The fitness industry is full of poor-quality information on nutrition and how your body works. Whether its supplement companies making exaggerated claims about their products, fad diets making ridiculous claims about how to lose weight, or unqualified ‘gurus’, misinformation is everywhere. Today, however, I’m going to share some basic principles of an effective, healthy, scientific diet.
Remember that you shouldn’t be on a diet, you should have a diet. An effective diet is a long-term lifestyle change: if you can get into a mindset of viewing food as fuel for you goals and progressyou’ll achieve amazing results. Consistency and persistence are key to success in health and fitness, so it’s important to work on a diet that is realistic, as well as based on key principles of nutrition.
The first place to start is to define your goal: are you looking to gain quality muscle or lose fat? These are usually opposite goals and require different diets. This starts with calories. Calories might sound intimidating and complicated, but they follow a very simple equation:
Calories in – Calories out = Energy balance
If your energy balance is positive you’ll gain weight, whereas a negative energy balance will mean weight loss: if you’re looking to lose weight, you need to eat less calories than you use in a day, whereas you need to eat more than you use if you’re looking to build extra muscle and strength.This is a very simple approach to the ideas of “bulking” and “cutting”, which we’ll discuss in-depth.
The macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These components of food determine the effect in your body, and the balance of macronutrients plays a major role in the type of weight you gain or lose.
Protein intake is all about providing your body with the right tools for muscle-building, fat-loss, and recovery between training sessions. Muscles and connective tissues are primarily made up of proteins, and dietary protein is key to building muscle and improving strength. Around 20% of the calories from protein are needed to process proteins, which also means more ‘fullness’ for less overall calories.
Fats are a key part of a healthy diet. Fats are key to hormonal health and vitamin absorption, while essential fats (like Omega-3 fish oils) are important for heart and brain health, as well as joint and muscle function.
Carbohydrates are simple. Carbohydrates are fuel for exercise: the more exercise you perform, the more carbohydrates you need. High-fiber, starchy foods like rice and beans are your best bet, but sugars are important during exercise to keep energy levels high.
Vitamins and Minerals are ‘micronutrients’ and key for health and optimal function. These nutrients also have some important effects on weight loss and muscle building. They’re found in high-quality animal and plant foods, so you should focus on increasing the quality of foods and eating more whole foods.