Nutrition: Don't MAJOR in the MINORS. What Matters A LOT, What Matters a Little to Not at All.
Nutrition can be VERY complicated in today's society. There are dozens of different approaches that claim to be the HOLY GRAIL to nutrition glory and the body of your dreams.
The nutrition landscape seems to always be changing and it can be nearly impossible to navigate. Low Carb/Keto. Intermittent Fasting. Macro Counting. Paleo. Carnivore. Vegan. South Beach. Blood Type Diet. Alkaline Diet. Low-fat Diet.
In fact, when you search for popular/effective diets. You get HUNDREDS of results and if you search long enough, you will find PASSIONATE believers and "evidence" to support that diet.
IT IS OVERWHELMING and CONFUSING.
This leads to frustration, and generally pushes most to say F**K it. I give up.
Is it so common to be anxious and obsessed with the smallest details that MATTER LITTLE TO NOT AT ALL.
Should I have 1 meal a day or 6 small meals?
Eggs are bad. Eggs are good. Meat is bad. Meat is good. Dairy is bad. Dairy is good and on down the line
Do I need to eat low carb and do a detox?
Do I take plant protein or whey protein?
Do I eat white rice or brown rice?
Should I add "X" supplement?
I ate that carb after 6pm, OH NO!
When should I eat after training to maximize GAINS
Should I eat organic?
Am I in Ketosis?
Should my macro ratio be 40/30/30 or 30/40/30?
I could go on for days....
This leaves no energy or focus on the principles and practices that actually make BIG DIFFERENCES.
Yes, some of the small DETAILS above can help in small ways, especially for those highly experienced in nutrition/performance, but for MOST regular people who simply want to look and feel their best - THEY DO NOT MATTER!
One of the most common questions asked to those who have achieved long term success in nutrition and body composition goes something like this...."What diet do you follow? Do you do Keto/Carnivore/Enter any fad diet?" The overwhelming answer from those with long term success is simply, "No, I just eat healthy." This is the goal. Not a diet.
What is the solution? How do we find clarity and a path that works for us?
Let's be 100% clear. There is NO perfect diet or golden path to success like SPECIAL DIETS promise.
"Special Diets" can be effective and have value. HOWEVER, they are not the GOLDEN PATH for everyone and the restrictive, hard rules nature of most of these approaches do more harm than good for most people by demonizing certain foods and creating ideas about nutrition that are FALSE and become barriers for progress.
"Special Diets" are generally effective for 2 reasons
They are a great fit for someone who has dietary preferences and a lifestyle allowing them to maintain the special diet over a long course of time.
They naturally manage the bad habits that were causing dietary issues or hindering progress which reduces the INTAKE OF POOR QUALITY FOOD or TOO MUCH FOOD!
They address specific food allergies, dietary intolerances, or medical conditions
Take KETO for example...
The weight loss "magic" and other improvements from KETO do not come from simply eliminating carbohydrates. Research has shown that high carbohydrate/low fat diets are EQUALLY successful in achieving similar results.
KETO works for SOME because when you eliminate an entire group:
You NATURALLY reduce calorie intake which leads to weight loss or improved body composition
You eat far less or no processed carbohydrates (which is the majority of junk food)
Keto also works well for individuals who enjoy and effectively digest higher fat foods. (this is not everyone!)
It is not the absence of carbohydrates that brings the results. The right carbohydrates are fantastic for most people. It is the reduction in CALORIES and the reduction of highly processed, shitty food that makes KETO really valuable for SOME PEOPLE! (others NEED carbs in their life, believe me!)
Are there some specialized benefits and adaptations to a KETO approach for some, probably, BUT these benefits and adaptations are not equal for everyone and DEFINITELY are not worthy of deeming KETO the holy grail of nutrition.
Let's look at another popular approach: Intermittent Fasting
The "magic" and other improvements from Intermittent Fasting do not come from simply following an eating and fasting window. Research has shown that meal TIMING and FREQUENCY have very little to do with success in different dieting approaches. Remember when it was all the rage to eat 6 small meals a day to fire up your metabolism? Now, it's eat 1 large meals and fast the remainder of the day. Both can work!
Intermittent Fasting works for SOME because following a strict eating time window:
Can NATURALLY reduce calorie intake which leads to weight loss or improved body composition
Helps eliminate mindless snacking, particularly at night. (this is who I have seen benefit from it the most)
It is not the fasting or window of eating itself that brings the results. It is the reduction of overall food intake (CALORIES) that this window helps you accomplish. This can be a great approach for some, but will leave others feeling depleted and lethargic.
Are there some specialized benefits and adaptations to an Intermittent Fasting approach for some, probably, BUT these benefits and adaptations are not equal for everyone and DEFINITELY are not worthy of deeming Intermittent Fasting the holy grail of nutrition.
What about Counting Macros?
