By focusing on things like good/bad foods, clean vs. unclean eating, meal frequency exclusively or organic vs. non, people lose sight of the issue of portions and calories which are what really matter when it comes down to it. They rely on estimates which are oh so often off. And which appear to be colored heavily by the cognitive biases that many humans are so prone towards.
Make no mistake, certain types of eating patterns often automatically get people to reduce their intake, often by the outright removal of a so-called ‘bad’ food. What is defined as good or bad depends on the diet in question and certainly these types of good/bad approaches to dieting can work in at least the short-term (and sometimes longer than that). The problem is when people start focusing on the goodness/badness of the foods they are eating to the exclusion of everything else. That’s when it often goes wrong; this is not helped by many dietary approaches telling folks that calories/portions don’t count and that focusing only on the aforementioned ‘good/healthy’ foods is all that matters.
In this vein, the paper’s author notes that:
“In particular, the negative calorie illusion has been shown to be less pronounced when individuals pay attention to the quantity of the combined items, instead of focusing solely on the healthy/unhealthy aspects of the items.”
In a related vein, the author points out that:
“Another public issue raised by this research concerns the viability of promoting the very notion of stereotyping foods into vices and virtues. Despite it’s intuitive appeal as a decision heuristic to simplify choice, vice/virtue categorizations focuses consumers’ attention only on one aspect of the meal [my note: whether the food is a ‘vice’ or a ‘virtue’] and ignores other important aspects such as its overall quantity.”
And I really think that that’s the big take home message of this rather odd paper: people often get so fixated and focused on the wrong things that they end up hamstringing their own attempts to reach their goals. Because while it’s all well and good to focus on healthy/unhealthy, good/bad, clean/unclean or whatever, at the end of the day quantities always count. When people lose sight of that and focus on the wrong aspects exclusively, they often end up hurting their own progress.
-Lyle McDonald from The Dieter’s Paradox - Research Review
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, are overweight. It is no wonder why people are becoming more and more obsessed with dieting when the numbers point to growing increases in weight and health risks. This is not to mention that the pressure to look leaner is constantly placed in front of us through advertisements in magazines, movies, and television. Many of these overweight individuals suffer with an inability to diet successfully due to a glaring misunderstanding of what you eat being more important than how much you eat. In order to remedy this people must thoughtfully consume fewer calories than their body requires to maintain its current weight and this should be done through the reduction of calories from food and getting regular exercise, not through the new fad diet.
The problem is that people who are attempting to diet are often following plans that cut out entire food groups or macronutrients which is leading them to an inability to stick to the given program due to their restrictive nature giving them a poor relationship with food. Instead of seeking education on the fundamentals of nutrition they blindly follow the shiny new advertising of the latest fad diet. Will some of these fad diets work? Yes, but they are not beneficial to the long term success of the dieter nor do these programs typically educate the person participating on how to be healthier and more active.
The 1980’s are widely regarded as the start of the fitness revolution where dietary fat was seen as the sole enemy to those looking to get into better shape. Whereas now we know dietary fat as one of the leading nutrients our body needs to stay hormonally balanced and to aide in recovery from exercise. Along came further scare of fats in the 1990’s and now eggs were public enemy number one. This brought upon an irrational fear of the cholesterol in egg yolks being bad for us, which from a study done by K. Mayurasakorn in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand it was shown that eating eggs every day actually raises the good cholesterol levels of our body and even provides us with necessary fats that we need for day to day living. Presently we are seeing many different things being touted as the new number one enemy of those that want to diet, but none bigger than that of the carbohydrate. Diets such as Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, and Keto are the biggest names featuring this growing fear of carbohydrates. It is honestly put best as an irrational fear as studies have shown that lower carbohydrate diets are not superior than diets balanced in macronutrients as long as a caloric deficit below a person’s caloric maintenance intake is sustained.
“A closing point I want to make has been demonstrated in Hu et al’s recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing the effects of low-carb and low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors. Despite subtle differences, in a total of 23 trials (2788 subjects) a rather anticlimactic lack of significant therapeutic advantage was seen in any particular type of diet. Notably, the low-carb treatments ranged from 4 to 45% carbohydrate. This reinforces the principle that we humans are extremely versatile when it comes to diet. We can achieve excellent health on a very wide range of macronutrient compositions. The supremacy of a single type of diet (e.g., low-carb or low-fat) simply lacks evidence.” -Alan Aragon, M.S.
Restriction of entire food groups and macronutrients often leads to an over obsessive mentality that food is working against us and not for us. Many times people will take an extremist mentality, going all or nothing with their new eating habits once dieting, labeling foods as good and bad or as clean and dirty, instead of seeing food as fuel for the body and seeing the impactful benefits it provides. Steven Bratman, MD coined this extremist mentality orthorexia nervosa by detailing that it “indicates an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food.” More often than not this unhealthy restriction of certain foods and nutrients from obsessive behavior leads to only short term success for dieters and does not bring them closer to an understanding of the fundamentals of nutrition and being able to carry over long term success of a healthy body weight and a healthy mind for the rest of their lives.
