I get asked a lot of nutrition questions. Clients want to know what’s the best thing to eat before training, is saturated fat bad for them. How much protein should they eat, won’t carbs make you fat. And I get it, there’s a lot of information to consume and it’s hard to know what to believe.
The thing is, there is no optimal diet that suits everybody. We are so individual, with different genetic make ups, gut micro biomes, lifestyles and goals. What might be good for one person could be the worst thing for the other. Like with anything training or nutrition related, you have to find what works for you, what suits your current lifestyle and ultimately what you can adhere to on a consistent basis. You can have the best training and nutrition programme in the world and it means nothing if you can’t stick to it.
Although nutrition is very individualised there are some underlying principles that will help you get the results you want. Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, performance or longevity then I’m sure you can benefit from the principles I’m about to share.
You can think of these principles like a blueprint for overall health and performance. Once you have these in place then you can fill in the gaps with things that are specific to you. I’m going to make it easy, cut through some of the bull shit and give you simple information you can benefit from. After reading this blog you are going to have a better understanding of what’s optimal and hopefully use the information and action it straight away.
With that being said lets get into these nutrition principles.
Eat lean protein at each meal
Protein is an essential nutrient and the body needs it to survive. Protein rebuilds tissues and keeps systems running. Lean proteins are foods such as chicken breast, turkey, white fish, tuna, egg whites and protein powders. Protein is the most satiating macro nutrient, it has a high thermic effect and takes more energy to digest it which spikes metabolism, and it is the only macro nutrient that doesn't get stored as body fat. If your goal is fat loss, muscle gain or performance then protein will be paramount to your results.
Fat loss: As protein is very satiating this usually blunts cravings and prevents snacking. It helps rebuild and maintain muscle tissue which is very important when fat loss is the goal as lean muscle is more metabolically taxing to keep on the body which raises resting metabolism. Generally the more lean muscle you have the less body fat you will carry.
Muscle Gain: Muscle breakdown occurs everyday from just being alive as well as from hard training sessions. Think of a brick wall where bricks are being removed each day, and the amino acids from protein build this wall back up and more. Even feedings of protein is important to maintain muscle protein synthesis. Lucine is an amino acid and is very important in muscle growth as this will help build a faster wall and prevent too much breakdown.
Performance: Maintaining muscle is key to performance, as muscle contractions will help generate more force. This will help you move faster, be more explosive, become stronger and less likely to suffer injuries. A decrease in muscle mass will cause loss of strength therefore speed/power as well as promote poor posture and immobility.
Longevity: If longevity is the goal then a high protein diet may not be the best option. Low quality animal products raised in poor conditions and can contain hormones and antibiotics that negatively effect health. (which is why always recommend high quality animal products.) Although studies show that people with more muscle on their frame live longer, healthier lives. This is because muscle mass is literally a reservoir for anti agin hormones and more lean muscle on your frame will help you move better, and become more independent later in life.
2. Place starchy carbs around training
Carbohydrate is the bodies primary fuel source and the macro nutrient that drives performance and aids in recovery. Placing starchy carbohydrates around training will differ depending on your goals. Starchy carbohydrates are things like white and sweet potatoes, all varieties of rice, gluten free oats, quinoa and sprouted grain breads. Vegetables and fruit are also forms of carbohydrates but some aren't considered starches.
Fat Loss: Placing the majority of carbs after training will benefit fat loss. This is because muscle glycogen is depleted after exercise and glucose from carbs helps replenish muscle stores. Muscle cells are more ‘open’ after exercise and the glucose from carbs is easily shuttled into the cells which replenishes stores (remember more muscle benefits fat loss) and speeds the recovery process by blunting the cortisol response from training. It’s not that carbs will make you fat, it’s inactivity and the wrong types of carbs that leads to fat gain. This is because muscle stores aren't ‘open’ the glucose and extra sugar from poor quality carbohydrates floats around the blood stream, doesn’t connect onto muscle cells and later gets stored as body fat.
