One of the biggest mistakes I see with nutrition is missing the forest for the trees, or failing to see the bigger picture.
How many times have you heard, in fact how many times have you said (I know I have!):
You need to have a protein shake IMMEDIATELY after their your workout (otherwise your workout is ruined! It’s not really. It really isn’t in fact).
Make sure you eat every 4 hours
You need to buy this supplement and this supplement and definitely this supplement (‘Trust me I’m jacked’.)
Yeah casein protein before bed makes a massive difference (does it really….?)
Make sure you add cinnamon to food to blunt insulin (when it doesn't do ANYTHING*).
*This is biggy of mine, if you wanted to know more about insulin and the roll of carbs on fat loss check out the post here (CARBS AND FAT LOSS)
Even if the above were true, how much difference to your results do you think they really make?
Not that much.
It’s the big picture that matters. Getting the basics right, focusing on the simple things is what above all else gets results.
But where to start…..
The Hierarchy of Importance
A basic framework I use with my clients is the hierarchy of importance, a model guys like Eric Helms, Mike Israetel, Danny Lennnon and Andy Morgan all agree on. And if these guys all base their programming on this premise then it’s important that we take note.
1. Adherence - This doesn’t really feature but it underpins the whole thing which is why I’m adding it in, even though I’m not a fan of psychological subjective ‘mumbo- jumbo’, it’s this kind of stuff that often overrides scientific fact (unfortunately). Whichever strategy you choose, this is without doubt the most important thing to do. If you can’t stick to your diet it simply won’t work, which is which is why anything drastic is always a no no.
2. Energy balance - Or how much you eat, digest and absorb compared to how much energy you expend (a slightly more complicated version of kcals in vs kcals out). You can’t solely look at this as your basis for building a diet but it should be your first port of call.
3. Macronutrients - Food group partitioning (carbs, fats and proteins). Your macronutrient numbers matter. There’s obviously room for some leeway here but by hitting relatively high protein (1.2-2g per kg of body weight) you can play around with the other 2 to find a setup that works well for you. Some people prefer a higher carb approach (high amounts of intense activity), whereas others seem to fare better with a low carb approach (pre-diabetic, insulin resistant).
4. Nutrient timing - Eating around exercise and meal spacing. This is light years behind energy intake and macronutrients in terms of importance but frequent feeding do help protein synthesis (an important stage in building new muscle) and muscle sparing, key for WHATEVER your goal is. So even though points 1-3 are what matter most, still look for frequent feedings and to fuel your workouts correctly.
5. Nutrient density - the quality and make up of your food (less important for body composition, whereas for health I would have it above timing) still matters. Indirect factors on body composition like satiety, gut health, energy levels, hormones, recovery and health all come down to the makeup of your food. So basically don’t eat sh*t! What jacked guy do you know that has scurvy….
6. Supplements - Supplements will not rescue a bad diet so it's probably a good idea to read the above 5 points first. at the bottom, not the top… They’re really not that important if you tick off the points above. However, for demanding sports like competitive fitness there are a few supplements that can give you an edge and maximise your training. Get yours:
Out of the above 5, energy balance and macronutrients probably account for about 70% of what’s important, so get these right first. If you're not sure where to start make sure you have a read of the ‘how to setup your diet’ post here.
An important point to note is that the more specific your goal, the more specific you have to be so counting macros, looking at nutrient timing and at supplements will matter. These finer details do matter the more competitive you get where it’s these small margins that add up to be the difference between winning and losing.
However, for the majority of us, rather than trying to find those little shortcuts or magic bullets, ask yourself are you getting the things that matter most right first?
Are you eating the right amount of food for your goal?
Are getting the right food groups
Are you eating enough quality food?
If not, it’s time to rethink your strategy...
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