The most important element in creating a successful diet while maintaining a positive relationship with food is to simplify the education. However, a problem with gaining a more solid foundation featuring the principles of nutrition is that there is so much misinformation already out there and readily available. You can easily get lost in too much detail or pointed in the wrong direction by a bad source and spend too much time focusing on something inaccurate. You should always take a science based approach when it comes to the fundamentals of nutrition. Taking this approach will provide you with proven research and results as opposed to just what sounds right or what someone with a nice physique has told you about. The basics that are necessary to understand is that the calories (energy that we take into our body from foods) versus the energy expenditure (calories that are burned through resting metabolic rate and daily activity) is what creates the basic caloric deficit or surplus in the overall energy balance making us either lose or gain weight. More important than what we eat it is how much we eat, as this was shown in a study by Richard Surwit in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where “results showed that a high sucrose content in a hypoenergetic … diet did not adversely affect weight loss.”
Eating smaller portions is a guaranteed method to reduce the calories being consumed on a daily basis in order to jump start a mindset for weight loss. Unfortunately, some bring themselves to an extremist mentality eating much too little which can be detrimental to the metabolism and lead to even more harmful situations such as developing an eating disorder like anorexia. In order to combat this it is best only to slightly reduce the portions by opting for smaller sizes of overall meals or sticking to one serving instead of two. A person should plan to consciously decrease their portions in minimal amounts through focusing on eating a portion that is only slightly less than what it has been previously as to avoid any negative repercussions of major calorie restriction. Perhaps you find that you eat bigger portions due to an increased appetite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that “if you feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit or small salad, to avoid overeating during your next meal.”
It is quickly learned for anyone that has made the decision to lose weight and lead a healthy lifestyle that there needs to be a relationship built between nutrition and exercise. Whereas you can lose weight through dieting alone with a caloric deficit it will increase the rate of weight loss plus improve your overall health to implement an exercise routine. Exercise alone, however, is often not going to be enough to fix a poor diet. This has been shown time and time again through individuals that lead an active lifestyle that still are unable to achieve a loss in weight from not following a proper diet with the purpose of weight reduction. However, in a study by Christina J. Paez done at the University of New Mexico it was shown that subjects who performed exercise along with a diet consisting of an energy deficit achieved greater amounts of weight loss and were able to maintain the results well after the study concluded.
The ever growing problem of the inability to diet in order to lose weight is not only based on the misconception that what you eat matters more than how much you eat, but it is that we already know enough. If we already know enough then why isn’t the tide shifting? According to studies done and published in the Los Angeles Times 42% of the world’s population will be obese by 2030. There is no greater gift that we have received than that of life and to ensure that we are able to live these lives in whichever way we desire we must fight to maintain healthy body weights. “Public health experts have concluded that the best way to attack the obesity crisis is to prevent people from becoming obese in the first place” (Los Angeles Times). That sounds fairly obvious, but it’s not being placed into practice. There are too many people attempting to educate themselves once already overweight or in an unhealthy state instead of arming themselves to keep the problem from occurring. In order to combat this growing epidemic of unhealthy body weights with a proper ability to lose weight and diet successfully an understanding must be reached that the scientific fundamentals of weight loss through an energy deficit combined with regular exercise are needed by overweight individuals. The choice is simply to learn more about the subject and put the subject into practice or to shorten our life spans through our own blatant ignorance.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Healthy Eating for Healthy Weight: Portion Size.” 2012.
- Hu, T et al. “Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets Versus Low-Fat Diets on Metabolic Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials.” 2012.
- Mayurasakorn, K et al. “High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Changes After Continuous Egg Consumption in Healthy Adults.” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. 91.3 (2008): 400-407.
- Los Angeles Times. “42% of American Adults Will Be Obese.“ Melissa Healy. 2012.
- Steven Bratman. “Orthorexia Nervosa.” Steven Bratman, M.D., 2010.
- Surwit, Richard S. et al. “Metabolic and Behavioral Effects of a High-Sucrose Diet During Weight Loss.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65.4 (2012): 908-915. Print.
- University of New Mexico. “Exercise vs. Diet in Weight Loss.” Exercise and Sport Science Reviews. Christina J. Paez et al. 2000.
- World Health Organization. “WHO | Obesity and Overweight.”
Summer is always closer than you think and so this means that the idea of being out in public wearing nothing but a bathing suit in front of everyone crosses many of our minds on a regular basis. For some it is an opportunity to show off what hard work and discipline will get you while others are panicking to find a perfect diet that will let them shed the last few pounds. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention up to 68% of all adults are overweight. Saying that the majority of people will be disappointed in their dieting efforts isn’t a hunch, it’s a fact. We are a society that loves to diet to lose weight, but can’t do it successfully.
Dieting hasn’t always been a concern for people. In fact, before the first recorded diet comprised of consuming only liquid calories from alcohol in 1087 by King William I overweight people were seen to be of greater wealth and of more importance. A bigger belt size meant a bigger wallet in those times, but my how things have changed. Now it seems that the thinner the individual the more successful they are perceived.