The "magic" of Counting Macros does not come from this complicated and precise ratio of carbs/fat/protein. This ratio may help an experienced athlete squeeze out that extra 1% in their performance or allow that professional bodybuilder to dial in the final aspects of their physique, BUT that extra gram of protein or carbs to get you exactly to a certain number for the day isn't making or breaking a NORMAL persons diet. Macro Counting is FANTASTIC at building education and awareness of exactly what is going into your body and AGAIN it naturally controls intake.
Those who see LONG TERM SUCCESS with Macro Counting
Enjoy and get satisfaction from working with precise numbers
Make time to put into planning, weighing, logging, etc
Counting and logging macros can be an incredible, eye opening experience as to what is going into your body. This can provide data for long term progress. However, for MOST people counting macros is not a feasible. long term solution. The time, effort, and HEAD SPACE that goes into this approach pushes many who commit to it long term OFF THE RAILS and they develop an anxious relationship with food.
Are there some specialized benefits and adaptations to a COUNTING MACROS approach for some, probably, BUT these benefits and adaptations are not equal for everyone and DEFINITELY are not worthy of deeming COUNTING MACROS the holy grail of nutrition.
BOTTOM LINE is...
Nutrition is a different journey and balance for everyone.
YOU HAVE TO FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU! Sure, there are those who have found great success with the some of the methods I mentioned above (good for them!), but that doesn't mean it will work for you.
What we teach and believe in at COMPLETE Nutrition.... We focus on the BIG THINGS FIRST and can focus on individual preferences details later.
Our Nutrition Pyramid (Most Important at bottom)
What matters A LOT? What matters a little to not at all?
These PRINCIPLES matter most = BIG ROCKS (Foundation)
Can you actually adhere to the program and make it a long term commitment, leading to a CONSISTENT lifestyle. You are not always "on a diet", but this is is simply how you eat. This can look very different for each individual in many aspects incorporating the guiding habits/practices. (Found below)
The knowledge and the discipline to eat mindfully in a way that supports our goals. We are always conscious of what, how, and why we are eating and how it will affect us. Are you eating in a way that supports your goals and fits your body and life demands/schedule or just blindly trying something "new"?
We focus on eating whole, nutrient dense foods. Eating more of these foods will naturally control quantity. This applies to all food types and carbohydrates, proteins, and fats
We eat amounts that support our lifestyle and goals.
These matter a little - Little Rocks- They should only be focused on if the BIG ROCKS above are nailed down
Macros - Our goal is to balance intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in an effective and sustainable way. Balance of macros vary by person and exact ratios help dial in small details for advanced dieters.
Timing - When you eat and frequency of meals. This varies widely by individual and success can be found in a variety of approaches.
Supplements - Nearly no significance. They fill the gaps that food cannot. There is no MAGIC PILL, SHAKE, OR POWDER. Do not waste time or money here if your foundation is poor.
These ACTIONS matter most. BIG ROCKS (foundational Habits)
To help there are some time tested cornerstones of sustainable nutrition that we focus on as our big BIG ROCKS!
They are widely agreed upon by health and nutrition experts as the foundation for long term success in both the way your body looks and feels over the course of your life!
Emphasize and Eat real, nutrient dense food of all types
Drink mainly water and adequate amounts of water
Eat lots of vegetables (fruit is great too for most!)
Focus on consistent, adequate protein.
Eat slowly, mindfully, and with awareness of portion sizes that fit your goals
Minimize processed foods
Incorporate foods you enjoy
Prioritize SLEEP and MOVEMENT (they affect your nutrition!)
Do you notice what is not on that list? I'll just mention a couple...
Carbohydrate intake - Some folks do well with High Carbs/Lower Fat, while other crush it with Low Carbs/Higher Fat. What stays consistent is a focus on protein
Food choices - Plant based, with/without meat, with/without dairy, with/without grains NO GROUP OF FOODS is inherently bad and can take responsibility for derailing your success. Find a balance of foods that you enjoy and fits your goals.
Where do you go from here?
At the beginning of this article I was complaining about there being too much information out there and I've thrown quite a bit your way :) So let's boil it down for those who want are looking to make progress with nutrition.
Find a SUSTAINABLE path that focuses on small, incremental progress. Can you see yourself eating this way forever?
Does the approach you are taking fit YOUR goals, YOUR body, and YOUR lifestyle?
Focus on whole foods and quality
Eat slowly and be mindful of food quantity
Make protein a priority
Try and incorporate vegetables and fruits
Ensure adequate sleep and move daily
Minimize junk food, but be reasonable and enjoy your life
Once you have these BIG ROCKS in place you may consider detail based approaches like macros, intermittent fasting, meal frequency, nutrient timing etc, BUT these approaches are not necessary or permanent for success.
If you would like to kick start a sustainable, habit based approach to nutrition to put the thoughts in this article into action, we would love to have you sign up for COMPLETE Habits! Sign up here --> COMPLETE Habits
This 30 DAY CHALLENGE/COURSE is meant to
jumpstart body composition goals
build lasting nutrition through lifestyle habits through knowledge, accountability, interaction, and implementation.
We will focus on nailing the habits that are PROVEN to provide the highest return and lead to lasting results.