Nutrition appears to be treated as one of the most misguided variables in any fitness program. Whether it is all together neglected, or overemphasized by someone who majors in the fine details of it, I’m here to help clear up some confusion on this topic. And confusion just may be an understatement when you look at all of the nutrition ideas we hear being thrown around and argued about every day. We hear things like; eating clean, healthy carbs, no carbs, high fat, low fat, high protein, carb cycling, flexible dieting, eat a bunch of small meals, eat just a couple big meals, become a vegan, become a vegetarian, consume dairy, consume no dairy, eat power foods, become gluten free… Yes, the list can go on and on.
Regardless, it’s critical to be clear on one thing. We’ve all heard the phrase, “nutrition is everything.” I hate to break it to you, but nutrition is not everything. If it was, than all we would have to do is focus on the nutritional component to get ALL of our fitness results. However, nutrition can be a catalyst to your training or an inhibitor. How you use this integral variable separates your level of achievement.
I genuinely feel for the general public having to wrap their heads around dieting, as there is so much conflicting information floating around and it’s difficult for lay persons to identify which approach may be the most beneficial for them. It’s no wonder why people just say “screw it” and eat whatever they want, or jump from fad diet to fad diet. So with this report, I am NOT going to outline a diet for you to follow. That’s not realistic, nor is it ethical, as everyone has certain needs and requirements. However, I am going to lay out some principles that anyone can learn and apply to their own nutritional goals. By the end of this, my goal is to clear up some nutritional confusion and hopefully make some things more clear for consumers who wish to better understand how they can use nutrition as their ally.
You probably already know this but in case you don’t, diets, especially mainstream diets, all do one thing very well: they manipulate daily and weekly caloric intake. That’s about as complicated as it gets. Hence, why you can really create and sell any diet you’d like as long as you can replicate some success and have credentials to sell it. However, what most people lose sight of (or, arguably may not even be able to “see”) is WHAT is being manipulated, how, and why. A key principle of nutrition therefore is understanding and honoring that all nutritional goals require manipulation. Most significantly, the manipulation of calories. Below, I will break down some key points regarding the manipulation of Macronutrients (in particular fats, carbs, and protein) and then discuss the interplay of supplements.
This is why you will hear of diets that eliminate macronutrients like carbs and fats from your diet. If you eliminate calories from your daily and weekly consumption, you lose weight. It’s all a form of manipulation. When people want to gain weight, what do most people say? “Eat more” right? Well when you want to lose weight, should it be a far fetch to say “eat less”? Below, you’ll see why you shouldn’t just start eliminating certain macronutrients from your diet or even follow an extreme diet unless you understand the underlying principles and its relationship to your fitness or health goals.
Most people know that if you increase calories it will help us gain weight and decreasing calories will help us lose weight. In order to individualize and track this process of determining how many calories you need or don’t need, the following principle comes into play. As a general healthy principle for weight gain and weight loss goals, you should aim to either gain or lose 1-2lbs per week. One can stay on track with this for typically as long as 3-4 months before adjusting their approach to maintaining that weight for at least a month or two. Overall, these strategies are broken down to 3 common phrases or pathways: “bulking” (gaining mass), “cutting” (aka leaning out, reducing weight), or maintenance (maintaining). So keep in mind, during your bulking and cutting cycles, it shouldn’t take you the better half of a year to stay in that phases. You’ll most likely add too much body fat from bulking or lose too much muscle from cutting. How you successfully cut or bulk (or even maintain) depends on effectively manipulating the following components:
For macro’s, I’m going to lay out a few principles I follow as this area tends to yield a lot of grey area between differing opinions. First, the macronutrients that make up calories are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. As I mentioned above, I’m going to break these components down and identify how manipulating one or more of these yields different results. The main take home point is that each macro has different benefits and recommendations for performance and body composition.
Proteins are essentially the building block to muscle. There’s a lot of different beliefs about how much, what kind, and when to take protein. So (unless you’re overweight) if you’re an athlete or avid gym goer who is looking to maximize results, a general principle for protein consumption, should be consuming between 0.8-1 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Anything more will most likely cause unnecessary calorie consumption. If your body fat levels are on the higher side, you'll want to shoot for a lower body weight goal, and base the protein off of that number instead of your current weight.
There are numerous sources of protein. Whey protein and meat protein are the best kinds of sources to get protein from as far as their ability to be consumed in your body. The plant based proteins (such as quinoa, kale, soy) are not as efficiently utilized like meat or dairy protein is. The biggest take away to remember is your protein should come from lean sources. Common “lean” sources are 90% or leaner beef, chicken, turkey, or fish…. Your protein intake should be spread throughout the day as evenly as possible. During or post workout, most people will benefit from a whey protein shake as it will be easiest to digest during that time.
