It’s not what you know.

Knowing and doing are two very separate things. It’s one thing understanding the mechanics of how a particular throw works in judo, for example – being able to make it work against someone who doesn’t want to be thrown is a whole other matter.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in nutrition. Many people have a vague idea of what “healthy eating” ought to look like. Whether or not that idea is entirely accurate is another story – but most get as far as agreeing that less cake and more vegetables is usually a good thing.

When you ask those same people how they actually eat, however, it’s likely to be a very different story. One reason is that being able to apply your nutrition knowledge to

everyday life requires extra skills, over and above knowing what’s healthy and what isn’t. It’s all very well if eating healthy is all you need to think about – but for most of us, it’s about having the experience to come up with a workable system that will fit into your everyday life – complete with work, training, kids, bills to pay and days when you find yourself at a motorway service station at 10pm desperately looking for a snack.

I’m guilty of this. I’m not a nutritionist, by any means, but I know a fair bit about the subject. When I started keeping a food diary this week, though, I was shocked at how bad my actual diet was. I’d been under the impression I was making reasonably smart choices – but when I looked at it as a whole, it didn’t look so good.

This led me to two conclusions.

1. Make a plan. Trying to “wing it” as you go along rarely works, however well you know your stuff. Although you may have to change and adapt your plan as you go along – in the words of Eisenhower “plans are nothing, but planning is everything”.

2. When in doubt, call in the professionals. In the past, I’ve resisted working with a nutrition specialist on the grounds that “well, I understand it pretty well, I can put my own plan together”. Recently I’ve come to realise that being able to explain the krebs cycle or the finer points of gluconeogenesis doesn’t help in practical terms when you end up skipping lunch because you didn’t have a plan, or reaching yet again for the peanut butter because that’s the healthiest snack you have in the house.

So, when I found myself chatting to Mike Leng on twitter the other day and he offered to do a bit of work with me on a trial basis to see whether I liked it, I took him up on his offer.

It’s also one of the reasons why for the last year I’ve had the guys at Strength and Performance taking care of my strength and conditioning program. They not only know what to do, but they also have the experience from having worked with lots of other athletes to make it all fit together and work alongside all my other training. Meanwhile, it’s less that I have to think about – freeing me up to focus on what I’m doing.

The advantage of employing a specialist isn’t just that they know what to do, it’s that they have much more experience than you in figuring out how to do it, and how to tweak it to deal with the gremlins that inevitably come up. This is the kind of experience that you only get when you’ve immersed yourself in a subject and worked with it a lot. You can’t get it from book learning. There are no short cuts. That’s why they’re the professional.

3 comments

  1. I started a food diary early 2012 and it has worked wonders for me in respect of improving my nutritional intake and maintaining a healthy eating pattern. The food diary allowed me to add increased focus on my eating patterns and after 12 months I feel like I’m on point with my nutrition, to an extent where I no longer need to write everything down. I would certainly recommend this method and will return to it if I ever changed my nutritional goals again.

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