What if we were to look at how we move our body the same way we look at how we feed our body?
Balanced and Nutrient Dense Movement
Do you feed your body a healthy diet of different movements and challenges? Or is your body fed bland, monotonous and artificial movements?
So many of us pay such close attention to our food intake, making sure we eat a balanced diet, composed of clean and nutritious food but hardly anyone gives the same thought to their body intake, making sure they move in a balanced way, filled with clean, diverse, and stimulating movements and exercises.
I first came across the concept of nutritious movement while listening to a biomechanist talk about how she looks at the health of the body and our skeletal system. Katy Bowman, the woman behind Nutritious Movement, introduced this concept and gave me a very rich idea to play with: looking at our movement and exercise like nutrition.
Movetrition, a.k.a. Movement Nutrition
Movetrition looks at the quality of your movement diet. How nutrient rich is your movement? Do you move in different ways every day? Do you have strength, endurance, flexibility and balance in the pantry? Do you feed your body the essential vitamins and minerals, the dozens of small but crucial angles, ranges of motion and tensions that our bodies need to thrive?
The best way to think about movement nutrition is to parallel it directly to food.
Movements are made up of macronutrients, or high level concepts, and micronutrients, low level specific actions, angles, movements and pressures. Every movement or exercise is a collection/combination of macro and micronutrients just like every food is made up of fat/carbs/protein and differing levels of vitamins and minerals.
Here’s the basic analogy:
Fat – Flexibility
Protein – Strength
Carbohydrate – Cardiovascular/Aerobic
Fiber – Balance and Coordination
Do you have a well balanced diet? Are all your macro movements represented in decent amounts on a weekly, if not daily, basis?
Vitamins – Muscles and body integration – each muscle (group) is a different vitamin
Minerals – Joint movements – all the joints and their motions are minerals
Is your movement diet nutrient rich? Do all your muscles and joints get to move throughout their full ranges of motion?
Do you move in ways that provide you with flexibility, cardiovascular, strength and balance nutrients? Do your hips, back and shoulders move though all their possible ranges of motion and angles? Do you challenge coordination, balance, tension and speed? Do you use your body in all it’s possible potential?
For every hour spent doing cardio (carbs), is there an hour spent strengthening (protein) and stretching (fat)? Let’s not forget the importance of fiber (balance).
For every repetition using your legs (vitamin D) is there some with your upper body (vitamin A)? For every crunch (vitamin K) is there back exercise (vitamin E)? How is your grip strength (vitamin C)? How is the status of your posture muscles (vitamin B1)?
For every hour in a seated position (calcium), do you have a bunch of time working on standing straight up (magnesium)? For every repetition pushing your arms away from you (sodium) is there a repetition or more of pulling (potassium)?
Do you feed your body some of the vitamin and mineral rich foods of lateral movements, twisting, bending and jumping? Is there low and slow movement in your diet? Fast and furious? Easy and predictable? Challenging and unpredictable?
Bread, Chicken and Olive Oil
After all these questions, let’s get on to some specifics. Take the example of someone who only runs for exercise. Running is like bread. Perfectly fine as part of the diet but if all you do is live on bread you’re not going to be healthy. Running is cardio (carbs) with a very limited range of motion through the hips and shoulders (a couple minerals) that challenges the same limited muscles (vitamins) over and over. There’s very little strength and flexibility in that runner’s movement diet and an overload of some nutrients with a glaring void in many others. If they were to run on trails sometimes it’s like eating whole grain bread or sweet potatoes but it’s still the same basic nutrient package. Your body needs more diversity. Run on a treadmill? That’s like white bread.
If all you do is lift weights it’s like eating nothing but chicken. Strength training, like protein, is crucial for optimal health, but too much, particularly without fats and carbohydrates, isn’t healthy. A well programmed strength program is like eating a high protein diet of fish, beef, chicken and pork that gets most of the basic vitamins and minerals but is severely lacking in others, as well as fat and carbohydrates (a recipe for disaster). If you use machines to strength train, it’s almost like eating processed meat or a protein shake. Sure the basic nutrients are there but they are akin to man made food. Very limited in much of the more nuanced vitamins and minerals and further away from the natural state. Your body needs more balanced nutrition than just chicken.
If all you do is take some simple yoga, that’s great because fat is good for you, but you’re living on olive oil. The better the yoga practice the more eclectic the fat and nutrient intake. But now you’re living on olive oil, almonds, coconut oil and butter. You’ll do fine on a ketogenic diet for a while but without a decent amount of the other macronutrients you will not thrive.
A Movetrient Rich Diet
All that being said, how do we make sure we have a movement nutrient rich life? By looking at our movement like nutrition and creating balance and improving quality whenever we can.
- Include cardio, strength, flexibility and balance each week, if not every day.
- Add more of the vitamins and minerals you lack. If you have a lot of sitting down time, absorbing a ton of those bent over posture vitamins and minerals, start to think about how you can increase your intake of the opposite nutrients of good straight posture and flexible hips, back and shoulders. If you’re heavy on leg work, add more upper body.
- Vary the versions of the movements you like. Run, stretch, lift in different ways on a regular basis.
- Look for the organic versions of movement. Bodyweight based movement is the most natural and clean you can get.
- Merge macro movements. Cooking the chicken in olive oil- add fuller range of motion to your strength training.
- Add some more vegetables to your diet (walking and hiking). Treadmill walking is canned veggies.
- Find the enjoyable cuisine. Good movement is like good food. It feels good. Make sure you like the ways you move (but don’t forget you have to eat things that are good for you every once in a while).
The body needs to be moved in all its potential ways and challenged in numerous avenues. The more balanced and nourishing your movement practices are the better you will feel. Treat yourself to some good nourishing movement and you will never look at nutrition the same again.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!
P.S. There’s a ton of other little notes and thoughts I jotted down that didn’t make the main meal but ended up as extra side dishes…
The concept of macronutrient movement (exercise in particular), everything we do is a combination of strength, cardio, flexibility and balance) usually with a strong bias toward one.
Just as there is a fear of fat, there is a fear of flexibility, aka stretching. No surprise that the main energy source we burn during low intensity activities (like stretching) is fat.
Just as we are drawn to carbs, people seem to think of cardio as the main way to exercise and be fit. The main energy source that fuels cardio is carbohydrate.
People are also a little wary of strength training, much like there is a little concern with eating “too much meat”. No surprise that protein is the main nutrient needed to recover from a strength training session.
Some movements are artificial and some are natural. Push-ups are natural, bench press is artificial.
Bodyweight strength training is like eating grass fed beef.
Interval hill running is like eating oranges.
Gymnastics are like avocados. Avocados are healthy but not everyone likes them. Avocados are great but you can eat too much.
Obstacle racing is like almonds.
Intense yoga is like coconut.
Is a good hike like kale?
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