Nutrition is a vital component of health and fitness. They, truly go hand in hand. Much like fitness, there is no one size-fits-all meal plan that can fit the needs of everyone. Inevitably, most people will start rummaging through the abyss of google for a diet to meet their needs. Seeking answers from multiple sources often seems like a good idea at first, but it usually takes a turn for the worse when everyone claims to have the answers, and yet each suggestion conflicts with the next. … Intermittent Fasting, No wait, eat every 3 hours… Eat whole grain, unless you follow Paleo then don’t eat grains at all… Diet is extremely individual. Moments of success can lend clues to lead you in the right direction. Your body weight, energy level, and performance can all be indicators of your diet is working. Check out our guide to test your nutrition.
While there are endless diet guidelines, ultimately it boils down to your caloric intake. If you’re looking to lose weight, it doesn’t matter what diet you choose, if your calories are too high it won’t matter, at all. “But how do I know how many calories are right for me?” There are several caloric calculators online that are simple to use that can give you a number to begin your experiment with. One we like to recommend is EXRX.net We say experiment because that’s exactly what searching for the diet that works for you is. Just because the online calculator says you should eat 1,500 calories to lose one pound per week, it may actually be 1,400, or both may be too low and in order preserve precious muscle, it may need to be at 1,600 to keep it right at 1-2 lbs per week. It can be frustrating, but patience is critical when figuring these numbers out. In addition, having your body composition tested or a metabolic profile can provide a bit more insight into your specific caloric needs. Give each attempt at least 2-4 weeks to assess and always make sure you’re sticking to your typical workout routine for accuracy.
While calories remain essential, making healthy food choices is paramount in regard to energy, preserving lean body mass, combating inflammation, aiding in recovery… far more reasons than we can list here. With that being said, diets like IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) will theoretically work, but it will leave you with cravings, potential deficiencies in micronutrients, and inadequate physiological benefits. Choosing Twinkies for carbs rather than a sweet potato is asinine when it comes to fueling your body, and you’ll be able to eat more when you choose healthier options. Additionally, diets that allow too much freedom can make it mentally more difficult to balance healthy and pleasurable/satisfying choices, often leading toward a slippery slope. This is why finding a sustainable balance is important for developing mental fortitude and willpower. When looking for quality foods, EAT NOW is an easy to apply acronym to follow:
Where is your food coming from? Buy local when possible. How are your meat products being raised? Hormone and Antibiotic Free, Grass Fed, Free Range.
How much are you eating (calories)? Adhering to your macro-nutrient ratios.
90/10 rule. We are all human. Eat clean 90% of the time, and reward yourself with a meal a week you crave.
ANDI scale, rating of nutrients against calories. Eating all colors of produce for phytonutrient diversity.
Clean 15, Dirty Dozen.
Minimally processed. For packaged foods, ingredients should all be recognizable, something you could in theory make yourself.
If your diving into nutrition these days, you have likely come across the KETO diet. Originally developed for people with epilepsy, there is evidence that suggest a lower-carb/high-fat diet may reprogram your body’s ability to process carbs and fat for energy. For many, it also helps improve insulin sensitivity; something most Americans could benefit from due overconsumption and inactivity. Through insulin resistance, we don’t process carbs the way we should and, more often than not, carbs get stored as fat rather than shuttled to muscle, or the liver, for fuel and physiological processes. The keto diet can be quite rough at first, as the body learns to transition from using glycogen to ketones and a primary source of energy, but many people have found benefits in weight-loss and body composition improvements when adopting this diet. For people already at their desired bodyweight, but want to lean up a bit, carb cycling may be a better route as carbs ultimately are our body’s instinctual source of energy. To moderate a lower carb, higher fat diet, we often suggest carb cycling. In short, eat carbs when you need the energy (intense cardio days, heavy leg days on splits, integrating workouts), and cut back when you don’t (upper body or rest days). Please note that much like calories, balancing carbs/fats/protein for everyone is an individual science. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking to pack on muscle and cut weight, we might suggest limiting carbs and increasing protein. If your pumping cardio and training for long distance, more carbs are necessary for energy production.
When considering a diet change, it is easy to go all in and want fast results. For sustainable changes, be cautious of setting your calories too low i.e. if you’re losing more than two pounds per week, you’re likely tapping into your hard-earned muscle. Although lighter on the scale, you’ll be less adept to burning calories at rest from losing muscle and stunting your metabolism… inevitably gaining the weight back. Diet is a constant experiment that you won’t perfect the first time. Be patient. It takes constant tweaking, something that many of us adapt over years of experience. Give your calorie/marco amount time to take effect, try new things and explore practical and sustainable diets, have a piece of cake once in a while, and train your ass off.