Muscle Gain: Placing carbs after training will provide the same benefits for fat loss as it will replenish muscle stores and help with muscle growth. Placing carbs before training will help fuel your sessions and help you lift heavier weight, more reps or at a higher intensity.
Performance: Placing carbs before and after training, or high intensity activities will benefit performance. As carbs are the primary fuel source of the body they fuel any hard, glycolytic activity such as intense weight sessions or activities that requires a lot of strength, speed and power.
Fast acting carbs like white rice are a great fuel source before training as these are easily digested and generally won't hamper performance. Consuming carbs after training will replenish muscle stores, speed the recovery process and fuel you for your next session. (whenever that is?) Low carbohydrate diets will negatively effect high output activities, it’s important to eat enough to fuel your sessions and aid in the recovery process.
Longevity: Higher carb diets may not be overly useful for someone that is sedentary and not very active. Certain low quality carbohydrate sources can cause inflammation in the body. Processed breads, pastries, biscuits and cakes will promote inflammation, weight gain and even brain fog. I recommend increasing activity levels and introducing carbohydrates at the right times, as completely neglecting a macro nutrient doesn’t seem to be beneficial long term.
3. Even split of fats
Fats are another essential nutrient to the body, they are critical for hormone health and considered a secondary fuel source. Good sources of fat are things like a high quality fish oil supplement, coconut oil, tree nuts, avocados, oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel as well as chia, flax and pumpkin seeds. These fats have been shown to improve the health of your brain, improve cognitive function, eye, skin and joint health.
I would say fats are important for any goal and therefore optimal health. Having an even split of saturated, poly, mono and saturated fats is paramount. Balancing Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids is also very important to overall health. Omega 3 fatty acids are anti inflammatory and Omega 6 are pro inflammatory. It’s not necessarily that Omega 6 fatty acids are bad, we need some inflammation in the body, but it’s the ratio that gets out of balance and is the problem. Low grade cooking oils, low quality animal products and under consuming Omega 3’s tip the balance to a pro inflammatory diet. Be aware of what foods are cooked in, buy high quality meat where possible and eat fats from the recommendations I listed to balance anti inflammatory in your favour.
4. 2-4 servings of veggies daily.
Veggies are considered micro nutrients and are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Eating veggies will benefit any goal and should be included in your nutrition plan. These micronutrients fight against cancerous cells and diseases, they are beneficial for gut health which keeps the immune system healthy. Veggies contain fibre which regulates digestion and keeps you fuller for longer.
Aim to eat a wide variety of veggies choosing from different shapes, sizes and colours as much as possible.
Humans are predominately made up of water. (50-70%) Our blood, brain, muscle tissue even our bones are made up of water. Water delivers oxygen and nutrients through the body, it hydrates joints, internal organs, regulates energy, digestion and can even benefit fat loss. This is because dehydration reduces the efficiency of the kidneys where functions get passed over the liver which is less able to metabolise fat.
The benefits for drinking water out weigh any goal and purified water should be consumed daily if you are serious about your health. Put simply, provide your body with what it’s made of. It’s so important. When we drink water it goes into the stomach where it’s immediately absorbed into the blood stream. You can think of this like a motorway, if you’re dehydrated then it’s like a traffic jam and things aren't moving very slow and inefficiently, but if you are hydrated then the motorway is clear and things can move very fast and efficiently which directly effects your performance.
How much one should drink really depends on factors such as activity level, time of the year and lifestyle. Men can benefit from 4+ litres a day and women 3+ Keep urine relatively clear and watch out for hunger pangs, headache and fatigue as this usually is a sign of dehydration.
Following these simple principles can really help! I know you will see results if you follow one or a few of these on a consistent basis. Watch performance increase, body fat levels drop, muscle increase (with the right type of training of course) and these will hopefully assist you in living a longer, healthier life. Getting specific will produce much better results and you can reach out to me anytime.
I hope this helped and let me know what you would like to see more of.