Carbohydrates broken down to their simplest form is actually sugar stored in your body. When it comes to training or anything high intensity in nature (weight lifting, sprints, sports), carbs are the number 1 fuel source for us to utilize. Carbs are not the enemy, us being lazy and overeating is the enemy! So you should be consuming as many carbs as possible to benefit your training and your recovery, assuming your performance is important to you. A very simple rule of thumb to follow (this is dependent on the individual, training program, and lifestyle), the more activity you perform throughout the day (especially higher intensity forms) the more carbs you will need in your diet. This might come as a shock to you as it is commonly thrown around that carbs are the enemy, but again, inactivity combined with high carb intake is the enemy!
It’s normally best if you can place majority of your carb intake around your workout times if possible. I prefer carbs that are easily digestible so that body can utilize them more efficiently. My top choices (but not limited to) are: Jasmine Rice, White Rice, Sweet Potato, Sourdough Bread, Rye Bread, and Non Sugary Cereal. I also like to add in a lot of fruit, especially in a cutting phase. My top fruit choices (again not limited to) are: Oranges, Blueberries, Grapes, Pineapple, Strawberries, Lemons, and Limes. Be smart about your carb intake, they are very powerful to performance and body comp results but must be planned accordingly. Tracking performance and progress will always help clarify how much you need.
Fat intake should be held to a minimum if you are trying to decrease body fat. If you want to decrease fat, there’s no reason to keep consuming more fat. There are “bad fats” and “healthy fats”. Common bad fats are trans fats (fast food, store bought baked goods). Common good fats are olive oil, nut butters, avocado. Consume healthy fats (always eliminate trans fats) to maintain normal bodily function but understand that fat holds a lot of calories per gram, more than double of protein and carbohydrates. Manipulation of healthy fats requires knowledge. This can also work extremely well for you and could be one of the easiest ways in adding size to your frame. If adding size to your frame is one of your fitness goals, simply adding fat to your diet to help increase your caloric intake can do the trick. Remember, more of the right calories equals more size. Lastly, a final principle regarding fats. Fats do very little to improving performance and most of your fats should not be consumed around your workout times because of their slower digestion rates.
This is a topic that can make things very interesting and the last topic we’re going to discuss about nutrition in this report. There are numerous types of supplements and supplement lines, all claiming to do a variety of things. It’s often just as tedious to weed through in understanding supplements as it is for the diets and the roles carbs, protein and fats play into nutritional and fitness goals. For example, I have my own supplement line, ONE EVO, but what must be understood here is that supplements are just icing on the cake. No matter how awesome you think the icing is, if the cake sucks, you still have a mediocre cake to eat. And no one likes a crappy cake! Therefore, all the above information regarding the ingredients to your “cake” are instrumental in nutritional approach.
There are some good ideas to consider if you’re thinking about investing in some supplements for yourself. Whey and Casein Protein could be a smart choice. Creatine Monohydrate is probably one of the cheapest, safest, and most effective supplements you could invest in. Believe it or not, but Caffeine can also be great for someone with a busy schedule. And a multivitamin or vitamins that you are deficient in can be a great addition too. Make sure you check with your doctor before if you’re not sure if you should be taking any of these products.
Please, please, please! You do not want to be the guy (or girll) talking about the new supplement you’re taking every week or carrying on about the differences between pre workout drinks. You’re basically saying, “I’m only in this to tell everyone I’m into fitness and that I really have never trained hard in my life before”…The real players in the game know that training hard and being consistent with their lifestyle choices is what gets you real results. They understand that supplements are just there to help make the process more convenient, they’re not game changers…
We just covered the typical basics of nutrition. There’s so much more that can be discussed in future blogs, however again the goal of this post was to provide a foundation of understanding of nutritional principles. I hope a few of these principles helped clear up some confusion or even misconceptions about nutrition and its role in achieving your goals.
Nutrition, when followed correctly and consistently, can actually be very straight forward and easy to manage. The problem lies in that it takes time for consistency to pay off! No fad diet, drink, pill, or claim of quick fix can yield the results that time and dedication do when an individual has a clear understanding of what they wish to accomplish and a realistic plan to get there! People panic and look for extreme methods to make fast changes. Fast changes also mean fast reversal, I have seen this too many times. Be consistently good, patient, and train hard and the results WILL COME!
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Physical Prep Coach & Owner of Joel Younkins Training.