March Madness

Originally posted on DIAKADI's blog DB40

We here at DIAKADI love a good championship bracket. So when Yale BUSTED all of our March Madness brackets, we decided to put our 16 favorite healthy habits head-to-head. The Bay Area’s most educated fitness trainers and performance coaches have voted, and the results are in:



Game 1: Work-Life Balance With Electronics Reduction vs. Sleeping 8 Hours Per Night

In our tournament’s opening matchup between Work-Life Balance and Sleeping 8 Hours, Work-Life Balance just barely edged out 8 Hours of Sleep with a three-pointer at the last second.  Both are extremely important, but Work-Life Balance’s edge in the game was its stronger overall impact: "Work-Life balance has a strong influence on sleep and often directly improves it, whereas sleep will not necessarily affect your work-life balance," says CHEK Practitioner and Corrective Exercise Specialist Nicolette Amarillas

Game 2: New Discoveries And Challenges vs. Social Connections And Enjoyment

In a matchup between New Discoveries & Challenges and Social Connections & Enjoyment, Discoveries & Challenges came out on top.

New Discoveries’ edge in the game can be summed up by veteran CHEK certified trainer and health coach Kelly Redanz: “New discoveries and challenges in life are vital to an individual’s growth and fulfillment. Feeling comfy in our own skin, being "alone" with ourselves and trusting ourselves, is the important first step, which can then lead to meeting new people and new social interactions.” 

Game 3: Strength Training vs. Cardio Workout WORKOUTS

Strength Training dominated against Cardio Workouts. This one was a shut-out for the “Granddaddy of Exercise”!

DIAKADI trainer Leandro Godoy put it best: “You can achieve the same benefits of heart health and aerobic conditioning from Strength Training if properly performed (circuit training for example), as well as other advantages like increased resting metabolic rate which is the most important factor for fat loss, blood sugar control, low cholesterol (LDL), muscle development, bones density etc... I would pick Strength Training!”

With Strength Training already holding a commanding lead, things got even worse for Cardio, as DIAKADI trainer and PhD candidate Liz Letchford stated, “Are you kidding?!? Definitely strength training. Definitely. Especially into old age, injury prevention, bone density, increased RMR, better hormonal profiles. Plus... you can always lift weights faster™!”   

Game 4: Stretching And Foam Rolling vs. Proper Breathing Technique

A stunning upset of longtime favorite Stretching & Foam Rolling to Proper Breathing. Stretching fans were floored, but holistic health coach Elaine Williams explains, “Proper breathing technique regulates your autonomic nervous system. The ANS controls every system in your body, including the fascial system. So if you want to have long-term sustainable health, breathing is your foundation.”

Game 5: Drinking Adequate Amounts of Water Daily vs. Avoiding Alcohol

Drinking Water edged out Avoiding Alcohol. Our team fully supports the idea that Alcohol should be used in moderation, but believes that the health benefits of water outweigh the ill effects of limited alcohol use, with many studies actually praising the positive effects of red wine consumption.

Leading strength and conditioning coach Ross Steiner explains, “If you enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail with your friends once or twice a week it's not going to derail your entire program. In fact, I believe that rewarding yourself and being social can be quite rewarding. Remember that the human body is around 70% water, and much of this is lost due to autonomic functions like sweating, breathing, and urination. This alone tells you how important it is to stay hydrated to optimize body function.”

Game 6: Paleo Diet vs. Vegetarian Diet

In a matchup between the diets Paleo and Vegetarian, Paleo came out on top. Paleo’s edge in the game, according to DIAKADI Wellness Coach Zach Scioli: “Following a paleo diet will automatically keep you from consuming pro-inflammatory fats, gut damaging grains, sugars, and toxic food preservatives. Conversely, a vegetarian diet often corrals individuals into eating those very foods by default.”

Game 7: Substituting Whole/Naturals Foods For Processed Foods vs. Avoiding Late Night Meals & Food

Eating Whole Foods blew Avoiding Late-Night Eats out of the water. This one was a clear landslide amongst the DIAKADI trainers and staff—the quality and daily totals for food are much more important than the timing of the consumption of food. As DIAKADI founder Billy Polson (CSCS) explains, “Numerous studies have proven that the total daily volume of your foods and macro-nutrient groups is the key to muscle building, body composition, and meeting your daily energy needs, regardless of the time of day when foods are eaten.”

Game 8: Avoiding Gluten-Free vs. Organic  

Spectators were shocked when Eating Gluten-Free AKA “The New Hotness” was felled by Eating Organic. All of the trainers agreed with DIAKADI owner Mike Clausen that “A gluten-free diet is very important for individuals suffering from celiac disease, but for the majority of the population, eating organic foods and following the Rules of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ is far more beneficial.”  

