing and asking. I will keep my answer as simple as possible to help the most number of people, with occasional sidenotes for advanced exercisists or fitness professionals.

Overall Philosophy

As a Bible-believing Christian who is also a zealous believer in science (especially exercise and nutritional science), I say aggressively that our body needs all three macro-categories of nutrition: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
    In Scripture, we see the redeemed community eating all three with His encouragement and blessing (Ex 16:8,12, Neh 8:10, Jn 21:12,13, 1Co 10:25). It is important to clarify, however, the proteins, carbs, and fats they ate in Mediterranean Judeo-Christian antiquity were exceedingly organic and clean. Today, in the West, some of those same foods with the same names have been frankensteined with body-destroying amounts of added sugar, added sodium, artificial preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other lab-made, man-made ingredients. Keep in mind, therefore, "bread" in Scripture and "bread" in America today (or any other food) can mean very, very different things.
    In science, we are pleasantly flooded with an innumerable, ever-growing corpora of studies, across many nations, confirming and measuring and detailing how the body needs all three--proteins, carbs, and healthy fats. Therefore, for both Biblical and scientific reasons, I am strongly against any eating plan that eliminates an entire macro-category longterm. Shortterm, for medical reasons or aesthetic reasons or spiritual reasons (doing a partial fast, Daniel fast, total fast, etc.), sure, but not as one's longterm baseline diet and longterm health.


Overall Strategy, Baseline Diet

First what I don't do, then what I do.
    I do not count calories, however, I loosely count how many grams of protein I eat everyday for athletic reasons (more on that in a sec).
    I do not eat "on the clock" every two or three hours, I eat when I am genuinely hungry. Incidentally, that tends to be every two to three hours, however, there are days when the interstice might be four or more hours depending on my last meal, or what my workout was like that day, or how calorie-rich my last protein shake was.
    Regarding eating only when I am genuinely hungry, I try to separate appetite from genuine hunger. Appetite is based on longterm habits, emotions, mood, even environment, but genuine hunger is your body telling you it needs more nutrition for another round of maintenance and regrowth. One way I distinguish the two is by waiting 20-30 minutes after I get that first impulse to eat. When it is genuine hunger, I get noticeably hungrier and my stomach feels like it is eating itself. If I wait even more, my head might start hurting or I might feel sluggish or shaky. In other words, with genuine hunger, your total bodily system seems to punish you the longer you go without eating. With appetite, a meaningful distraction often exposes its physiological deceptiveness, especially if it is further scrutinized with "Why do I really want to eat right now?" questions.
    I do not use dressings and sauces, in general, because they are often sludge with loads of fat, added sugar, and lab-made ingredients. I do, however, use different types of simple hot sauces that do not contain added sugar. My body can use the extra sodium because the rest of my diet is so low in it.
    I do eat lean proteins as the cornerstone of my diet: chicken (without the skin), turkey, fish, cottage cheese (fat-free), eggs (usually boiled), isolate protein powder (a purer, leaner version of whey protein), powder peanut butter (a leaner version of peanut butter that strains out the fat and sugar, but retains the protein), beans, etc. I almost always bake the meats, but occasionally skillet them with extra virgin olive oil.
    I do count loosely how many grams of protein I eat everyday for athletic reasons. To grow new muscle, or maintain existing muscle, the body needs around .8 to 1.3 grams of protein a day per pound of bodyweight. If I weigh 200 pounds, that means I would need at least 160 grams of protein per day, at most 230 grams. I do not get all nitpicky about an exact number, I just aim for at least 160 and stop counting after that. Because I have done this a long time, with the help of easily measured protein powder and lean meats, I usually know when I'm in my target zone without much counting at all. The bro science that has prevailed for many years is that you need 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to grow new muscle; that zone is increasingly being disproven by new research. The research is, however, consistently showing that .8 to 1.3 grams is needed to grow or maintain muscle. Other factors beyond protein intake play into muscle growth, like carb intake (when and how much), one's exercise plan, one's sleep quality (50-75% of the body's HGH is released during sleep), etc.
    I do eat healthy carbs, but with a fluctuating strategy of seesawing low and moderate intake (more on this in a sec). I focus on greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, beans, brown rice, oats, Ezekiel bread, low glycemic fruits (apples, blackberries, apricots, grapefruits, etc.), salsa (with no added sugar), etc.
    On days of harder exercise my carb intake is moderate, on days of lighter exercise or rest it is low. If my body is truly demanding more carbs in a state of genuine hunger (regardless of the day), I eat a sensible portion without overdoing it. If I am doing a photo shoot or will be on TV I go low carbs five to seven days leading into the event, then very low carbs one to two days leading into the event.
    I do eat fast-digesting carbs before, during, and immediately after exercise. This is usually bananas, sports drink, and carb gels (before or during) and honey (immediately afterwards) with oats and some kind of nut butter, though I do change it up sometimes. Before, during, and immediately after exercise is when the body makes great use of these natural sugars, instead of the body not needing the excess and it causing stress and damage to the body.
    I do eat healthy fats in moderation: extra virgin olive oil, various nut butters (with no added sugar), avocado/guacamole (with no added sugar), pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pistachios, etc.
    I do drink water, electrolyte-filled sports drinks on days I run outside (Florida heat), and coffee (with absolutely nothing in it). I occasionally drink the newer, healthier energy drinks or preworkout powders.
    I occasionally drink red wine in moderation. There's nothing like a rich red Malbec after a grueling week of hardcore training and forty hours of study!


