25 Things to Know About Nutrition

1. It doesn’t matter what kind of diet you prescribe to...

...as long as it covers the following needs: provides sufficient calories, sufficient quality protein, sufficient fiber, and covers most of your micronutrient needs. As well, it should be suited to your personal preference. Meaning if you hate your diet, you probably won’t stick to it for long, and it’ll only be a matter of time before you jump ship.

2. There’s absolutely no need to cut out your favorite foods.

If you have a true addiction problem, see a therapist. Otherwise, believing that birthday cake is what made you gain fat is faulty thinking. It’s not the cake itself so much as the fact that you consumed it in excess.

3. You won’t always be able to control what you get to eat, but that’s not the point of fitness.

Because then what happens when you find yourself at a work function and you’re being served some unknown dish at dinner? Do you have a meltdown and go hide in the bathroom to scarf down your tuna? Of course not. The point is harnessing the anytime, anywhere tools you need to succeed independent of your external circumstances. These tools include: prioritizing protein for most (if not all) of your meals, consuming the bulk of your carbs around a training session, and being judicious with your indulgences.

4. Breakfast was once believed to be the most important meal of the day; now, the evidence isn’t so clear.

Keep in mind that correlation doesn’t equal causation, and so far, recent studies have shown that there’s no net difference in carbohydrate and fat usage at the end of the day between those who do and do not eat breakfast. What does this mean for you? Don’t force yourself to choke down eggs if you’re not a morning person.

 Whichever side of the breakfast debate you're on, there's one thing we can all agree one: bacon grilled cheese is amazing. 
Whichever side of the breakfast debate you're on, there's one thing we can all agree one: bacon grilled cheese is amazing.

5. Along the same lines, the multiple-meals-per-day-to-lose-fat theory has also been largely disproven.

The thinking goes like this: the more frequent meals you consume, the more you stoke the metabolic fire, and the more calories your body burns. The truth is, there was never any concrete, convincing evidence to back up the claim. I will concede to the fact, however, that all the studies conducted so far have been short-term, and we don’t know for sure the long-term effects of consuming six meals per day (although one study did seem to support the above notion). So far, the best recommendation we can give is: eat when you want to eat, but be consistent with it.

6. If you’re curious about optimal nutrient partitioning, let me first say this: the idea that the body can only absorb a limited number of grams of protein per meal is bogus.

The body actually has a high capacity for amino acid absorption – which then begs the question, what is the optimal intake that will maximize muscle protein synthesis (MPS)? Dr. Layne Norton suggests an intake of between four to five larger protein doses per day spaced four to five hours apart. Additionally, supplementing with an amino acid supplement (such as Scivation Xtend) with two to three grams of leucine can also help to maximize MPS.

Click here to read more.

7. But once again, what’s considered optimal doesn’t matter if you’re not able to stick to it – either because it’s too drastic of a change for you or it simply doesn’t suit your lifestyle.

What will trump everything at the end of the day is your dietary adherence. If that means you snack on a Snickers bar every night so you can take the edge off, then so be it. It’s not going to be a perfect diet, but what the hell is a perfect diet anyway?

8. If you want to make lasting changes to your nutrition, you have to think long-term.

If you can’t see yourself sustaining what you’re doing now for the next year, re-think your strategy.

9. Be wary of meal plans; they’re a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, they take the thinking out of the equation for you and they (supposedly) ensure that you consume enough protein, carbohydrates, and fats to reach your fitness goal. (I’d like to take a moment to emphasize that I’m well that aware that not all meal plans actually accomplish the above, and may even be detrimental to your well-being and health.) On the other hand, they don’t really teach you anything except how to follow instructions, and you don’t learn how to think for yourself. Not only that, but they also don’t provide for any flexibility.

Read more about my thoughts on meal plans here.