In the beginning of the 20th century dieting began to take shape featuring ideas such as, the Inuit diet where participators would eat only meat or fat, and George Harrop’s diet in which a person only consumed bananas and fat free milk. Later into the 1960s a popular dieting system was developed by Jean Nidetch that was pillared by ideas of group support, encouragement and following a style of smarter eating and healthier living. With this program members would meet weekly to share experiences and gain information from one another on how to achieve better results in their efforts. The program proved to be so successful that it is still widely used today under the same name as it started with, Weight Watchers.
Unfortunately for society there isn’t just one diet though. There are literally hundreds of fad diets and styles of eating that are available. How are you supposed to know which one is right? How are you supposed to tell one that is focused on getting you to better health instead of just taking your hard earned money? The weight loss industry was worth a staggering $60.9 billion in 2010 alone according to a report done by Marketdata Enterprises, so to think that all diets are in it for the good of your health would be quite naïve. Every time you open a magazine there is a new perfect diet to follow. Watch an interview for the new blockbuster movie out this weekend and you’ll hear about how the lead actor got in shape for their role following some new diet gimmick. Dieting is everywhere in our society and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Temptation can wreck a diet in a matter of minutes. You have been successful in losing a substantial amount of weight to the point where friends and family are taking notice. You’ve stuck to your guns on this diet fad and it’s paid off. You feel better, but you’re not happy. You want to lose more weight and you are constantly being reminded of the fact that you can’t eat anything that you want. As you grocery shop the candy aisle taunts you with bright colors and tasty choices. The ice cream cartons call out to you as you’re trying to find frozen vegetables to complete your healthy dinners for the week. Then you get a phone call from your best friend asking you to come out to a restaurant for some company. You know the place well. It has delicious food, cheap drinks and a great atmosphere. You go and you’ll break your diet and be miserable. You don’t go and you’ll stick to your diet, but you’re still miserable because you missed out on a good time and your social life has become non-existent. You just can’t win in that scenario unless you change your outlook. Temptation is hard to beat, but if you give in every now and again then temptation subsides. In a study put out by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where participants ate a diet abnormally high in sugar content author Richard Surwit said, “We therefore conclude that the use of sucrose in a weight-loss regimen is unlikely to cause problems for the average patient, as long as total energy intake is restricted.”
Being burdened with an overwhelming amount of choices and kinds of diets, all which bring different information to the table claiming to be the right way to go, we are left with a society that flip-flops between diet programs and constantly yo-yos between overweight and attempting to diet. Due to this abundance of diet programs using contradictory information to achieve goals dieters are being guided down a very unsuccessful path. Typically these programs want to put focus on eating a certain way that consists of focusing on the intake of a particular nutrient and the exclusion of another nutrient in a person’s diet. These styles can range from not eating carbohydrates, lowering the amount of dietary fat eaten, the removal of all sugar or just not eating any food that has been processed. However, in a study done by The New England Journal of Medicine author Frank Sacks found that participants in four different dieting groups all featuring different nutrient intakes were able to successfully lose weight over three years as long as each person adhered to eating a lower total amount of calories each day. It would seem that the finer details of the diet programs are not necessarily the most important part as long as someone successfully follows a lower caloric intake on a day to day basis.
However, is our ability to successfully follow a diet necessarily our fault when something as common as stress is causing us to gain more weight? A study conducted at Yale University and published in Science Daily showed that non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat, and have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. You can’t control all the situations you’re placed in and inevitably this is going to lead to stress, which in turn can lead to weight gain. Nonetheless, we absolutely can control the way that we react to a given situation which can lead to a decrease in stress and subsequently keep us from the unwanted gain in weight and give us the ability to follow a diet successfully.
The trend of dieting isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The desire to look better and feel better is always going to be important to our culture. We can, however, learn to lose weight successfully and to become healthier if we make an effort to change things. First, we need a do over with our education on the subject. Society needs to be grounded in factual scientific evidence of how weight loss is achieved successfully and not enamored with the next big diet craze or just what seems to be the popular route. Once we understand how it works fundamentally we can start to relax a bit and not sweat the small details. Restricting ourselves from foods we enjoy or avoiding events involving food like birthdays or weddings will lead to a self-destructive path featuring a feeling that weight loss is a burden on our social lives. Giving in a little when you’re putting in a lot of self-discipline to lose weight will only make the ends of dieting justify the means of eating less more understood.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.”
- Marketdata Enterprises. “U.S. Weight Loss Market Worth.” John LaRosa. [http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8393658.htm].
- Surwit, Richard S. et al. “Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65.4 (2012): 908-915.
- The New England Journal of Medicine. “Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates.” Sacks, FM et al.
- Yale University. “Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal.” ScienceDaily.
Question: What advice would you give to a fitness enthusiast that wants to A.) Build muscle B.) Lose fat & C.) General Supplement recommendations?
Training must facilitate the adaptations necessary to promote muscle tissue growth and diet must be there to complement the physiologic needs of the body in order to support growth and recovery. Without one or the other the equation falls apart. Since I am a nutrition major, I will address the diet side of the equation.
