We know the time, investment, and attention to detail it takes when training to build a Power Athlete. It is not an overnight process, and athletes must learn the necessary focus and commitment it takes to become a Power Athlete. A large part of this commitment is nutrition. And just like the transition from traditional training to Field Strong, transitioning from non organic vegetables and fruits and conventional meats, fish, and fowl to their healthier counterparts doesn’t happen that quickly either. Like building a solid strength foundation it takes time, quality effort and consistency. This is best undertaken at a gradual and progressive pace. Unless you have a lot of time and money it can be overwhelming initially and set you up for failure. Being an all or none kind of girl it has taken me many years of mistakes to learn this, so perhaps I can spare you some time. . .
Organic VS Non-Organic
Let’s first take a look at some of the differences between organic and non organic vegetables and fruits.
- -Conventional farming uses chemicals for pesticides while organic farming uses only naturally occurring chemicals or traditional remedies to control pests and diseases.
- -Organic farming has zero tolerance for genetically modified crops while conventional farming relies heavily on them. What does that mean to you? Well, scientists are a long ways off from understanding how genes work and the long term effects of changing the make up of genes is unknown. Not a gamble I want to take and if history does indeed repeat itself when you alter nature it never goes well—for nature makes no mistakes.
- -Pesticides used in conventional farming may improve crop yield, but are hazardous and may damage your health. You won’t notice it immediately for the damage is cumulative over years.
- -Organic crops use manure as fertilizer which leads conventional proponents to fear contamination along with mold growth. However by composting the manure for a precise time/temperature the bacteria is greatly reduced. And the chemicals such as nitrates used in conventional practices actually make crops more vulnerable to mold.
- -Both organic and non organic farming practices impact the environment yet organic practices minimize the chemical load thus limiting the damage to the health of the environment. It is more sustainable, promoting biodiversity and improving overall health of the soil.
Meat and fowl are no different where farming practices are concerned.
- -Pastured animals are raised on grasses and allowed to roam freely as opposed to being kept in confinement and fed primarily grains. Some are 100% grass-fed, some seasonally (spring-fall) and some supplemented w/ grain or hay.
- -The traditional method of raising animals is ecological, sustainable, and humane and produces the most nutritious meat dairy and eggs. We can learn much from our ancestors.
- -The meat is significantly higher in EFA’s, CLA and other important nutrients. The dairy and eggs of pastured animals is the key to the healthy nutritional profile
- -Fowl is typically fed grains while on pasture but those having access to grass/bugs make their meat healthier than conventional.
Seafood: Farm Raised vs Wild
- -Farmed fish grow up commercially in tanks or enclosures; these tight living quarters lend themselves to greater disease, toxin exposure, artificial dyes, antibiotics and contain more fat than their wild counterparts since they don’t get enough “exercise”
- -Wild fish or fish that grow up the way nature intended have a healthier fatty acid profiles, low levels of disease and are free from antibiotics, pesticides and artificial dies. They roam around the ocean, lake or pond finding their own food.
- -Mercury can be an issue with seafood in general so stick to varieties with lower levels and more ecological and sustainable practices.
Overall the crop rotation, higher animal welfare standards and restricted use of chemicals lead to lower yields and higher costs for organic farming while subsides from the government are paid mainly to conventional farmers allowing them to keep prices lower.
So, while few of any intelligence will debate that pastured and wild varieties of meat, fish and fowl are better for you along with organic fruits/vegetables the only downside is you pay more. The bigger picture needs to be viewed—you will pay now or you will pay later. As you age and advance into your later decades the cumulative effects will begin to take their toll. Health and the ability to continue your sport or activities of daily living will be diminished. Nutrition is paramount in preventing this, along with most age related diseases.
Committing to an organic diet is simple and needn’t break the bank. Switch slowly and be selective. Some things cause more harm than others. With regards to vegetables and fruits there is a well known list called The Dirty Dozen which shows the top 12 items best bought organic along with the Clean 15; a list of produce items that are less harmful if bought conventional. Start there and pay attention – see if you notice a difference in taste, texture, size and appearance. I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
As far as eggs, meat and dairy go, dairy is #1 on my list. Conventional pasteurized dairy is one of the most highly allergenic foods there is. Why is this? You are buying into a whole chemical system of agriculture. Along with that the high temperature processing denatures the fragile milk proteins making them unrecognizable to our bodies; milk is a living food complete with live enzymes that are destroyed in the process and becomes a dead food. Vitamins and minerals are also destroyed or greatly reduced. The best dairy is raw from a grass fed Jersey cow. Unfortunately, raw dairy is illegal or unavailable in many states so it depends upon where you live and your resources. The next best is organic which means without antibiotics, artificial hormones and pesticides and can be found in all states.
If it walks or flies pastured is always best; next best and available in many commercial supermarkets (and at a lower price) is “natural” or hormone/antibiotic free. Start where you can with the cuts/products available and go from there. The best eggs will come from birds that are allowed to roam around and eat bugs. You can find varieties in most grocery stores, locate a local farmer that sells in small quantities or form a buying club with friends or members of your box/gym. More people buying together can often get a very reasonable price.
If it swims—eat wild seafood only. Wherever you shop that should be clearly marked and quality stores will be able to tell you where the seafood came from, how it was caught and guidance to varieties with lower mercury levels. You can also order quality seafood online but the cost is usually higher.
Where the dollars really start to rack up are in the packaged and processed organic versions of “junk” foods. Although they lack the chemicals/toxins of their conventional counterpoints they are not all that good for us nutritionally. Spend your money wisely by sticking to vegetables, fruits and your protein sources.
Other healthy lifestyle changes that you can begin to make are switching to unrefined sea salt, aluminum free deodorant, fluoride free toothpaste and the more natural alternatives in health & beauty aids along with household cleaning products. Anything you use on your skin, body or in the air around you can and will be absorbed into your body.
Think in terms of cooking from scratch instead of buying prepared foods or going out to eat. Generally speaking you will not get the quality of a home cooked meal at a restaurant without a hefty price tag. Reserve that for special occasions. Take turns cooking with your spouse or roommate. Sharing the tasks will make cooking less daunting and you can learn and feed off each others talents and ideas.
Join local Coops and CSA’s
Search out local coops. Rather than pay $7.99 a pound for grass fed ground beef join a meat buying group and pay closer to $4.99 per pound. They are located in almost every state and you can even cow share. Families will get together and divide a whole cow. All you will need is a small freezer which you can keep in your garage. We order quarterly from a quality farm in Tennessee that delivers to Florida 4x a year which saves both time and money.
Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. The only thing better than organic produce is locally grown organic produce. Ours runs seasonally and we get it at a very low cost with pick up weekly or biweekly. It’s also a way of giving back to the community. We have volunteer hours and it was a good experience not to mention a Field Strong like workout to weed, hoe, compost and later pick our own vegetables.
These simple, selective and gradual changes will pay great dividends long term. It is a process and lifestyle that you can begin now and work on over the years. We would not compromise our training as it would reflect negatively in our results. The same is true with our nutrition. I have been personally working on this journey for over 10 years now. It has been life changing and the benefits I have received are visible in both my health and performance allowing me to perform Field Strong workouts 5-6 days a week at the young age of 54. A testament in and of itself and well worth turning on the switch.
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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