10. To that end, knowing how to count and meet prescribed macronutrient numbers is a valuable skill.

Yes, there is a learning curve involved, and yes, you’ll have to go through some trial and error figuring out the meal frequency, nutrient distribution, and food preferences that work best for you, but it’s well worth the initial hassle. It’s a lot like riding a bike: once you learn how to do it, you will never un-learn it. And just like bike riding, you only have to do it when the season is right (eg. you have a specific fat loss goal, or maybe you want to build some muscle mass without piling on too much fat).

Pick up a copy of my e-book if you want to learn how to count macros. 
Pick up a copy of my e-book if you want to learn how to count macros.

11. There will never be a time when calories don’t matter.

Just because you’re not counting macros doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Some form of self-monitoring will always be necessary in order to maintain body composition.

12. If you’re struggling with binge eating, fat loss should be the last thing on your mind.

Your main priority should be to tackle the binge issues. Again, if it’s a true addiction or if the behavior stems from emotional eating, see a therapist. If it’s diet-related, pull yourself out of a caloric deficit for as long as you need to in order to heal.

13. Juicing is bullshit.

Save your $7 and maybe buy a pound or two of chicken breast instead.

14. Whey protein is great, but not necessary.

It’s true that whey has an incredible high biological value, meaning that it’s easy for your body to use, but you can also make plenty of progress by getting your protein from just whole foods. I like to keep a tub of whey around for those times when I’m on the run and need a quick and convenient pulse of protein.

15. Don’t wait until the circumstances perfectly align in your life to begin fixing your diet.

There will never be a perfect time. There is always going to be something in the way, some reason to hold off another week or another month. A big part of lasting change is learning how to roll with the punches and make the most of your current situation.

16. “I’m too busy to eat a nutritious diet” is not a valid excuse.

We’re all busy; we all have the same 24 hours in a day. Take the time to prepare your foods in bulk if you need to. Invest in a slow cooker, pre-chop your veggies (or purchase them already good to go), and cook up a mound of rice. At the very least, you should always have some readily available protein sources on hand in your fridge.

17. Supplements are by and large overrated.

Spending hundreds of dollars on fat burners and neglecting your actual diet is majoring in the minors. Fish oil, multivitamin, vitamin D, maybe some magnesium and creatine monohydrate – good. Branched chain amino acids can also be beneficial. You can save your money on just about everything else.

 My favorite brand of branched chain amino acids and my three favorite flavors. 
My favorite brand of branched chain amino acids and my three favorite flavors.

18. Junk food should comprise only a small component of your diet.

Macronutrients matter, yes, but so do micronutrients. My recommendation is to allow at max 20% of your daily calories for treats.

19. No, purchasing healthy food is not expensive.

Actually, it’s an incredibly smart investment compared to the colossal medical bills you may have to face later down the road if you don’t eat properly.

20. Dairy is good for you.

Fruit is good for you. Even alcohol – in moderation – has health benefits. There’s no reason to be avoiding any of these things unless they give you explosive diarrhea or make you break out in hives (ie. you have a food allergy or intolerance).

21. Fats don’t make you fat.

Your body needs them to function.

22. The more physically active you are in your daily life, the more carbohydrates your body is going to need.

Don’t be afraid of them. Fruit is not evil. Jasmine rice is your friend.

23. Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean you can eat as much as of it as you want.

Guess what? Organic chips are still chips! And the calories absolutely still count. Sorry to burst your bubble.

24. You can have it all, just not all at once.

There’s no reason to ever feel the fear of missing out when it comes to food (better known as food FOMO). Just because there’s cheesecake sitting in front of you doesn’t mean that you can’t have any of it, and at the same time, there’s no need to inhale the whole thing just to feel like you made the most out of your experience. (Because after all, how is eating yourself to the point of sickness a good time?)

25. Make one small change at a time.

A survey from not long ago revealed that many Americans actually find doing their taxes easier than figuring out how to eat a healthy diet. It’s really. not. that. complicated. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with just one thing – maybe get in your fish oil capsules every morning. Then focus on squeezing in more protein to your first meal of the day. Then once you’ve mastered that, swap out that mid-afternoon cookie for a protein shake. Little by little becomes a lot.