A diet which promotes recovery and growth is one which first and foremost meets the caloric requirements of the athlete. Without adequate calories (above maintenance levels) growth cannot occur. Secondly, adequate protein and carbohydrate must be consumed in order to A) sustain energy for training sessions and B) adequately recover and grow during the post-training period. I am not a stickler with numbers and ratios, as one diet is not universal for everyone, but as a general rule of thumb, 1g/lb lean body mass of protein and anywhere from 3-4g/lb body weight of carbohydrate is a good start. Obviously your caloric requirements will dictate the overall amount of macronutrients in the diet, but these are good jump off points. Fat should constitute the remainder of your diet without being too low and without hindering the intake of the other macronutrients.
Some of the same dietary principles which apply to muscle gain also apply to fat loss. For instance, calories dictate overall fat loss just as they dictate muscle gain. Without an adequate drop in calories (through either diet and/or exercise) fat will not be used for energy and your weight will remain stable (or elevated). Since carbohydrates make up the majority of most athletes’ diets, they are the first to get reduced alongside fats. The only thing I would suggest not decreasing is protein. Maintaining adequate protein intakes (1-1.25g/lb lean mass) when dieting is more than enough to hedge your bets for any muscle loss without taking away too much from the other macros. If you’re more of an endurance athlete, you could probably get away with the lower end of the range due to increased needs for carbohydrate. In terms of weight loss, anything over a 2lb loss (after the first week) should be a sign that calories were cut too drastically and more carbs should be introduced to attenuate any further losses. Losing over 2lbs during the first week of a diet is not uncommon, especially in bigger athletes. This is normal due to glycogen stores being depleted as well as the water associated with the stored glycogen. Remember, water follows solutes, and carbs are a solute. Less carbs means less glycogen and less water in the cell. Once your body exhausts dietary fuels for energy it draws upon its own stored fuel sources, and glycogen is one of the first to go (most notably during exercise).
As far as supplement recommendations go, I would highly suggest focusing on training and diet protocols well before thinking about supplements – especially for the novice athlete/weightlifter. Training and diet alone will account for nearly 100% of any gains seen in the weight room and mirror for any beginner. Once a firm foundation has been built, and training and diet have been maximized, only then should supplements be considered. That being said, in terms of scientific literature, creatine monohydrate would be the first to choose. If it’s not monohydrate, it’s bullshit. Creatine monohydrate has been shown time and time again to be an effective ergogenic aid. Other forms of creatine (Ethyl ester, krealkalyn, etc.) are not stable in the acidic environment of the stomach and get converted to creatinine and are excreted in the urine instead of taken up into the cells (no wonder there’s no water weight. You’re pissing it all out!). Furthermore, I don’t consider whey protein or fish oils to be supplements per se, only because they are actual food items and do provide calories. I would suggest taking both at any stage of training (beginner, intermediate, advanced), unless your wallet says otherwise. You can perfectly and effectively train and grow without the help of supplements. In closing:
In the hierarchy of things – Calories > Macronutrient Composition > Timing > Supplements
This post is meant as a quick reference guide to explain what nutrients are and the main sources of them. It isnt an in depth discussion about nutrients or any aspects of them, simply a quick reference guide, handy for newbies or for anyone wanting to ensure that they have a balanced diet.
The post is divided into sections. The first covers the macronutrients plus water and fibre. From there the post moves to vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients to alcohols and artificial food components which are briefly mentioned due to the frequency they appear in modern foods. This is followed up by a links section which also doubles as the references for this post.
After a nutrient is listed and basically described, at least 5 examples of whole foods high in that particular nutrient are listed. What you will notice is the foods which come up again and again. Lean meats, dairy, grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. These foods should be forming the basis and majority of your diet. This post is also handy if you wanted to choose a food to enable you to up your intake of a certain nutrient such as a particular mineral.
Dihydrogen oxide (H2O) or water is a colourless, tasteless liquid under normal circumstances. Liquid water is essential to life and therefore is the most important and essential nutrient. Water is obtained by drinking and by eating food. It is mainly lost through perspiration, respiration and urination. Water contains no calories.
Water is the basis for the fluids of the body. Water makes up more than two-thirds of the weight of the human body. Without water, humans would die in a few days. All the cells and organs need water to function. Water is the basis of blood, saliva and the fluids surrounding the joints. Water regulates the body temperature through perspiration. It also helps prevent constipation by moving food through the intestinal tract and eliminates waste from the body through filtering by the kidneys. The human brain is around 80% water by weight and is very sensitive to dehydration. For a bodybuilder, adequate hydration is just as important than adequate nutrition. In a survival situation, hydration is much more important than nutrition.
Protein is one of the basic components of food and makes all life possible. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. All of the antibodies and enzymes, and many of the hormones in the body are proteins. They provide for the transport of nutrients, oxygen and waste throughout the body. They provide the structure and contracting capability of muscles. They also provide collagen to connective tissues of the body and to the tissues of the skin, hair and nails. Proteins contain 4 calories per gram.
MEATS - Meat cuts should be lean, trimmed & skinless.
- Poultry: Chicken, Turkey, Goose, Game Birds, etc. (Be sure to remove skin. If buying ground meat ensure it is lean.)
