By Ava Shaw
Matt Adams is Health and Fitness Coach on the Peninsula who specializes in athletic development and fat reduction. He’s been coaching four years, and specializes in providing diet and nutrition info based on the paleo/primal diet popularized by author and athlete Mark Sisson. The Dragon sat down with Adams to discuss good fats, bad fats, and what he sees as the building blocks of a healthy diet.
Q: What’s a health coach, and what training did you do to obtain the knowledge you have about food and diet?
A health coach is an individual that guides and educates others on how to optimize their health. This includes offering suggestions about diet/nutrition, exercise, sleep/rest, and general lifestyle modification. I received my Health Coaching certification through Primal Blueprints’ rigorous science based certification program. My knowledge around nutrition comes from this program, studying the work of many experts in the field of health and nutrition, and from applying the nutrition concepts that I learn to help my clients achieve their health & fitness goals.
Where do you work and what does your work do?
I currently work part-time for EXOS [health club] providing personal training services onsite at Google’s Mountain View and Sunnyvale campuses, respectively. I also own Mind Your Movement Health & Fitness Coaching, through which I provide personal and small-group coaching services to the greater San Mateo county. At both of these jobs, I provide and implement personalized health and fitness programs to my clients based on their specific needs and goals.
A lot of high schoolers eat whatever they want (or sometimes resort to binging), knowing what they eat won’t affect how they look (or don’t mind if it does). Can eating the wrong things at this age be damaging to their bodies?
Definitely, this is a key developmental age, everything is growing and maturing. Food is the building blocks of that growth, consuming the wrong things in these years can cause many health issues (however, they might not be present in the short term, they will be present in the long term.)
Is there a way to help high schoolers eat healthier/change these habits?
Having the education about foods. Even though you can get away with eating what you want right now, it will be very different in the future. Even our government food pyramid is wrong, for example: Grains like bread and rice are listed as very important on that pyramid. In reality, they cause blood sugar spikes that end up throwing off your hormonal balance, and can cause high insulin levels (meaning it becomes much easier to become overweight, as insulin stores fat in your body.)
One in six teenagers are obese because of these bad examples, and fake beliefs around food. Low fat diet studies that kids your age hear about are bad science. This is old information is from the 60’s and 70’s, where scientist were trying to prove that saturated fat is bad for you. The scientists used a butter substitute called margarine, which was basically edible plastic. In reality, we NEED saturated fat, but from real food sources, for cell development, which keeps your brain going so you can keep learning. A large portion of calories should come from saturated fats. Without fat, you’re missing out on a lot of vitamins and minerals.
Q: On the other side, studies show that students will eat less to look the way they want (which means not eating a lot throughout the school day, or skipping breakfast, lunch, or dinner). Why is this wrong?
This creates a disorder approach for eating. Your body adapts to what you eat, you don’t want to not eat. A calorie restricted diet causes your metabolism to slow, which makes it hard to maintain or lose weight, you body will seek balance by using fewer calories. This will cause lower energy levels, leading your body to start holding onto fat and start burning muscle. However, there’s nothing wrong with not eating at those times – if you are not hungry during those times it’s okay. Just make sure you eat when you’re hungry. It’s better to eat within a time restricted area if you can. Also, eating full meals is better than snacking throughout the entire day. Regardless of what you eat, your insulin levels will go up, it’s normal. Avoid snacking continuously to keep those levels low If you snack a lot, it could cause diabetes (type one or two).
Q: What are your thoughts on going vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, etc.?
I don’t think it’s bad. However, it’s tough for vegans and vegetarians to get an adequate amount of amino acids (amino acids are part of the process that assemble proteins. There are nine essential acids that are not produced in the body that you need from food.) This means that vegans need to get it from things like pea or soy protein. Vegetarians get enough proteins and fat from nutrients, but a lot of them go for higher carb diets, which is not very ideal. You just have to pay more attention to what carbs and food you’re eating (eat more yogurt and eggs), since you aren’t getting the nutrients from meats.
Q: If teenagers stay with these negative habits, what could happen in the long run?
Extreme terms: stunted growth, connective tissue issues (ligaments or tendon issues or ACL or shoulder problems), negative brain development, and metabolism problems (a set-up for obesity and diabetes).
Q: What would be a good, balanced diet for teenagers, especially since we’re still growing physically and mentally?
It comes down to the person, but on a wide spectrum, lots of vegetables, proteins, and good healthy fats (avoid fried foods, vegetable oils, and any processed foods).
Q: Do you have any advice for high schoolers’ diets, as far as taking care of their bodies?
A note for athletes, you need more carbs compared to kids who aren’t as active, because you are spending lots of calories working out, doing sports, etc. If you are trying to lose weight, don’t drop your calorie intake, add more protein, good fats, and vegetables to your diet.
If you are trying to lose weight, lose the fat, bring the carbs down, bring the protein and good fats up, don’t bring your calories down.
Make sure you leave about 12 hours or so between your breakfast and dinner time (this is clearly the time you spend getting ready to go to bed, your sleep time, AND preparation for getting up the next morning). This helps your body regulate the food you had the entire day (keeping the insulin levels down, while you sleep, which decreases the risk of diabetes and obesity). If you don’t eat during those 12 hours, your body starts getting rid of dead or dying cells. This is a good thing, because it helps process them in a positive way, getting them out of your body so they don’t accumulate there. This is not about calorie restricting, it’s purely about eating your calories in a different window to allow those calories to burn while you’re sleeping.
Remember, get moving! Use your body a lot, eat real foods that are all natural, and again, not processed.