Part one of a two part Q&A Interview with Rachel Mateo which answers the question: should you focus on fitness or nutrition more? It also touches on mindsets when it comes to body image and overall health.
Rachel has 15 years of personal training experience and a B.S. in Exercise Science. She currently works for Juice Plus+ as a Qualifying National Marketing Director, inspiring healthy living around the world by teaching on nutrition, and she is a certified group fitness instructor with Body By Rachel online and recently Fitology. She loves her husband and their dog May. She spends weekends traveling from Pennsylvania, her home state, to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware where she gets the freedom to run and play with the dog in the water.
Q: Weight lifting vs Cardio: How often do you get each into your weekly workouts? A: I do some form of cardio about 6 days a week and like to have variety in modality and intensity. This may include online cardio classes, running outdoors, body-weight/plyometric exercises, hiking, etc. As for weightlifting, usually 2-3 days with a focus on total body training each time… also gets the heart rate up which I feel is a great bonus!
Q: What would you recommend to a novice in the world of fitness in getting started on a workout routine for the first time? A: When first beginning to exercise, I feel it is very important to work with a professional (or at least someone you know who is seasoned and knowledgeable) to assist you in proper form and technique. Begin with the basics to build a good foundation. Try not to overdo the duration and intensity and give yourself proper rest/recovery in between workouts.
Q: What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to fitness and nutrition? Why? A: To focus on more than just your micronutrition (carbs, proteins, fats). These building blocks of any diet first and foremost need to be quality: Limiting/eliminating highly processed foods and anything artificial, while focusing on whole food. Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural. Energy goes up and therefore you can have better workouts, better recovery, better results.
Q: How much do you recommend women eat calorie wise to maintain health when working out? Are calories even important? Why or Why not? A: There is something to be said for being aware of your calories in versus calories out, but it certainly should not be the sole focus. When you focus on eating clean, nutrient-rich whole foods you’re feeding your body what it truly needs so you can feel satisfied and maintain good will power. There can still be “too much of a good thing”, so when it comes to even your healthy, quality macronutrition, be aware of portion sizes, eat slowly and mindfully, and do not eat too late at night. I personally like to leave a 14 hour window from my last meal/snack of the day until my first the next day. When you stay within this eating window making health your priority in your choices your body has the chance to utilize these quality calories when they’re needed during your daily activities and then fully rest/recover at night.
Q: How do you fuel your body to work out each day? A: I live by the “WFPB” concept (Whole Food Plant Based). Not to say I’m vegan or vegetarian, but I’m mainly focused on trying to take in the most high quality nutrient and antioxidant foods. My complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and quality proteins come in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, nut butters,oats and gluten free grains, beans, organic vegan protein powders, almond milk, nondairy yogurt, etc. I do add in some eggs, fish/seafood and chicken from time to time, but not daily. So as an example, before a workout I’ll enjoy a light snack of an apple with almond butter or clementine with a handful of raw mixed nuts, and then post workout I’ll blend up a big filling smoothie with things like berries, almond milk, vegan protein powder, flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut yogurt and cinnamon. Good energy in, good energy out!
Q: Do you put more value on nutrition or workouts? Why? A: Both are integral parts of total mind/body health, but when it comes to weight management, disease prevention, mood, energy, etc. nutrition takes the front seat. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t outrun your fork”? It’s basically to say that diet is about 80% of the equation when trying to lose weight. Same concept goes for when trying to build muscle or simply change the shape of your body. Workouts are certainly important for your metabolism and strengthening/building your muscles as well as creating a calorie deficit, but exercise alone could never get you there. At least not safely, healthfully and sustainably. We need the nutrition not only to repair the microtears in our muscles as we work them, but also play a huge role in recovery, neutralization of oxidative stress, decreasing of systemic inflammation, etc.
Q: How do you balance body image with being content with where you are and pursuing a certain look with being physically fit? What would you say to a woman struggling with body image concerns? How does mindset play a role in your own fitness and coaching? A: It’s not easy when we’re bombarded with images on tv, movies, social media, advertising… all putting labels on what is acceptable. We have to do our best to focus on our health and wellbeing first and know that our individual body type/shape is very unique. Instead of fighting an against the grain in an uphill battle to try to dramatically pursue a look that may not be the way your body is designed, try taking some time to really focus on the best YOU you can be. More intense/focused dieting and exercise routines (if done properly) may be ok for a short period of time, but it’s then more important to think of things in the long term. What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection. Then ultimately asking yourself: What is my motivation? Why do I want to look this certain way? If it’s centered around a positive, healthy result, go for it and seek professional guidance to help you in that direction. Also, choose an accountability buddy who also has similar goals as you. Having someone to talk to about your successes and struggles lets you know you’re not alone in your challenges and also makes it more fun to create your new healthy habits!