I just returned from a quick trip to the city by the bay, San Francisco. It was nice to get out of the mid-November heat wave in Los Angeles for a few days I try to make it a priority to stop by my favorite bakery, Tartine, located in the Mission District. If you've ever been, you know what's up: morning buns, croissants, and lemon tarts ftw.
While waiting in line, we couldn't help but overhear a conversation behind us on how the nation's obesity problem can be fixed if grocery stores would lower their prices on produce.
Whether it was being in one of the greener cities in the United States, or our President-elect who does not believe climate change is real, I thought about something that's been on my mind for a while: the fitness industry is extremely wasteful.
Here are just a few reasons that immediately came to mind:
Single Use Packaged Drinks and Bars
The majority of your favorite vitamin enhanced, protein packed, alkalized drinks come in plastic bottles. And your favorite protein bar is probably wrapped in plastic, too. Only a startling 6% of plastic is recycled, while the rest ends up in a landfill where it will never degrade. Even worse is the plastic that doesn't make it to a trash can. Plastic never truly goes away, it only breaks up into smaller pieces, eventually making its way to the ocean for wildlife (and the fish you eat) to consume. Multiply the habit of picking up a sports drink and bar on average of three times a week, and that equates to a whopping 312 pieces of trash a year!
You might be thinking, "But I recycle, so its OK." Unfortunately it's not that simple. The process of recycling in itself expends large amounts of energy and water, and releases harmful toxins into the air you breathe. Remember, this is for the 6% of plastic that makes it to a recycle bin. Depending on where you live, not all types of plastic can even be recycled, making its way to a landfill instead.
Excess Consumption of Animal Protein
I love steak as much as the next red blooded American, but factory farmed cows take an extremely large toll on the planet. 30% of usable surface on this planet is used to grow crops for the meat industry, not for human consumption.
Many physique based athletes consume the accepted standard of 1g per LB. This translates for a 150lbs adult to 1.5lbs of chicken breast each day. Most individuals engaging in a moderately rigorous exercise program can get away with a much lower amount of 1.4-2g/KG or about 95.2-136g/day for our hypothetical 150lbs adult.
I don't for one second believe the majority of lifters are actually going to stop eating meat, myself included, but I do believe you can REDUCE the amount of animal proteins you consume. Choosing lower impact meats like pork and chicken over beef; humanely raised over feedlot conventional livestock which creates a much larger carbon footprint. It's not eliminating meat completely from your diet rather deciding to be a more informed and responsible consumer.
I believe it comes down to choice. I am not built to carry a lot of muscle and I'm okay with that. In order to put on considerable lean body mass, my protein intake needs to be REALLY high. At the time of participating in a physique show, I wasn't making much money which meant all the meat I ate was less than stellar quality (when you buy pre-ground beef, how many different cows do you think that 10lb value pack came from!?). I want to consume better quality proteins which happen to also have a lower environmental impact.
I say it's not too late but only if we collectively make the decision to make some small changes. It is possible to keep your gains without overconsumption. Yes simply by being alive we're slowly destroying OUR planet, but at the rate we're going that will come sooner than later. You think the weather has been weird right now, if we keep doing what we're doing it, it's only going to get worse.
I always think of the open from the Pixar film Wall-E, if we don't decide to change, this will be the fate of our planet in our lifetime.
- Learn more about alternative proteins, not just Soy but Seitan, Tempeh, Legumes, Quinoa, and even Broccoli can help add to your total protein intake.
- Skip the protein powders. Going back to consuming less protein in general, it's a pretty easy thing to cut out of your diet. Additonally you'll cut down on your plastic use too.
- I will consume beef more sparingly and responsibly when I do i.e- grass fed (pasture raised). I may change my stance in the future, but that's where I currently stand.
- When you are able to, get you meat from the butcher counter instead of pre-packed meats on styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic wrap.
- Refuse to purchase single use plastic protein shakes.
- Play around with your macronutrient counts, see if you can maintain the body you want with a slightly lower intake.
- Purchase as much product from bulk bins over prepackaged products. (You'll generally be healthier for this too)
- Bring your own reusable water bottle to the gym
- Stock your fridge with reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.