Remember: Just because something is gluten-free does not mean that it is healthy—gluten-free stipulates the amount of gluten in a food, it says nothing about the rest of the food’s nutrition content!


Game 1: Work-Life Balance with Electronics Reduction vs. New Discoveries And Challenges  

In a matchup between Work-Life Balance and New Discoveries & Challenges, Work-Life Balance wins it at the buzzer, leaving adventure enthusiasts everywhere breathless. The edge in the game: Billy Polson clinched it for Work-Life Balance when he stated, “Based on comments from our trainers and after witnessing clients that allow too many 'New Discoveries' to actually run them ragged and get them sick, Work/Life Balance is the winner. An improved Work-Life Balance will hopefully in turn promote New Discoveries.” 

Game 2: Proper Breathing Technique vs. Strength Training 

Proper Breathing falls to Strength Training. This one was a show stopper with a clear divide between DIAKADI trainers. However, Strength Training prevailed – as Gavin Birmingham pointed out: “Anyone who lifts heavy must learn how to breathe properly. It becomes natural, otherwise you cannot complete the movement.” On a different day, things might have gone in Proper Breathing’s favor. 

Game 3: Drinking Adequate Amounts of Water Daily vs. Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet got embarrassed by the Habit of Drinking Water. While the team agrees that eating proper nutrients is a key factor for optimal performance, veteran DIAKADI fitness coach Gina Gutierrez lays it out clearly: “There’s simply no denying the essential truth that without proper hydration, major system issues ranging from thickening of the blood to reductions in the body’s detoxification abilities are experienced.”  

Game 4: Substituting Whole/Natural Foods for Processed Foods vs. Eating Organic  

The Habit of Eating Certified Organic got trounced by the Habit of Eating Whole/Unprocessed Foods.  The case was open and shut, as trainers Christian Luecke & Gavin Birmingham pointed out: the organic label has become more about food politics and meeting an arbitrary USDA standard than it is about good health. 


Game 1: Work-Life Balance with Electronics Reductions vs. Strength Training 

This one will go down in the history books, folks—Work-Life Balance upsets the number one seed Strength Training. How could this happen? The movement and power of Strength Training seemed unbeatable.  

However, DIAKADI trainer Anka Urbahn explains, “There is no point in working out when you are overly stressed or tired. Nothing good can come from it. In fact, excessively elevated levels of cortisol can cause tissue break down and often lead to injury.”  

Cultivate Balance (hopefully INCLUDING strength training) before building toward optimal physical performance. Strength, without Balance, is a losing battle.

Game 2: Substituting Whole/Natural Foods For Processed Foods vs. Drinking Adequate Amounts Of Water Daily     

Eating Whole/Unprocessed Foods just barely edges out Drinking Water. Both are so important that it was hard for the trainers to call this one; however, San Francisco magazine’s ‘Best Trainer for Abs’ Jackson Bloore explains: “Studies show that the average person gets 20% of daily water consumption from food and those that eat whole/natural foods get even more. Given that, eating whole/natural foods to fuel your body is far more important. Your body is a priceless and amazing machine, providing it with nutrient dense whole foods will allow you to get the most out of it and out of life. You wouldn’t put low-grade in your BMW, why treat your body worse than your car?” 


Work-Life Balance vs. Eating Whole Foods 

Nothing is better than a championship match that goes into double overtimes. This match definitely came down to the last minute buzzer shot.

On one side of the court, trainers Jesse Garcia, Liz Letchford, and Billy Polson laid out the definitive response: Food is medicine. Whole and natural foods are essential to life.

The opposing team of Gavin BirminghamKelly Redanz, and Christian Pitkin stuck to their plan: Balance is the key to happiness and will often lead to clean nutrition. So let’s go back to the original question. “What habit is best for leading you to a well-tuned body and a healthful life?”  Considering that our food is the building block for every cell within the body, the decisions we make around food will most directly lead to a strong body and comfortable life.


Substituting Whole Natural Foods For Processed Foods   

Now, don’t get us wrong, all of these habits are important. If we neglect any of the core healthy habits for very long, that neglect can have a lasting impact. While we want to see you all in the gym, crushing the weights and pushing yourselves to even better personal bests, don’t forget that the foods you choose to fuel your body matter and your passion for fitness has to be part of a greater balanced life.  

Stay healthy and enjoy the rest of the NCAA tournament!


1. Substituting Whole Natural Foods for Processed Foods  

2. Work-Life Balance with Electronics Reduction  

3. Drinking Adequate Amounts of Water: ½ *(Body Weight) = Daily Ounces

4. Strength Training: Minimum 2 Days / Week