- Red Meat: Any quality lean meat from Cows, Elk, Buffalo, Kangaroo, Game. (If buying ground meat ensure it is lean.)
- Other Meats: Pork, Lamb, Lean Ham, etc. (Ensure you buy the leaner cuts as these meats can be quite fatty.)
- Fish: Fresh Cod, Snapper, Salmon, Swordfish, Canned Fish. (Most fish are lean but the fattier fish are high in healthy fats)
- Shellfish: Includes: Mussels, Oysters, Scallops, Prawns, Lobsters, etc.
DAIRY - Choose mostly low fat dairy products
- Milk, Powdered Milk (Choose mostly skim milk. Can be Cow/goat/sheep, etc)
- Low Fat Cottage Cheese & Natural Yoghurt. (These foods include the benefits of bacterial cultures to improve gut health)
- Cheeses & Other Dairy Products. (Cheeses are very high in fat, choose softer cheeses where possible)
- Eggs, Powdered Egg (Egg whites are pure protein, egg yolks contain fat and protein)
VEGETABLE PROTEINS - Vegetable proteins are often “incomplete” so it is wise to vary them or add dairy/meat
- Raw Nuts & Seeds: (These are also high in healthy fats and contain carbohydrate)
- Grain Protein: (Many grains eg: wheats, rices, etc contain significant amounts of proteins)
- Bean/Vegetable Protein: (Soyabeans are the main protein source here, although other beans and vegetables contain protein)
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS - These are available in powders/bars/drinks/etc.
- Whey Protein: (A fast digesting milk protein. Available in various forms/fractions)
- Casein Protein: (A slow digesting milk protein.)
- Soy Protein: (Derived from soyabeans.)
- Egg Protein: (Primarily the protein albumin, this is a slow digesting protein)
- Vegetable Proteins: (Can be found in the form of Wheat, Pea, Spirulina Protein, etc)
- Amino Acids: (These are the building blocks of proteins. They are present in protein containing foods or available as free form powders or capsules. The essential amino acids * are amino acids that cannot be synthesized by the body from other available resources, and therefore must be supplied as part of the diet. “Complete” proteins contain all of these, whilst “incomplete” proteins do not. The amino acids are:
Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Cysteine, Glutamic Acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine*, Leucine*, Lysine, Methionine*, Phenylalanine*, Proline, Serine, Threonine*, Tryptophan*, Tyrosine, Valine*
Carbohydrates are the chief source of energy for all bodily functions and muscular exertion. They are necessary for the digestion and assimilation of other foods. They help regulate protein and fat metabolism, and fats require carbohydrates to be broken down in the liver. They also provide some of the structural components necessary for the growth and repair of tissues. All carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. Complex carbohydrates contain fibre.
SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES - These are the small molecule carbohydrates or sugars
- Sugar Cane & Sugar Beets (The main commercial sources of sugar)
- Fresh Fruit & Berries (These contain mainly fructose, a low GI sugar)
- Honey (Honey contains a mix of glucose and fructose)
- Milk (Milk and milk products contain the sugar lactose)
- Prepared Sugars (Glucose/Fructose/Lactose/Maltose, etc. Found in drinks or free form)
COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES - These are long chains of simple carbohydrates, that breakdown to release sugars
- Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin & Squash
- Yams, Parsnips & Other Root Vegetables
- Corn, Oats Wheat & Other Grains.
- Wholegrain Flours, Breads & Pastas.
- Brans, Weet Bix & Shredded Wheat Cereals.
- Ancient Grains (Amaranth, Millet, Teth, etc).
- Basmati, Brown & Wild Rice.
- Raw Nuts, Seeds, Beans, Lentils, Couscous & Other Pulses, etc.
- Vegetables such as Carrots and Peas.
Fats / Oils
Fatty acids are individual isomers of what we more commonly call “fats”. There are potentially hundreds of different fatty acids, but just a few dozen that are commonly found in the foods we eat. Nutritionists commonly classify dietary fat as either saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated, based on the number of double bonds that exist in the fat’s molecular structure. For each of these three classes, there exists a large number of different chemical variations or “isomers”. These include the EFA’s or Essential Fatty Acids. Fats are required to produce and build new cells. They are a source of energy and are critical in the transmission of nerve impulses and brain function and development. They are also involved in the synthesis of other essential molecules such as hormones. All oils ideally should be cold pressed, extra virgin and of high quality. Fats contain 9 calories per gram.
VEGETABLE FAT SOURCES - These are mostly high in mono and polyunsaturated fats and contain EFA’s
- Flaxseed, Hempseed, Evening Primrose, Almond, Canola, Olive and Most Other Plant Oils.
- Whole Raw Nuts & Seeds (Some whole seeds need to be cracked or ground to be digested)
- MCT Oils (These are medium chain saturated fats derived from coconut oil, available as a supplement)
ANIMAL FAT SOURCES - These can be high in mono and polyunsaturated and saturated fats and contain EFA’s
- Salmon, Cod, Halibut, Shellfish & Other Fatty Fish/Fish Oils (Fish are high in unsaturated fats and EFA’s)
- Dairy Products (Can vary in fat content wildly and can contain high levels of saturated fat)
- Lean Meat & Poultry (Even when trimmed and skinless, these provide fat. Can be high in saturated fat)
- Eggs (Only the yolk contains the mainly saturated fat)
Dietary fibers are large carbohydrate molecules containing many different sorts of monosaccharides. The key difference between fiber and other carbohydrates is that they are not broken down by the human digestive system. Fibre has no caloric value but is still classed as a macronutrient.
