“Your doctor” just might be the single most used phrase here at HTBM.
Why is that? And, what all do you need to tell your doctor? Can you ever tell too much? How often should you be meeting? Here, we will explore all of that and more.
Who Is Your Doctor to You?
The first thing that determines exactly how much you should tell your doctor depends on how many specialists you have on your health and wellness team.
These days, just about everyone has a Primary Care Provider. Your primary care provider is usually a general practice physician that you see (at least) every few years for your regular checkups. We’ll touch on how often you should be seeing your doctor in greater detail later on.
If you have outstanding health conditions, you may see other specialists like physical therapy, mental and emotional healthcare providers, and nutritionists. As long as all of these specialists are part of the established formal health care system, they should be able to communicate with one another about things like your health conditions and medications.
If you have the passion and the means, you may also have an informal healthcare team made up of personal trainers, coaches, dieticians, &c. Being associated with a gym or fitness center doesn’t mean that these people aren’t trained specialists and experts. However, that doesn’t mean that they should take the role of your primary care provider.
This is particularly because your primary care provider is trained to monitor your overall health while people like your dietician or personal trainer are only trained to understand and focus on isolated aspects of your health and wellness. It is also partially because doctors that you see through the medical establishment have access to important information about you.
For example, your primary care provider will be able to see that you are going to physical therapy and your physical therapist should be able to see what medications you are on. But, your personal trainer or nutritionist won’t have access to information from your doctor or from one another.
What Does Your Doctor Need (and Not Need) to Know?
So, what exactly should you tell your doctor?
Your primary care provider should know about any major lifestyle changes. That means when you start (or drastically change) your workout routine, or when you start a new diet or drastically change your diet.
Your primary care provider doesn’t need to see your workout schedule, know how many sets and reps you do on your exercises, or know how much you can bench. What they do need to know is what kind of workout you do (lifting, cardio, crossfit, &c.), how long, and how often.
Similarly, if you prescribe to a specific diet, your primary care provider probably doesn’t care the name of the diet – they’ll want to know what kind of diet it is. For example, the keto diet and the Atkins diet are both “carb restrictive” diets – that’s what your primary care provider needs to know.
Of course, primary care providers are still people. And, they’re all different. The idea here is to give them what they need without overloading them. But, if your primary care provider asks you for more information about your diet or your workout plan, don’t be afraid to tell them. They may have professional or personal interest in your routine.
Finally, you should always tell your primary care provider if you are taking any dietary supplements. That’s particularly true if you take any medications, but it’s still true if you don’t. High volumes of some nutrients make it more difficult for your body to absorb other nutrients so if you are on some medications or have some health conditions, supplements can be risky.
How Often Should You See Your Doctor?
So, if you’re supposed to tell your doctor about all of these things, how often are the two of you supposed to meet?
The general recommendation is at least once every three years for people under 50, and every year after that. However, how often you can see your primary care provider may be at least partially determined by your ability to pay. For example, your health insurance plan may only cover so many visits per year.
However, that doesn’t have to limit the kind of relationship that you have with your primary care provider. If there are things that you want your primary care provider to be aware of, like a change in diet or starting a new exercise program, you can call and inform their office without setting up a whole official visit.
The exceptions to this are drastic changes, like training for a marathon or starting a significantly restrictive diet like intermittent fasting. There may be more exceptions if you have health conditions that significantly impact your “vital systems.” For example, if you have a heart condition or diabetes, “drastic” activity or diet changes might mean something different for you.
How to Use Your Doctor as a Resource
So far, we’ve talked about your doctor like their only job is to save your life from fad diets and heart failure. That’s not the case. Your doctor can (and should) be a source of council and resources.
Consider asking your doctor about diet and exercise changes that you want to make rather than telling them that you’ve already made those changes. This way, your doctor can advise you on how best to proceed rather than simply weighing in on whether or not you should.
As we’ve mentioned above, your primary care provider (may or) may not be an expert on things like which plant-based protein is best in your pre-workout blendy, or exactly when you should increase the weight on your preacher curls. However, they will be able to help to direct you towards trust-worthy resources (when HTBM doesn’t have an article on it yet).
Perhaps more importantly, your primary care provider can be a friendly reminder that your health and wellness are made up of more factors than just your muscle goals. They can help you understand things like what a healthy weight goal really is, and why it’s more important to have a sustainable routine than a shocking routine.
This is particularly true if you do have someone like a dedicated nutritionist or a personal trainer on your care team. While these individuals should be thinking about your holistic wellbeing rather than just their specific area of expertise, they are likely to focus on their specific area of expertise and it can be handy to work with someone who has a more balanced perspective.
Working With Your Doctor
You’ve probably heard it said that your body is like a temple. We don’t know about that one but suppose that it is at least like a house. You might work with a specific plumber, a specific electrician, &c. Or, maybe you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer.
In any case, think of your doctor as like a home inspector. They can point out the plumbing problems and where the electrical could use some work. They won’t do the work themselves, but they can give general advice or direct you to specialists. So, talk to them regularly – but specifically before you plan any big renovations.