Nuanced Techniques & Microcalibrations

While the aforementioned is my baseline diet, I use nuanced techniques at different times for different reasons.
    One, getting some 200 grams of protein from food is nearly impossible. That's a lot of food. This is where isolate protein powder is so lovely. I do two or three protein shakes a day, each with about 40 grams of protein (a smaller person would only need 20-30 grams). I do one first thing in the morning, when the body is a sponge for nutrients, and one within an hour of exercise, another time the body is a sponge for nutrients. When I am doing a final carve-down for a photo shoot or TV event, I'll do a third protein shake in the evening five to seven days leading into the event, while simultaneously decreasing carbs.
    Two, as I mentioned above, I eat fast-digesting carbs before, during, and immediately after exercise, which is when the body makes great use of simple sugars. The further away I get from the workout time-wise the less and less carbs I eat. I do not want my body having to cope with excess carbs, which will stress and damage the body and be stored as fat. Again, I do not count calories or deprive my system of what it needs, I just make my carb portions smaller and smaller the further away I get from my workout. The underlying concept here is giving the body only what it truly, truly needs and will use, with very little to no surplus. This microcalibration works wonders.
    Three, once every two weeks or so I do a splurge meal and eat whatever I want. That is usually Chinese buffet or Buffalo Wild Wings, or a mix of smaller foods like potato chips and ice cream. I do not do splurge meals less than a week apart.


Final Thoughts

Hopefully you can discern the machinery of what I've shared. Embrace all three--proteins, carbs, healthy fats. Constantly increase clean, lean, simple, natural foods as much as you are able, constantly decrease body-destroying foods with added sugar, added sodium, artificial preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other lab-made, man-made ingredients. Distinguish genuine hunger from learned appetite, emotional appetite, and situational appetite. Give your body only what it needs to be healthy and clean, with very little to no surplus.
    You do not have to get there overnight, focus instead on steady progress. You will have days you eat perfect, days you eat good enough, and days you eat destructively. Get up and keep learning and improving in your bodily journey. One bad meal or one bad day will not destroy your system or bodily goals; eating destructively consistently over time will. Your body is the Creator's gift to you. Treat it with gratitude and reverence and it will reward you with energy, mental clarity, functionality, and beauty you never thought possible.


7/24  "How do I get fit and stay fit without getting burnout, stuck on plateaus, or injured?"

