The answer to this question has been made more confusing and complicated by everyone trying to sell you their version of the latest greatest diet – but it’s really not rocket science.
I’m not a dietician or consider myself an expert on nutrition – but people have become so well informed these days and want to confirm or negate every last theory, research study or testimonial in regards to what foods they should or shouldn’t be eating.
Like most people I have things I want to do in my life and I certainly don’t want to waste my time counting calories, worrying about how much tryptophan is in the turkey steak I just ate or whether whey protein is more anabolic than a chicken’s tit!
While there are indeed physiological differences among individuals in terms of food tolerances, metabolisms…etc. And I agree that calories that come from carbs or protein or fats all do something different in the body, at the end of the day a calorie surplus gets you fatter/bigger and a deficit gets you leaner/smaller.
Worrying about meal timings, ratios, high carb, low carb, no carb, high fat, low fat, Paleo…Etc. probably isn’t going to provide any measurable results over the basic principles!
More often than not, I think people put too much belief into “diets”, rather than developing an eating philosophy.
A philosophy is a set of rules/ideas about something that you build your principles around and from those principles you can then build a HABIT.
Habits are more powerful and work better than any “diet”. Finding moderation, especially with what you eat tends to work best.
So here are the 5 basic principles I try to stick to –
*EAT LIKE AN ATHLETE – Meaning….eat like someone who is trying to build or maintain muscle, and carry an athletic level of body fat. That shouldn’t need any further clarification – if you sit around eating pizza and ice cream all day, you’ll probably get fat and feel like crap.
*FOCUS ON NUTRITION, NOT JUST ENERGY – Eat numerous meals per day based on hunger and your schedule. For me, that usually means 4 solid meals and maybe 1 or 2 liquid meals (shakes). Make sure each meal is nutrient dense and not just empty calories from sugar and cheap quality, heavily processed ingredients.
A simple way to break this down is to have 3 meals per day and 2 smaller snacks. So Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner – 2 snacks between them.
*EMPHASIZE PROTEIN FIRST – each meal consists of a quality animal protein source (eggs, lean red meat, fish, chicken…etc.). Protein is the building block of the human body and as someone who is constantly breaking down muscle tissue through exercise, it’s even more crucial.
If you’re vegetarian, that’s cool too – but you need to make sure you eat a good mix of vegetable protein sources to get a decent balance of amino acids.
*EAT CARBS TO FUEL YOUR WORKOUTS – Carbs/glycogen are the primary fuel source for most athletic endeavours.
If wanting to get leaner and lose bodyfat, reduce starchy carbs and sugars and replace those with more fibrous vegetables. You cannot burn fat when insulin levels are high and carbs raise insulin more so than any other nutrient.
On the flip side, If you want to gain muscle mass – carbs are king!!! Good luck trying to build any appreciable amount of muscle tissue or strength eating nothing but protein and “healthy fats”.
*GET YOUR FATS IN – Fats are an important nutraceutical as well as a fuel source. Take a few grams of omega 3 per day, a few handfuls of mixed nuts or a few teaspoons of olive oil with 2 or 3 meals per day. Coconut oil is also a great source here.
Fats tend to take care of themselves and depend largely on your carbohydrate intake. I get around 6-10g from the protein sources I eat (meats…etc.) before thinking about adding any additional fat sources.
When eating more carbs, eat less fats and vice versa.
So from the those basic principles, how do we apply this?….
1. I need to lose weight – I will eat less
2. I need to gain weight – I will eat more
Obviously, if you’re someone looking to get “stage ready” you’ll need to be a bit more specific in portion control and food selection…etc.
But to clarify further –
High carb and high protein with low(ish) fat = to gain mass/weight.
High protein and medium fat with low carbs = to lose fat.
Make a list of foods you will allow yourself to eat. They should all be quality foods but also foods you tolerate well and enjoy. “Quality food” basically means minimally processed foods – meats, vegetables, fruits…etc.
If you eat from this quality food list ONLY 90% of the time, you’ll be able to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish in regards to body composition.
Changing your eating habits will take some time before it feels natural. But once you get into the groove of things eating healthy 90% of the time isn’t that hard once you sieve through the confusion.
Koru Gym, Bishop’s Stortford