So we have now thought about your reason why you want to improve your lifestyle, and you have also set a plan in place. Our next step is to get a grasp on nutrition. Unfortunately the nutrition industry is highly flawed and misleading with every second company trying to sell you something with “buzz words” all over their labels, with fad diets that promise you untruthful results, and the ever growing social media trends that give people a disillusioned idea of what real results are and what a healthy food relationship is.
For nutrition to have an impact, and an impact that is life long lasting an individual must understand the fundamentals and be able to apply it on a day to day basis subconsciously without having to think too much about it. This includes things such as calorie control, food choices, food quality, portion control, understanding the basis of whats in certain foods and how to apply all of these things when in social settings and various environments where they might struggle with food choices (think of a family events with food laid out everywhere, how do you make good choices, stay on track and not draw too much attention to your decision making?)
Unfortunately the way things have gone with peoples beliefs about nutrition, the social media hypes and fad trends have taken over peoples thought processes. People worry more about topics that will have little to zero impact on what they want to achieve. They ask all the wrong questions and want answers that do not apply to them. Think of questions along the topics of:
Being keto, when should I stop eating carbs, whats the best fat to burn body fat, is there too much sweetener in my food, how do I fuel my cardio training, should I be drinking protein shakes 20 minutes after I work out, should I train fasted, shouldn’t I be eating good fats – etc etc.
What really matters is the changes and choices the yield the biggest impact toward your desired goal.
I have broken it in to three categories, that when done in this order I feel will give people the biggest return on their effort when it comes to body composition, managing their health, and building habits that will stick with them throughout life.
- Calorie & Portion Control (Priority 1)
- Protein, Vegetables, Fruit & Water (Priority 2)
- Food Quality & Enjoyment (Priority 3)
Lets discuss further:
- Calorie & Portion Control
To achieve any change in weight loss, fat loss, muscle gain and body composition it is and will always come down to calorie control and energy balance. What we take in from food and drink versus what goes via – training expenditure, NEAT (all other activity you do), the breakdown of food for energy and recovery as we sleep. You need to be in a deficit to lose fat, at maintenance to maintain, and a surplus in order to add weight or muscle tissue. If this requirement is not met, then you will not achieve your goal. In nearly all cases (except for the odd outlier) if you are not losing fat or gaining weight you are not in a deficit or a surplus, end of story. This is an ongoing weekly/monthly dynamic process, not a daily one. So worry about the longer scheme of consistency, not just what you do in one day. We need to control calories, this is the tool that will have the biggest impact. Track your food through apps on your phone, or use a written log and be consistent. In my experience MyFitness Pal works best as an app to track. In order to control calories, we must be able to control portion sizes. My advice here is to stop measuring things in cups, tea spoons, heaps and palm sized portions as this can be highly inaccurate and can be the main reason you don’t achieve your goal. For an example, a teaspoon of peanut butter or oil would claim to be 120-140 calories, however I know if I was to pull out a tea spoon myself of peanut butter we would be talking closer to 350 calories. Massive discrepancies like this can really ruin someones progress. I would also advise tracking everything in grams as it is much easier, consistent and valid. So to apply this to your life, track food daily, measure food when needed and be consistent and honest. What you don’t measure cannot be managed, and if you do not manage you are only “hoping” you will achieve your goal.
2. Protein, Vegetables, Fruit & Water
After we have our calories under control, we must then look at the nutrients our calories are composed of to ensure we are healthy. The most common thing I see with people is lack of protein. First off, protein is not just for body builders, it will not make you bulky, and is not bad for your kidney unless you already have kidney issues. In fact your entire body is made up of protein cells, your brain and its messengers is made up of proteins, and all chemical and neurological responses in your body involves protein molecules. It is also good for building and retaining muscle tissue, and skin, nail and hair health among many other things. Most people eat meat once a day and feel this is enough, or sometimes don’t eat any at all. You can become severely nutrient deficient here. My general broad recommendation is to get double your bodyweight in grams of protein per kg bodyweight per day, or a much more applicable method for everyone so body weight is not an issue would be – 20-40g of protein per meal, spread across four meals per day. This would ensure a continuous protein response and stimulation throughout the day. In context most meat fillets will contain 20-30g, an egg has approx 7g protein, 300g 0% Greek Yogurt has approx 30g, whey protein has 22-25g among many more. So basically we are having a protein dense serving at each meal 4 times p/day. We must also look to make sure we eat enough fruit and vegetables, these possess vital vitamins and minerals that we need to make sure we are functioning optimally and prioritising our health. Lacking some of these nutrients in chronic cases can lead to health consequences in the long term. I recommend 6-10 types per day, varying in different colours. This combined with correct hydration (2 litres per day for most, more if you train a lot) should see people in a great position.
3. Food Quality & Enjoyment
The quality of our food cannot be overlooked. We are essentially what we put in our bodies. Poor quality foods, excess sugar and alcohol consumption and stress are all causes of poor gut health and gut dysfunction at a cellular level causing an inability to metabolise nutrients, and inability to use calories as a whole, and an inability to utilise all the food we eat which means we are very inefficient at deriving the energy we need from it. This then has a cascade effect on hormone levels, body composition, brain function, mood, energy levels and many other elements of our well being. Prioritise single ingredient foods, practice good food hygiene, chew your food, and eat in a relaxed state. Never rush meals or gorge food down and actually try to take time to enjoy your food. This will ensure food is being digested properly. Make nutrient dense foods such as fruits and vegetables a staple of your diet. Eat fresh food and organic food when you can, and make what you put in your body a priority. You also need to enjoy what you are doing, because without enjoyment we will never adhere to and stick to a plan – and without adherence it doesn’t matter how good any plan is it will not work. This doesn’t mean you can never have any sweeter food types, just try to apply a ratio of 90-95% nutrient dense foods to a 5-10% percentage of the sweeter stuff and again you wont go far wrong. It is vital however that you create a good relationship with food, and view food groups as an entire entity rather then something that is good versus bad. Without this relationship, food will always have some element of control and power over you. You need to be the one in control.
Looking at these three topics and applying them to the best of your ability will have an impact on what you want to achieve. We could go on and on about the intricacies and finer details of nutrition, but with all my experience in working with individuals – simple is whats best and most effective. The harder something is, the more obstacles you face. We need to minimise all barriers and obstacles to success.