As you have heard and read over and over, nutrition is the most important thing when it comes to losing weight or fat. Try as you might, ‘you can’t out run or out train a bad diet,’ ‘abs are indeed made in the kitchen’ and ‘you are what you eat.’ Annoying to hear every time you come back to the drawing board when attempting to get in shape? Yes. All too true? Yes. Unfortunately, these sayings are true almost to their core.
It can be extremely difficult to “weed through the bullsh*t” to find what really works and to avoid the all too tempting, “fast” techniques to change your physique. I hope that this post will help to eliminate some of the guess work and breakdown the things I find truly important through my own fitness journey as well as my clients’.
- Balance – 80/20 or 90/10
Balance is so important when it comes to nutrition. I typically tell my clients to operate on the 80/20 rule because (the majority of) their goals are for overall weight loss or fat loss. This means that 80% of the time you should eat clean, satiating, less calorie dense, balanced meals and 20% of the time, you should eat whatever your little heart desires.
This rule is important for a number of reasons. If you are too restrictive with your diet, one, you are likely to fail, and two, not eating enough calories or eating too much can be equally detrimental to your metabolism. The 80/20 rule also keeps you realistic.
There is only a very small group of people that can be 100% perfect with their diet all the time. 80/20 allows you to still have some of the things you crave and thoroughly enjoy, but also keeps cheat meals from turning into cheat days. Whatever you do, don’t think that just because you messed up on one meal that the whole day is a wash. Thus, in many ways this rule can help keep failure at bay. Just as very few people can be 100% perfect with their diet, very few people can completely change the way they eat overnight. Completely changing everything in your diet is really difficult and you will almost certainly crave the things you are “depriving” yourself of.
- Protein, protein, protein – The building block of muscle
One of the first questions I ask my clients is, “Do you think you get enough protein?” Unless they answer quickly with a resounding, “Yes!” the answer is they probably do not. You should eat 0.8 to 1.5g of protein per pound of lean muscle mass. Why? Protein is the most important ingredient for building muscle and it is more satiating than most other foods, meaning it will keep you feeling full longer!
Many people don’t like dealing with raw meat or preparing it and many people also don’t eat red meat or don’t like fish. This makes meeting that protein requirement for your body difficult. If this is the case, a protein supplement is ideal. I don’t like the idea of trying to get most of your protein from a supplement, but it can make a big difference when it comes to your goals. It is extremely important when you have the overall goal of fat loss to keep your protein nice and high. You can play with the amount of carbs and fat you consume, but your protein should remain unchanged. If you consume too little protein, your body may actually start to eat away at the muscle tissue you worked so hard to build!
Many women especially think they shouldn’t use a protein supplement because it is for men who want to grow their muscles and they will get “bulky” if they take a protein supplement. This is just not true. Protein is SO important for recovery AND for building muscle. Without an adequate amount of protein, you will not be able to build muscle. Fun fact: The more muscle you have on your body the more calories you burn throughout the day!
- Carbs – They’re really not the devil
There is a ton of information out there on carbohydrates – whether they are good or bad, whether high or low carb diets are best, and whether you can lose fat while eating them. The truth lies in how your body reacts and your individual goals. Some people can function relatively well on a low carb diet. Some people cannot. Figuring out how your body reacts is going to be a trial and error process that can sometimes take weeks to see results. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN lose fat while eating a high carb diet if your calorie intake is relative and if you are training to support it.
Regardless, the question is not, ‘should I eat a high or low carb diet?’, but ‘what are my goals?’ If your goals are mainly performance based or to be able to deadlift your body weight, guess what, a high carb diet is going to be best for you. If your goal is overall weight loss, it’s probably best to go in the low carb direction and here is why:
Carbs can vary a ton as far as their energy density. Many people forget that fruits and vegetable are actually carbs. These carbs are much lower in energy density than rice, potatoes or pasta (the foods that come to mind most often when we think of carbs). One of the reasons why low carb diets are recommended for weight loss is because it is much easier to control your overall calorie intake if you are eating a low carb diet. For this reason, it can be great for fat loss because it allows for easier calorie control and allows you to create a daily calorie deficit. What many people miss, is that adherence to this is just as important to your overall calorie intake. If you can’t stick to a high or low carb diet, it’s going to be near impossible to see results.
Let’s go back to your performance based goals for a second – what I typically recommend is to have higher carb days on days where you are lifting heavier or have a more intense workout. If you are constantly performing high intensity workouts, your body will need carbs to function and to recover. On days where your workouts are lighter or on rest days, I would recommend consuming a lower level of carbs. If you are working out 4-6 days a week and are on a low carb diet, you will probably be hungry constantly, feel tired and feel like your performance is lacking. Is it doable? Sure, but it’s likely to be extremely unpleasant. Thus, when choosing whether you want to eat a high or low carb diet, please consider your goals and the frequency and intensity of your training!
- No matter what your goals are, it is going to be a process
We have turned into such a “microwave” society. We want results ASAP and believe all the headlines we read like “7 days to flat abs” and “Lose 30 lbs in 30 days.” Neither of these examples are realistic or attainable. (If you think otherwise or have seen results this quickly, please let me know your secret!) All too often we are quick to give up because we do not see results quickly enough and forget to celebrate the little accomplishments along the way. Small increases in strength and a few inches here and there can make the world of difference even if the scale isn’t moving.
Weight loss, fat loss, increasing your strength, or training for an event is not a linear process. Everyone’s body reacts differently and what works for me might not work for you. In our society, we compare ourselves to pictures we see in magazines (which are airbrushed and photo shopped) or to the person next to us, and can get frustrated or set ourselves up for failure. As one of our trainers here, Jarrett, tells his clients, “You can’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter twenty.” You have no idea how long the person you’re comparing yourself to has been working at their goal and or what they have been through to get through.
Respect the process. It will take time, but you will get there. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall with your training or don’t know where to start, come see us here at Core Progression!
Here are the articles I referenced for this blog if you would like more information. I of course used my own personal experience and experience I have had with clients as well.