Foods I Do Not Eat
Back in March, I released a blog post entitled ‘What I Eat and Why.” Of all the posts I’ve made, I received the most feedback from that one. So I figured, why not write something about the foods I stay away from and why? Some of these are obvious no-nos in the nutrition world while others are seemingly thought of as healthy today by many still. Below is a list of foods I typically stay away from most of the time, aside from the occasional meal out when I want to enjoy myself. Feel free to disagree with me on my reasoning. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers. I just know I have a lot more knowledge now than I did 20 years ago. Here goes.
I’ve made no secret about the fact that I used caffeinated pre-workout drinks for nearly 15 years. I was addicted to them. I’m starting to believe they were a huge factor in alot of my early injuries in CrossFit simply due to the fact that the caffeine content in them kept me from getting deep sleep regularly. During the deep sleep stages of sleep, our bodies are repairing tissue, rebuilding bone, strengthening our immune system, improving brain health, and recovering from workouts. I.e. This is when the good stuff takes place. Caffeine blocks the body’s ability to achieve the required level of deep sleep we all need. I finally got the personal proof in 2021 when I wore a whoop each night for a year. I would consistently get 5-20 minutes of deep sleep each night, which is far below what is normal or healthy. In short, I wasn’t recovering!
I am completely caffeine free at the moment, and enjoying much better sleep and recovery. Interestingly, sometimes I’ll poke fun at someone drinking a rockstar at 3pm in the gym only to hear in response, “Oh caffeine doesn’t affect me, I can fall asleep immediately after drinking one of these.” But being unconscious and getting quality deep sleep isn’t the same thing! We’re not talking about insomnia, we’re talking about quality sleep. And that energy drink is sure as hell blocking your sleep and recovery whether you realize it or not.
Examples include: vegetable, soybean, sunflower, safflower, canola, corn, sesame, rapeseed. There are far more than that, these are the prominent ones.
This is a big one and these oils are in everything! If you’re eating anything processed, there’s an incredibly high likelihood that these are present. I really make an effort not to touch these unhealthy oils. The list of health issues these create is too long to even list. It’s been my experience that alot of people still don’t really understand how harmful these are, and worse yet, how much of these are being consumed daily.
I am fully aware of the numerous studies showing these to be perfectly safe in the presence of a calorically balanced lifestyle/diet. But I do not trust these studies for two main reasons. 1. The bulk of these studies are funded by companies that stand to make a profit from selling products made with these oils. 2. Try not to overeat while consuming chips, cookies, mayonnaise, french fries, or almost anything else processed or deep fried…let me know how that ends up for you.
I often see people use loads of salad dressing on salads in an attempt to get some supposed nutrients from the salad while taking in a ton of vegetable oil. It’s madness guys, don’t do this. And if you need oils to cook with, save the fat from your ground beef or bacon, or use butter. There are far better options than cooking with this garbage. There’s a reason it’s cheap!
“Fake Food” Substitutes
My whole adult life I’ve seen one food substitute after another crop up. Each time the marketing is the same. ‘’Our product has the taste of insert whatever food, but without the negative health effects.’’ Whether it’s Beyond Meat, No-Cow protein bars, fish-free tuna(yes, this is a thing), or Coffee Mate creamer made from vegetable oil, I don’t touch it. If you see some study come out claiming benefits of a food in this category, again, look at who funded the study. If it’s Coca Cola, PepsiCo, or General Mills…run. Look at who stands to make money by selling these products and eat the real thing instead.
If I want milk, I drink milk, not almond milk. If I want whipping cream or butter I use the real thing, not fake creamer or margarine. The further we get away from nature, the more our health will suffer.
The only grains I really eat regularly are white rice primarily and oatmeal secondarily. The only reason I eat these is for the carbohydrates to fuel workouts, not for the micronutrients. Whole grains are typically poor in micronutrient content compared to good meat sources and fruit. I typically stay away from breads, brown rice, quinoa, corn and other grain products. There is a ton of research by now showing that whole grains create issues in our digestive systems.
Anybody that has seriously tried to gain weight for bodybuilding, powerlifting, crossfit, or strongman knows what happens when large amounts of whole grains are consumed regularly. The gut just doesn’t like them. And no, there are no ‘high protein’ grains. If you have to eat 42 grams of carbohydrate from quinoa in order to obtain 9 grams of protein, it isn’t high protein, it’s high carb with a little protein. Not only that, the proteins found in grains typically do not have great amino acid profiles. These are not a staple for me.
Vegetables + Legumes
Let me start by saying there is a growing number of people who strongly believe vegetables are the root of some of the health issues we have right now. There are others that believe that vegetables are super foods that we should be consuming in large amounts. I’ll admit I’m not an expert on this one, but I don’t believe the science is settled. I also don’t believe these are the super foods they are made out to be. That is my opinion. In fact, I would go as far as to say that these are not necessary at all. It’s been proven that we can thrive without a single vegetable for years on end. Conversely, the same cannot be said for animal products. Try going without Iron, Vitamin B12, or Vitamin A for any substantial amount of time. Lots of research has been released on the bioavailability of nutrients found in vegetables, and it isn’t as good as those found in animal products.
The way I look at veganism and vegetarianism is this: if you have to take supplements to round out the nutrients you’re not getting from your diet, your diet stinks. And if you have to eat 79 different foods to get all your nutrients, it’s simply not sustainable. If however, you have a strong personal reason for eating this way, I certainly won’t stand in your way. These are just my thoughts.
I don’t stay away from vegetables or legumes completely, I just don’t make them a priority. I do eat carrots, potatoes, and squash somewhat regularly as those are the only ones I like.
Artificial Sweeteners + Sugar
I’ll admit I haven’t spent a significant amount of time studying artificial sweeteners. I just don’t trust something that tastes sweet without any harmful effects. I stay away from diet sodas and anything else tasting sweet with zero calories. Maybe in time my mind will be changed on this. If I want something sweet, I typically go to honey or a lot less frequently real maple syrup. As for sugary foods, I actually do utilize these sometimes. If I have a grueling training day or have to perform multiple times in one day, I will have simple sugars. In this scenario, the sugars are a quick source of fuel and pose much less harm to the body. It’s important to note that outside of this scenario I don’t make a habit of consuming sugar!
Nuts and Seeds
I actually really enjoy certain nuts and seeds. I mean, who doesn’t like macadamia nuts?? But I don’t make it a habit of eating large amounts of these simply because they don’t contain much carbohydrate or protein, and some are really high in Omega 6 fats.(the fats that increase inflammation) I also want to keep my overall caloric intake to a certain limit. You can get lots of calories very quickly with these, so I tend to limit them. Macadamia’s and pistachios are an occasional treat for me however.
I used protein shakes for years and years. Over that time I’ve learned that they just weren’t necessary. It’s been several years now since using them and I haven’t noticed a single drop in performance or body composition. Maybe that’s mostly because I keep my protein intake high in general through proper nutrition.
I also do not use any multivitamin or mineral supplement either. As I mentioned in last month’s blog, these are synthetic and can potentially cause problems with toxicity. I aim to eat good foods so that I don’t have to worry about missing any key nutrients.
One supplement I still take to this day however is creatine monohydrate. It’s the only one that I do feel helps performance without any proven side effects. I’ve used it on and off since I was a teenager.
Whether it’s a “paleo/plant based snack’’ or just plain junk food…no, just, no. Eat real food! Your future self will thank you.
I’m sure there are other foods some of you have questions about that I didn’t address in this post. I do like having conversations about nutrition with you all, even if some of you disagree with me. So if you have any questions at all, feel free to shoot them at me in the gym!