There Are Two Types Of Fiber: Soluble & Insoluble
These are often found together in the same source.
Soluble fibres can be dissolved in water (hence the name). These fibers are beneficial in that they can slow the speed of digestion due to their thickness. They are also helpful in maintaining artery health.
Insoluble fibers are such things as cellulose which do not dissolve in water. Insoluble fibers do not affect the speed of digestion. They are beneficial to gut health.
- Broccoli / Cauliflower / Cabbage
- Celery / Lettuce / Spinach / Watercress
- Mushrooms / Onions / Carrots
- Green Beans / Peas / Asparagus / Kale
- Bean & Vegetable Sprouts / Beetroot / Leeks
- Cucumber / Zucchini / Aubergine
- Tomato / Capsicum / Silverbeet
- Frozen Mixed Vegetables
- Any Other Non-starchy Vegetable (or similar) of Any Colour
- Any Grain or Grain Product
- Fruits & Berries
The best answer that I or anyone else out there that deals with a great deal of nutritional science can give you will be a resounding, “it depends.”
Unfortunately that sounds like a fairly gray answer, doesn’t it? Initially, once you break beyond the weight loss or gain phenomenon (oh, the sarcasm) known as energy in versus energy out and start to venture into more intermediate and advanced nutritional scientific studies or theorems things start becoming less “black and white” like energy in versus energy out and more “it depends” like the topic at hand.
Today I am going to do my best effort to keep the topic on nutrient timing in regards to improving body composition. I will, by chance, touch on many different topics relating to nutrient timing, but in a whole we are talking about body composition only.
Before jumping into the alpha/omega of nutrient timing quotes I will state strongly that I am on the side that nutrient timing and meal frequency, when looked at in black and white, are absolutely irrelevant for improving body composition.
When speaking of nutrition for improving body composition or athletic performance, it’s crucial to realize there’s an underlying hierarchy of importance. At the top of the hierarchy of effects is total amount of the macronutrients by the end of the day. Below that — and I mean distantly below that — is the precise timing of those nutrients. With very few exceptions (i.e., the intermittent fasting crowd), athletes and active individuals eat multiple times per day, to the tune of at least four meals. Thus, the majority of their day is spent in the postprandial (fed) rather than a post-absorptive (fasted) state. The vast majority of nutrient timing studies have been done on overnight-fasted subjects put through glycogen depletion protocols, which obviously limits the applicability of the outcomes. Pre-exercise (and/or during-exercise) nutrient intake often has a lingering carry-over effect into the post-exercise period. Throughout the day, there’s a constant overlap of meal digestion and nutrient absorption. For this reason, the effectiveness of nutrient timing does not require a high degree of precision. -Alan Aragon, Alan Aragon’s Research Review, January 2008
Notice that the number one most important thing that Alan states is that hitting your daily total macronutrients for your goals is king. I’m not usually one to use a lot of personal experiences as evidence, but since I feel that I am a living and breathing example of nutrient timing experimentation let me say how true I believe that hitting macronutrient totals truly is. During my many years of attempting to achieve better body composition I practiced every method you can imagine ranging from the classic eight small meals a day to a strict fasting style protocols. Neither method worked better than the other in the long run. What did work was my persistence in hitting my predetermined macronutrient totals each day that I calculated for my personal goals.
I can almost hear the broscientists scattering to their computers to put on their keyboard warrior costumes to write me gushing e-mails about how they’ve gotten stronger or have more endurance in the gym based upon when they eat. Hold your dextrose shakes bros, I’m not done yet, no not by a long shot. Have mercy on my inbox and spare yourself the time because I’ll just look, laugh, and pass it over.
Uncle Jesse hates angry e-mails.
“If the timing of nutrients is beneficial for you due to your own personal reasons such as satiety, gastric comfort or the feelings of strength gain and increased endurance in the gym then by all means time your meals to best suit your lifestyle. Just be aware of the difference between biological necessity and personal preference. Strength and endurance in the gym is individual and it should be understood that some people train just as hard in the morning after an overnight fast. Therefore, you can not generalize nutrient timing as being beneficial for everyone. If it works for you, then by all means eat your meals at certain times, but it’s completely preferential. Even if you could generalize pre-workout nutrition for everyone, it would be an indirect benefit to body composition. Even if nutrient timing did allow you to train harder, it would still be correct to say that it has no direct impact on body composition. Your training does.
The only time that strict nutrient timing becomes relevant is if you perform multiple glycogen depleting activities in the same day, which does not apply to the majority of people out there.
You will not get fat based on when or how many meals you eat.
