Nutrition is a notoriously sticky subject. For every single person out there, who preaches the benefits of eating plenty of protein, there’s an army of vegans storming their gates, forks in hand, ready to tell them how protein is killing them.
Try hard as you might to eat well, most people can’t figure out exactly what ‘eating healthy’ even means anymore. Here are some of my takes on the nutrition questions I get asked most. Perhaps you can use some of these to craft your own, personal, well balanced diet – the one that works best for YOU!
1. Calories will ALWAYS matter.
Calories will always be an important factor when it comes to a balanced nutrition plan. That doesn’t mean they’re the only factor, just don’t fool yourself into thinking you can eat 5,000 calories of certain foods and still lose weight.
2. You don’t need to eat every 2-3 hours.
‘Your metabolism is like a fire, and if you stoke it just a little bit every few hours it will function more effectively than throwing a big ass log on.’ This is the conventional thinking behind this idea, and it sounds pretty logical and good. Except that human metabolism and all the components that make it up are far more complicated than some wood burning. Nutrient density is where the focus needs to be. Eating those nutrients in one meal or eight is dependent on your personal profile, your concerns, needs and goals. Do what is the most comfortable and what works best for you at this moment.
3. If you can’t see yourself eating the same way a year from now, you need to find a better diet.
Weight Watchers is one of the most successful diet programs out there. It helps thousands of people lose weight while on the program. Unfortunately, according to some reports 99% of participants gain the weight back. Why? Because once out of the program, it is challenging to replicate. For a diet to be successful, it has to be something you can practice for the long haul. Crash dieting, 30-day challenges, 17-day diets, and 7 day cleanses are all just different spots on the diet merry-go-round. Bringing you right back to where you were before. Create a plan. Work with someone. Be in it for the long haul – no silver bullets.
4. Juicing is for...
Why in the world removing all the fiber from a fruit or vegetable has become a good idea is completely beyond me. In my opinion it’s a terrible idea. Sure, you may get the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients but you lose all the fiber. Fiber is one of the main reasons fruits and vegetables should be eaten. Instead just throw them in a blender. It tastes the exact same, but is a whole lot better for you.
5. Cleanses and detoxes can be counter-productive.
You absolutely need to cleanse or detox. You have two of the greatest detoxing and cleansing machines in your body, the liver and kidneys. They do an amazing job at keeping everything clean, even if you’re not giving them what they need. However, current lifestyles and environments may overload these systems with toxins that do need to get cleaned out. It sounds nice and almost makes sense, but the body is a little more complex than that. You need targeted nutrients and supplementation to support your OWN body and its own functioning to do the job. Choose your program wisely!
Next time someone asks you to do cleanse or detox, ask them which toxins will be cleansed, and the mechanism in which this will be done. Then take the money you saved and go to the liquor store. You’ve earned it.
6. Supplements can be useful, just not near as useful as we like to think.
In the past I used to be very indifferent to supplements. There are some that I support, and some that should never be on a store shelf, ever. High quality, well-sourced and manufactured, physician grade supplements have a place in a targeted plan, and using these supplements, when they are needed for you can result in huge benefit. The use of supplements is not going to overcome the negative impact of eating well and moving your body – always start there. Supplements are there to supplement a program. Nothing more.
7. The best plan is the one that works for YOU.
Zone, Mediterranean, Dash, Atkins, Vegan. It really does not matter that much which one. As long as you feel good, your health markers are good and you stick to it. Too many people hop from one diet to the next, when in reality if they just gave themselves a year or more on the same diet, they would likely be happy with the results they got. The worst nutrition mistake that one could possibly be made is diet hopping or doing a little of this and a little of that.
8. Carbs are not the devil.
Carbohydrates are good for good. Really, really good for you actually. Carbohydrates are necessary to fuel activity, fuel your muscles, and fuel your brain. As you get older you do become less tolerant of carbohydrates and there may be a need to lower your consumption, but that’s no reason to forgo them all together. In fact, the more active you are, the more carbohydrates you will be able to tolerate on a daily basis. Oh, and remember all those vegetables? The things that are good for you? All of those are carbohydrates – eat up!!
9. Fat doesn’t make you fat.
Fat is a necessary part of life and is necessary for you to be healthy. Fat alone is not the reason people become ill, overweight or have heart issues. This is usually caused by a perfect storm of problems, with consumption of bad, rancid, man-made fats being one of them. Fat is completely necessary for hormone production, heart health (!), cellular function, and recovery.
10. Flossing is good for your heart.
Not necessarily about nutrition, but since you use your teeth to eat and the importance of oral health cannot be overlooked, I am choosing to include it here. Oral hygiene is actually an excellent indicator of cardiovascular health. If someone has a clean mouth, brushes, and flosses daily they have a far better chance of avoiding heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention it makes it way more pleasant to speak to in close quarters.
11. Breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day.
Truth be told, there is no most important meal. Thousands of people have achieved amazing levels of health and wellness by skipping breakfast all together. Intermittent fasting is an incredibly popular tool, and some scientists suggest that those who fast have healthier hearts, hormonal profiles, and live longer, healthier lives. Fasting = awesome.
12. The 30-minute anabolic window is not quite accurate.
For years there’s been a mad rush to get a protein shake down within 30 minutes of working out. It was thought that this “anabolic window” was the time in which the most gains could be made by taking in some sort of protein. Again, when it comes to the human body, it is not that simple. Depending on when your last meal was before training, you could have an anabolic window of anywhere from 4-6 hours. Do you have anything to lose by rushing to get your protein in right after a workout? Probably not, but it is not worth stressing over either.
12. You need to be indulge.
Incorporating small treats of indulgent (to you) foods into your nutrition plan is one of the signs of a successful eater. Allowing yourself to have small treats and choosing to enjoy them without guilt, shame or repercussion is hugely important for psychological well-being. If choosing to mindfully having that piece of chocolate or ice cream satisfies your craving and prevents you from eating the entire gallon this weekend, it was well worth it.
Any other burning nutrition questions you would like me to address, or any thoughts or opinions, I’d love to hear from you. Nutrition is a learning process and it is important to always keep the conversation going.