Greetings athletes and exercisists! Thank you for all your questions. I will get to them one by one in the coming months.
    The question above is three-dimensional with one main idea: reaching and sustaining fitness ideals longterm amidst the roadblocks and challenges inherent to exercise.


Identity, Not a Goal, Not a Habit

Being healthy, in soul and in physique, is an identity, not a goal or a habit. Sure, it involves goals, sure, habits need to be reengineered. Ultimately, though, inner and outer health must become layers of identity, i.e., neglecting or harming my body is not Me, sedentary is not Me, obesity is not Me, toxic foods are not Me. This starts with reassessing the human examples in your history (from which we absorbed most of our wrong habits and life structures), your true feelings about yourself, the deeper reasons you eat what you do, and so on. If health can become a new identity dimension for you, watch how much easier the technical aspects become, especially avoiding burnout, motivation, and lack of discipline.

Periods & Phasic Emphases

Many people exercise the exact same way season after season after season. This type of monotone, monochrome exercising (what I call "fishbowl exercising") is one of the main causes of diminishing returns, plateaus, and burnout. Periodizing your exercise into diverse mini-seasons or phasic emphases can jumpstart new results and rejuvenate your fascination with what the body can do. Every 6-10 weeks (or whatever time segment fits your fitness purposes) change exercises, or repetitions, or durations, or frequency, or body part emphasis, or muscle groupings, etc. Miniaturizing and fractionating the vague macro concept of "fitness" into specific shortterm goals turns it into a creative building project of building You, as opposed to a monotonous must-do void of creative meaning or joy. This also lowers the injury risk because you are no longer grinding on your muscles and skeletal structure at the exact same angles day after day after day, season after season after season.

Unifitness vs Multifitness, Intensity Distribution

I use the term "unifitness" to describe fitness ideals that are limited to one main mode or zone of the body. For example, during my soccer career my fitness focused on the lower body. We had to run long, run fast, and run with direction-change agility. Not much time or energy was left for a voluminous investment in weightlifting. Competitive athletes in certain sports tend to be unifit, but also normal exercisists who might be interested in only this or that type of fitness, only this or that zone of the body. The term "multifitness", therefore, describes fitness ideals that cover most or all of the body.
    This leads us to the concept of intensity distribution. Bottom line: you cannot blast the same muscles two days in a row, regardless of your fitness purposes. The intensity on a particular muscle has to be distributed across three days, roughly. For unifitness exercisists, you'll need to variate the intensity with hard days, light days, and off days. For multifitness exercisists, variate muscle days or muscle-group days. Not only does this lower the chance of injury, but it gives your soul a chance to rejuvenate with interest and passion for the next gut-buster. If you do not distribute the intensity, injury and burnout, even catabolism and loss of fitness, are imminent.


Exercise Intuitively

My personal athletics and results went to surprising new levels when I really learned to train intuitively. Our bodies constantly give us intel. It tells us to do more or less; speed up or slow down; what exercise modules work or do not work for our genetic tendencies, skeletal angles, and body type; what is soreness or what is injury; do a light day or take an extra off day; what foods give us better results than others; etc. There are no magic formulas, workouts, or eating plans, just basic scientific absolutes and how you maneuver that science creatively for your individual system. If you can learn to blend scientific information with bodily intuition you can consistently burst through glass ceilings in your fitness journey. And avoid injury. And avoid burning out.

Methodical & Progressive, Not Antsy & Impatient

Reaching and sustaining your fitness ideals will take some time, depending on your current baseline. If you are consistent and work the science properly, gradually your body will conform to the visionary model you have set. Getting antsy or impatient will only nag you towards overtraining, injury, burnout, or all the above. Once again, this is where an identity of all-around health will help you. Goals come and go. Habits are merely behavior-level. But identity is an innermost, driving self-concept that says, "This is who I am for the rest of my life. This is not a goal or a set of behaviors that can easily be discarded or neglected. I can develop my fitness ideals methodically and progressively, no matter how long it takes, because this is truly Me."

Copyright (c) 2023, Junior deSouza Ministries. All rights reserved.

bottom of page