Once you’ve eaten a meal the body will take time for amino acids, fats, and carbs to slowly “leak” into your blood. Your body doesn’t know how much you just ate. All it knows is that there is a stream of nutrients coming in. While the nutrients are coming in you’re making use of them and expending calories. You’re making ATP and releasing heat, synthesizing new cells and neurotransmitters all over your body, and continuously carrying out every other biological function vital to life. Once all those nutrients are in your blood they will remain there for hours upon hours just waiting to be snatched up to provide energy for and be used up by one of these biological functions. If you’re ingesting more calories than you’re expending, then on average you will have constantly elevated levels of nutrients/available energy in your system. These must go somewhere, right? They can’t keep sitting in the blood. They will ultimately (way down the road) be stored as fat.
Net gains in fat are due to an overabundance of nutrients (calories/energy) over an extended period time. It’s not 12 hours, it’s not 24 hours. There is no exact timeframe. How long it takes for you to gain fat is dependant on many factors. If you overeat breakfast by 3500 calories you will not gain a pound of fat by the end of the day. It just doesn’t work like that.”
(the above is from a poster on the bodybuilding.com forums known as MikeK45)
What about the anabolic window?
The postexercise “anabolic window” is a highly misused and abused concept. Preworkout nutrition all but cancels the urgency, unless you’re an endurance athlete with multiple glycogen-depleting events in a single day. Getting down to brass tacks, a relatively recent study (Power et al. 2009) showed that a 45g dose of whey protein isolate takes appx 50 minutes to cause blood AA levels to peak. Resulting insulin levels, which peaked at 40 minutes after ingestion, remained at elevations known to max out the inhibition of muscle protein breakdown (15-30 mU/L) for 120 minutes after ingestion. This dose takes 3 hours for insulin and AA levels to return to baseline from the point of ingestion. The inclusion of carbs to this dose would cause AA and insulin levels to peak higher and stay elevated above baseline even longer. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18679613)
So much for the anabolic peephole and the urgency to down AAs during your weight training workout; they are already seeping into circulation (and will continue to do so after your training bout is done). Even in the event that a preworkout meal is skipped, the anabolic effect of the postworkout meal is increased as a supercompensatory response (Deldicque et al, 2010). Moving on, another recent study (Staples et al, 2010) found that a substantial dose of carbohydrate (50g maltodextrin) added to 25g whey protein was unable to further increase postexercise net muscle protein balance compared to the protein dose without carbs. Again, this is not to say that adding carbs at this point is counterproductive, but it certainly doesn’t support the idea that you must get your lightning-fast postexercise carb orgy for optimal results.
To add to this… Why has the majority of longer-term research failed to show any meaningful differences in nutrient timing relative to the resistance training bout? It’s likely because the body is smarter than we give it credit for. Most people don’t know that as a result of a single training bout, the receptivity of muscle to protein dosing can persist for at least 24 hours. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21289204)
Are you getting it yet? When you eat doesn’t matter for body composition as long as you are eating what you should be eating. Just eat when you feel like it.
I think nutrient timing is important too. Get your macros down your facehole at some point within the time you wake to the time you sleep, and time your meals so that they maximize and do not hinder performance - which again, will vary with individual goals, preference, and tolerance.
Here’s what you’re not seeming to grasp: the “windows” for taking advantage of nutrient timing are not little peepholes. They’re more like bay windows of a mansion. You’re ignoring just how long the anabolic effects are of a typical mixed meal. Depending on the size of a meal, it takes a good 1-2 hours for circulating substrate levels to peak, and it takes a good 3-6 hours (or more) for everythng to drop back down to baseline.
You’re also ignoring the fact that the anabolic effects of a meal are maxed out at much lower levels than typical meals drive insulin and amino acids up to. Furthermore, you’re also ignoring the body’s ability of anabolic (and fat-oxidative) supercompensation when forced to work in the absence of fuels. So, metaphorically speaking, our physiology basically has the universe mapped out and you’re thinking it needs to be taught addition and subtraction. -Alan Aragon
If you’ve been able to stick with me through this extensive post then let me applaud you.
Let me finish this all off by saying that if your goal is to improve your body composition then when you eat does not matter. The important thing is what you eat and in what amount. Don’t confuse the “what you eat matters” part with that going against an if it fits your macros philosophy because it doesn’t. Again, if it fits your macros simply means that if you want a treat here and there, have it, as long as you fit it into your daily macronutrient intake which is the most important thing for improving your body composition.
Stop splitting hairs over the rules. The beauty of food is that, unlike drugs, its physiological effects have neither the acuteness nor the magnitude to warrant extreme micro-management, especially when it comes to nutrient timing relative to training. A half an hour difference here or there really isn’t gonna make or break your physique.
“What’s your body fat dude?”
“What’s my body fat at?”
“So what bodyfat should I get to?”
This has got to go!!
