THE BIG 3 TYPES OF NUTRITIONAL PLANS
How to start getting JACKED without STEROIDS
I'm often asked about the nutrition programs I recommend, and which are the best. In this essay, I'll lay out the three types of nutritional programs I see the most frequently.
Nutrition programs typically focus on one of three aspects. From my experience, there are pieces of all of three that can work, but no single plan is perfect and no single plan works for everyone.
People will argue basically from three points of view about the superiority of their diet. The first is HOW MUCH you eat. Their claim is that it’s simply calories in vs. calories out. This means that if you expend more than you consume, you'll lose weight, and from a simplistic point of view, this is true. However, it is not even close to this simple.
There are far more aspects to consider than just a single number. These types of calorie counting diets are couched in the "slim fast" and "weight watchers" style programs. Just count calories (or points), and you'll lose weight. Maybe, but this is far too simplistic to be a comprehensive nutrition plan. I consider this a nice stop-gap for people eating out of control. Step one basically is to get the amount of food you eat under control.
The second style is focusing on WHAT you eat. The claim is that calories don't matter, it's the types of food that you eat. These people often profess ketogenic, paleo, or caveman diets. Again, what you eat is incredibly important, but to say that is the only aspect is an oversimplification as well. Calories don’t count as much when you’re eating quality food, but they still matter.
The third is the camp that declares WHEN you eat is most critical. These people are the meal preppers who eat five to seven small meals a day. They state that eating frequently stokes metabolism and after that, it's less important what you eat. Again, this is partially true. Eating one or two huge meals isn’t ideal, nor is eight tiny meals. As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
There are plenty of other programs as well, but these are the big three types of nutritional programs you'll see for sale. So which one is best and which one do I use? All of them.
Metabolism is a funny thing. We think we understand what happens when we eat, and we do for the most part, but there are literally billions of chemical reactions that occur constantly within our bodies every day. Each of these reactions requires energy. To say that we can accurately predict the sum total of energy necessary for a human to survive and maintain a healthy weight is ridiculous. We can estimate, but even that's ridiculously wrong day to day. So then what should you count? Nothing. It's a waste of time. Metabolism is an estimation, as is the caloric content of food, non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), and the thermic effect of food. So then, just estimate how much food you eat as well. Eyeball it.
Let's look at the argument from HOW MUCH. Imagine that you've been putting contaminated gasoline in your car. The car will still run, but it's not great for the life expectancy or resale value. You're filling your tank up with fuel but that's it. This is calorie counting. You measure the fuel, but don't worry about the source. When it comes to counting calories, you're basically just forcing yourself to eat less by holding yourself accountable to a number. This is great if it works for you, but I promise the results will be short term. After all, how long will your car run if you stop putting in gasoline?
Too many people sacrifice nutrition for numbers. Eating three "skinny cow" ice cream sandwiches instead of a sensible dinner of chicken, broccoli, and almonds are obviously the more delicious choice, but ice cream, especially fake diet ice cream, is garbage and devoid of nutrition. While the caloric numbers may be similar, they are not equal.
Nutrition from real, whole food does much more for our overall health than any diet food. If you limit your car's fuel supply, of course, it's going to weigh less, but that doesn't mean it's going to run well. If you run your car on fumes all the time, there will be problems. The same is true with our bodies. Restricting calories just doesn't work well.
There is also a ton more to consider about a car functioning optimally than just the amount of gas. The goal should never be to limit our fuel supply. The goal should be to function optimally. The weight on the scale will fix itself once we find the optimum fuel for our bodies. Not giving our car gas is the same as counting calories. We shouldn't limit our fuel.
Now consider that there are superior types of gasoline for our cars. This is the second camp of TYPE. People who focus on calories don't really focus on the source. Eating real, whole foods is a better choice than simply slamming diet soda and eating "low fat" ice cream. Calories aren't just calories, just like gas isn't just gas. With that, the kinds of food we eat are just as crucial to the performance of our body as how much.
Stop putting crappy fuel in your body. I don't need to make a list of good vs. bad foods. If you believe that eating stuff from a vending machine is fine, you're fooling yourself. So just like if you've been putting crappy fuel in your car, and you start putting quality fuel in the tank, eventually your car will burn up the garbage and start functioning better with the better fuel. That's our goal with food. Put in the good stuff, and the body will handle using up the bad. After the bad fuel is gone, the body will start using the good fuel to support better body function, and the extra weight and fat will melt away.
However, there's more to it than just eating good or "clean" or whatever term you've heard for real, whole, nutritious foods. Food is not merely fuel. It is information. It tells our biology what to do. It creates signals to our body about what changes to make. Give your body optimum protein levels and muscle will be repaired better. Give your body optimum fat and it will use fat as fuel. Give your body optimum vegetables and it will use those vitamins and minerals to create the proper chemical reactions. Everything runs more smoothly with better fuel.
Even eating quality food all the time isn't enough to achieve your goals. It is still possible to give yourself too much of a good thing, which would also cause weight and fat gain. There's still more to it. Overeating is overeating. It's impossible to overfill your car with gas because of the automatic shut off valve, and the car's gas tank doesn't expand. In contrast, it’s quite possible to overfill your personal gas tank. Our stomachs expand to hold a lot more fuel than we need and that fuel gets stored as body fat. Overeating good food is still bad, albeit less bad.
The third camp focuses on WHEN we eat. They believe that eating many multiple meals throughout the day is the superior method to stoke metabolism. This has been debunked quite thoroughly. Even if you get a small boost in thermogenesis from eating constantly (the thermic effect of food mixed with the constant fuel source), it is quite negligible and difficult to maintain. Preparing five to seven meals and snacks a day is probably best for someone trying to gain weight rather than lose it.
This camp believes that breaking the fast (breakfast) as soon as possible, followed by constant small amounts of fuel continuously throughout the day is best. Unfortunately, science doesn't support this at all. The average amount of fuel eaten per day is more important than the number of times one eats. If you average 2500 calories per day, it doesn't really matter how many meals in which it is divided... to a certain extent. From my experience, 3-5 meals per day are best. It's easiest, it's the most satisfying, and it prevents fat gain the best, as long as you average the same amount of calories and types of fuel day to day.
HOW MUCH: Calories don't really count. Types of food are more important. As long as you aren't ever getting too hungry or too full, you're doing fine with the calories. It's all an estimate anyway, so estimate consistently each day. If you're never hungry, it's too much, and if you're always hungry, it's not enough. Allow yourself 30 – 45 minutes of hunger before eating. Even then, try drinking a huge glass of water. You may have just been thirsty.
TYPE: The type of food you eat is very important. Focus on real, whole foods. Processed and fake foods are inferior. However, you can still overeat these as well.
HOW OFTEN: Stay away from extremes. Eating one or two huge meals or seven tiny meals isn't optimal. Shoot for the middle ground. It's not critical to eat ASAP in the morning and it's not important to stop eating at a certain point in the night. Eat when you're hungry. That should be about four times per day.
Ranking of importance: Type of food, when you eat, caloric content.
Listen to your body. Eat a consistent amount of quality, real, whole food each day, and the rest will work itself out over time. Next, I will discuss my personal eating plan.
The next post will cover my personal program and layout. It will be for patrons only. Eat up!