Nutrition has become a maze of conflicting knowledge and advice. There are too many diets promising to be the one that finally works for you. Deep down, I believe we all know this, but I’m going to say it here, the diet that really works is the simple, sustainable diet. It’s the one you stick with. We need a simple plan, because life is too unpredictable to follow a complicated eating routine. We need a sustainable plan, because no one is satisfied with temporary results. Here, I provide three simple guidelines, each explaining, using macronutrients, how and why you should structure your meals in a specific way, and where to source your macronutrients from. By the end of this article, you will understand how to shape your meals throughout your day using macronutrients, and be able to stick with an eating plan that energizes you and moves you towards your goals.
I have had a tumultuous relationship with nutrition. I have struggled and searched for an effective eating style for years. Most of my time as competitive athlete has been spent undernourished and dehydrated, and I wish I had known how to fuel my body sooner. I would have had enjoyed my sport (wrestling) much more and I would have performed much better. I have spent the last few years researching nutrition on my own and experimenting to see what works best. It is in the last six months that I have followed these three guidelines, and I have never been better fueled and happier with my nutrition. I’ve read a lot of books, scientific articles, and watched many lectures on nutrition, but I want to give special thanks to Renaissance Periodization, or RP Strength, for their free online resources. I have added extensively to my knowledge of nutrition and eating-for-performance thanks to their generosity.
The following three guidelines are constructed around macronutrients. They require a basic understanding of proteins, carbs, and fats. It does not matter if you are a competitive athlete, habitual exerciser, or you just want to eat a little healthier. These guidelines will provide you with more energy and make you feel better, every day.
#1. Eat your bodyweight in grams of protein throughout the day.
This first guideline is the most important. Protein is the raw material that makes up our entire body. We need to eat protein at every meal in order repair the daily damage we put our bodies through. Structure your meals so that you are always eating some protein at each meal. Try to eat at least 20 grams per meal.
Get your protein from real, unprocessed foods as often as possible. Without getting into the boring science, eating protein in its natural state allows us to optimally digest it. Beef, pork, and chicken, for most people, are going to be the main ways they get this macronutrient. These are all great ways to get protein. Try to add in fish, high-protein vegetables (beans, chickpeas, or brussel sprouts), and exotic meats as well to add variety and nutritional variance. Use protein supplements after workouts or if you don’t have access to “real” food after a workout.
#2. Fuel your body with carbs before and after exercise.
Carbohydrates are our bodies natural fuel source. They are the simplest, most sustainable way to provide our body with energy. However, carbs are often overeaten, and the sugar they provide is often stored as fat for later use. To keep this from happening, eat most of your carbs before and after exercise. This will allow your body to utilize this energy source when it is most needed. (If you don’t exercise regularly, this means your carbohydrate intake will need to be much lower.)
Choosing where to get your carbs from can be simple if you center them around exercise. It becomes a matter of when the carbs will be digested and present in your blood to be used by your muscles. Here is a quick rule of thumb. If the food is easy to chew/eat, it will be digested quicker. Think of juices, honey, and fruit. On the other hand, if the food takes a lot of chewing, it will typically be digested slower. Think raw vegetables, potatoes, and bread. If you need energy soon, go for the juice or fruit. If you need the energy for exercise more than an hour later, choose the potatoes or the bagel.
#3. Fats are good for you, eat them to feel full and slow down digestion.
Fats are dense sources of energy that can provide your body with energy at any time. Where protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, fats contain 9 calories per gram. Because fats are more calorie dense, they slow digestion of themselves and the food eaten with fats. If you eat a handful of almonds, cheese, and a bagel, the sugar from the bagel will take much longer than normal to make it into your bloodstream.
Sourcing fats is fairly easy. Animal fat, minimally processed oils, nuts, seeds, avocados and butter are all great choices. Eating fatty fish is another great source of essential fat. With fats, although there are plenty of good choices, be aware of the broken, malevolent sources. Anytime a fat is overly processed or over heated, the molecular structure is changed into something that our bodies do not recognize and cause havoc on our bodies systems. Cooking oils such as soybean, canola oil, and corn oil become rancid during processing, and make us sick when we eat them. Avoid them.
SUMMARY OF THE THREE GUIDELINES:
I’ve provided three guidelines for nutrition from a macronutrient perspective above. Here is a quick and easy summary to remember:
· Eat your bodyweight in grams of protein. Protein is the raw material you need to restore and build your body.
· Save your carbs for before and after workouts. They are a great source of energy when you need to exercise and need to be replenished after exercise.
· Eat fats to make yourself feel fuller, and to delay digestion of your meal.
I hope these three guidelines help you on your nutritional journey and give you a better understanding food. These guidelines apply and are meant to help everyone with nutrition. It doesn’t matter if you are an athlete or you work 9 – 5 and don’t exercise regularly, these guidelines apply to everyone.
If you have any questions about the information provided above I would love to help out and answer your questions or concerns. The guidelines I have provided are sourced from a mix of personal experience and peer-reviewed, scientific literature. Nutrition is not an exact science, and what works best for you is what you have actually tried and experienced to give you positive, healthy results.
Thanks for reading,
Move better. Move happier. Move meaningfully.