Be it if you are trying to compete in a bodybuilding show, gain the notoriety from the opposite sex, or just look good for your upcoming vacation. Nobody is going to look at you, point and say “WOW! Check out his 5.62934% bodyfat!” Truth is you are either in shape or not, and aiming for bodyfat percentages is a waste of time, a distraction at best. When I start dieting for bodybuilding shows I will get that question quite a bit. “So what bodyfat are you going to cut down to?” Truth is I just keep losing weight until I have achieved the look I desire. While your goal might not be striated glutes, I am sure you have a look in mind. What if you get callipered at the 8% you were aiming for, but don’t quite look the way you anticipated? Do you end your diet there? Which brings me to my next point: bodyfat testing in general is pretty hit or miss, at least all the affordable ways are. This is why I never have my clients send me bodyfat percentages in their weekly reports to me. I want weight (which tells us how many lbs. of bodyfat we have lost) and pictures which of course you can’t argue with. You are either ripped or not, and it’s that simple. Yes numbers are sexy, and being able to quantify things is something people just like to do in general, but “ripped” you either are or you aren’t.
Let the mirror decide, not some plastic calipers. Much like the judges don’t get on stage and caliper myself and the other competitors, neither will that young lady at the beach. Shredded doesn’t need a number, it just is.
I get lots of messages/e-mails asking me questions where I always try to respond with a detailed, thought out response.. but here’s the real kicker. If you ask me questions similar to these,
- “How do I lose xx lbs?”
- “What’s a good diet to lose xx lbs?”
- “I’m active but how do I lose fat?”
then I will respond with..
Weight loss is calories in versus calories out. There is no magic diet, special food selection, secret formula, etc. If you want to lose fat then it all comes down to your output as opposed to your intake.
You could even just keep eating the same amount you currently are and just become more active putting yourself into a caloric deficit. This would garnish the same desired results of fat loss as simply just eating less and keeping the same activity level. Now, just imagine what you could do if you got active AND ate less. Go go Gadget fat loss.
Yes, it may be a bit snarky for me to just reply this way, but it’s the quick truth to what you’re asking.
The longer answer I would give you is:
- Eat at a caloric deficit below your maintenance level.
- Eat enough protein to retain muscle mass and provide satiety
- Eat enough fat to keep hormone levels in check, testosterone on point, keep sanity and ensure satiety.
- Eat enough carbohydrates to have sufficient energy and provide glycogen to the muscles.
- Get active.
What’s the REAL deal with eggs?
You’ll hear many people state as fact that you shouldn’t eat whole eggs and that you should just stick to eating the egg whites due to the yolks in eggs containing fat and cholesterol. Well, guess what. They’re absolutely right when it comes to the nutritional makeup of the egg, but they are 100% wrong in telling you not to eat the whole egg.
Back in the 70’s they started with the whole “cholesterol is bad!” argument and systematically pushed to limit intake of any food with cholesterol. Fast forward 40 years and we’ve discovered there is bad cholesterol (LDL) and good cholesterol (HDL).
Egg yolks are good cholesterol, the kind you want and the kind your liver already produces (more on this later). Thailand did a study and found that adding one whole egg to your diet a day increased the HDL levels of the participants. They pushed further and even with a diet of six eggs a day, saw no increase in LDL (bad cholesterol).
From the Thai study:
OBJECTIVE: To determine the relationship between continuous egg consumption with Thai life-style dietary and serum lipids of healthy young people.
MATERIAL AND METHOD: Fifty-six participants with an average age of 35 were enrolled. In an experimental method of cholesterol intake, all participants were fed an additional egg per day to their basic diet. This project ran for 12 weeks.
RESULTS: The 12-week egg consumption significantly increased serum total cholesterol by 0.27 +/- 0.15 mmol/L (10.43 +/- 5.80 mg/dL) (p < 0.05). The HDL-cholesterol (HDL-c) increased significant by 0.55 +/- 0.06 mmol/L (21.80 +/- 2.25 mg/dL) (p < 0.001) while the total cholesterol (TC) decreased as the HDL-c ratio was 0.94 +/- 1.1 (p < 0.001). No significant changes were found in LDL-cholesterol (LDL-c) and triglyceride levels. The present study showed that small serum LDL-c changed in response to change of egg consumption. Additionally, 12-week egg consumption also resulted in an increasing HDL-c level.
CONCLUSION: In the majority of healthy adults, an addition of one egg per day to a normal fat diet could raise HDL-c levels and decreased the ratio of TC toHDL-c. Therefore, egg consumption might benefit blood cholesterol.
Egg yolks are good cholesterol and fat. Simple.
Furthering the importance of eating the whole egg - egg yolks are high in choline. Choline, generally only found in fatty foods and foods high in cholesterol, is thought to be extremely important in the livers proper ability to handle fat. So by diligently avoiding all foods containing cholesterol, you could be setting yourself up for some serious health problems. Chris Masterjohn has the long and complex answer as to why this is.
The majority of the micro-nutrients are also in the egg yolk. The yolk is really the much healthier part of the egg and if you were going to just eat whites or yolks, the yolks would be the much better choice. Not that there is anything wrong with the white, it’s got the protein, so just eat the whole food and be healthy!
The only people who typically eat just egg whites are bodybuilders needing just the protein and no other micro/macro-nutrients when they are on a major cutting/caloric deficit cycle prior to a show.
Long story short, anyone telling you egg yolks are bad for you is still living off 40 year old information and probably isn’t your best source for health advice.