With the mastery of a few principles of nutritional planning, virtually anybody, regardless of age, weight, gender, etc. can be successful.
People often have a skewed view of eating healthy, thinking that in order to achieve their health and fitness goals they have to eat bland chicken breasts and steamed veggies every meal. Unless your physique and level of fitness reflect your paycheck (e.g., professional bodybuilders), most people aren’t going to do that. Gratefully, however, with the mastery of a few principles of nutritional planning, virtually anybody, regardless of age, weight, gender, etc. can be successful.
There are three primary components of nutrition to focus on: macronutrients, nutrient timing, and supplementation. Each of these work together synergistically. Let’s examine them individually:
Often referred to as “macros,” these are the primary nutrients we want to focus our efforts on which include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Whereas most people get overly concerned with caloric intake, I prefer to focus on getting specific amounts / portions of these macronutrients and let the calories fall in place. Caloric intake in its relation to weight loss, weight maintenance, or weight gain boils down to one simple formula: Calories in versus calories out (i.e., how many calories you’re eating versus how many calories you’re burning). If you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you’re consuming; if you want to maintain weight, you need to burn just as many calories as you’re eating; if you want to gain weight, you need to eat more calories than you’re burning. Here is the general parameter for setting your macronutrient ratios:
- Protein = 1.0g-1.5g per lbs bodyweight
- Carbohydrates = 0.5g-1.5g per lbs bodyweight
- Fats – 0.5g per lbs bodyweight
There are 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrates, and 9 calories per gram of fats, so based upon your intake of these 3 nutrients, your caloric intake will fall into place by default. Then, depending on your goals – gaining muscle, burning fat, etc. – you can begin scaling.
Arguably the most important component of your nutrition plan, nutrient timing refers to when you eat. When you eat is just as, if not more important, than what you eat. There are two ways to structure your nutrient timing: feast or famine. Now, obviously that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it paints a picture that we must be at either end of the spectrum in order to be successful. Let’s take a look:
- Option #1 (Feast) – Eat every 2-3 hours from waking till sleeping. The mechanism of action behind this method is you’re keeping your metabolism elevated consistently throughout the day by supply a sufficient flow of nutrients to your body every few hours. Also, since you’re eating more frequently, the portions are reduced and you can spread your caloric intake out. Here’s an example diet structured this way:
- Meal #1 (upon waking) – 7am
- Morning Snack = 10am
- Meal #2 = 1pm
- Afternoon Snack = 4pm
- Meal #3 = 7pm
- Evening Snack = 10pm
- Option #2 (Famine) – Intermittent Fasting. IF is a concept of compartmentalizing your day into a 6-8 hour eating window and 16-18 hour fasting window. The mechanism of action behind this strategy is, when your body spends this extended time in a fasted state, it activates genes that code for uncoupling proteins which poke “holes” in your mitochondria (“powerhouse” of your body’s cells). Because of this, your body (mitochondria) have to work twice as hard to produce the same amount of energy (ATP), therefore burning more calories to sustain biochemical processes. This is where the weight / fat loss ramps up! During your fasting window, you cannot eat or drink anything that has calories that will break the fast – stick to water, regular or carbonated (my choice), green tea, and black coffee. Here is an example of how to structure an IF schedule:
- 12:00am-4:00pm = Fasting
- 4:00pm-6:00pm = Eating
- 6:00pm-7:00pm = Workout
- 7:00pm-11:00pm = Eating
This is an example of an IF plan with a 6-hour eating window and 16-hour fasting window. Notice an important factor: the eating window is structured around the workout window. This is important because you do not want to train / workout in a fasted state! A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have at least one whole-food meal in before your workout. This will ensure your body has adequate nutrients to fuel your workout.
There is a lot, and I mean A LOT, of misunderstanding when it comes to supplements. On one end, you’ve got people overpraising them which leads to co-dependency. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got people saying they’re “useless,” undermining their effectiveness when used properly. Supplementation means just that: “the addition of; in addition to.” Supplement does NOT mean substitute! There is no magic pill or powder that can replace smart nutrition. That being said, with proper eating habits as a foundation, supplementation can certainly amplify your efforts. There are four supplements that I call my “Fundamental Four” that I believe EVERYBODY – regardless of age, gender, fitness levels, etc. – should be taking:
- Multivitamin – this is your “nutrient insurance.” There is a laundry list of essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs in order to function properly and optimally that are impossible to consume in proper dosages from food alone. A high-quality multivitamin will ensure that you’re filling all of those nutrient gaps / holes.
- Fish Oil – this is composed of healthy omeg-3 fatty acids, which improve cardiovascular circulation and health. In addition to improving your heart health, the dihydrochloric acid (DHA) in fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation, which can ease joint pain and decrease risk for chronic diseases associated with systemic inflammation.
- Protein – there are two forms of protein to focus on: whey and casein. Whey is a fast-digesting protein that’s best used around your workouts (i.e., pre-workout and post-workout). Casein, on the other hand, is a slow-digesting protein that’s best used a snack to keep you fuller longer between meals.
- Probiotic – the “icing on the cake,” probiotics increase your microflora, which are your healthy gut bacteria. This will help improve and optimize your digestive health, which will allow your body to absorb and utilize nutrients more effectively and efficiently.