There is a current misconception in the health and fitness world that people who work out a lot are the ultimate picture of health. The full picture of health, however, has many different parts. Yes, one of those parts is exercise but constantly working out doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want and however much you want with no negative impact. Eating highly processed foods that contain high amounts of sugars and toxic chemicals will be a detriment to your health regardless of how much you work out.

The theory that most people fall back on in this argument is that since those people are working out so much they are burning all of that energy as fuel. This argument fails to recognize the other substances present in processed foods. Toxic ingredients and preservatives are in most sports drinks, sports bars, and recovery snacks marketed to athletes.

No human is going to burn these toxins as fuel, these substances get stored in fat cells (a physiological protection mechanism to keep the toxins contained so that they cannot damage our vital organs). For thin people who are working out in high amounts but are constantly treating themselves with highly processed foods post workout, these toxins don’t have as many places to go considering they have a lower fat mass. This means their vital organs are at risk of damage directly from what they are ingesting.

The disconnect of thinking that if you’re working out a lot that you can eat whatever you want is pervasive in mass media as many famous athletes share their high calorie, low nutrient density meal regimes. For example, olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was highlighted on numerous news outlets for sharing that he ate fried egg sandwiches, pounds of pasta and entire pizzas while sipping on sports drinks on a daily basis while he was training.

This does a disservice to athletes everywhere because they look up to professional athletes as the gold standard of performance. Working out a lot puts a lot of stress on your body and in order for your body to heal from this stress it needs highly nutrient dense and antioxidant dense foods in order to repair and recover for ultimate performance.

We’ve come up with a couple ways to keep you nourished and balanced when it comes to fitness:

Instead of popping an energy gel or block half way through your long distance run, skip the processed, chemical stuff for a date. Pit the date before you begin your workout and slowly take bites of it or just let it sit in your mouth for a bit and let it dissolve while you work out to get the true nourishment and energy in those dates.

Thirsty and looking to replenish electrolytes after a big workout? Try this homemade all natural sports drinkand skip the bottled stuff: Nature’s Sports Drink

Finally, if you’re looking to reward yourself after a big workout with something sweet, there are so many delicious raw and organic options that taste amazing and also provide you with nourishment.

So remember: Packing in the calories will most definitely provide a fuel source but remembering to pack your training diet regime with nutrient dense foods will bring you a lot farther in any sport or activity you take part in.