02 Feb WHAT ARE YOU EATING FOR? KNOWING THE WHY
One of the biggest faults I see in people’s nutrition is not really understanding what they are eating for – their why?. They jump from method to method, don’t see the results they want and lose motivation.
The reality is whether your goal is performance on the field, looking your best or just being generally healthy, nutrition is an extremely important aspect of the journey. The first step to ensuring your nutrition is on track is to fully understand why you need to get your nutrition on track. Basically, knowing exactly what is your goal.
Before we go any further I just want to preface that although nutrition is highly important, other aspects like stress and sleep are factors in success. Make good habits and practices of all these and you will greatly increase your chance of success.
Eating for lifestyle vs eating for performance
Eating for a general healthy lifestyle (balance between health and desires), eating for performance and eating for body composition are three different things. While the principles are the same for each goals. The discipline, habits and priorities are different.
The priorities of a general healthy lifestyle are:
– Reduce inflammatory foods
– Something that you can follow long term
– More lenient toward leisure foods
– work towards or maintain healthy body composition for day to day life
Priorities for performance:
– Ensure energy consumption meets activity levels
– Ensure consumption supports recovery from training
– Work towards or maintain weight and body composition for sport
Priorities for body composition
– Lose or maintain body fat whilst ensuring that muscle mass is increased or at least maintained
The Nutrition Continuum
In terms of nutrition people generally sit somewhere on a continuum.
At one end you have a person who consumes whatever they want, in any amount, whenever they want. On the other end of the spectrum you have the person who weighs and measures all their food, and according to their sensitivities (e.g. allergies and reactions) at specific times throughout the day with good food hygiene like chewing their foods thoroughly in a relaxed state.
Where you sit on this continuum will generally point to how optimal your nutrition is for your goal.
Clean Eating and Weighing + Measuring
There are various methods and concepts of how a person should be eating. One way is to eat “clean” of which the definition will vary from method to method, it could be followed by just avoiding processed food or other more documented methods like Paleo, Atkins, Vegan. Or you could be weighing and measuring your food like Flexible Dieting, Macro Nutrient Counting or The Zone diet.
They are all great methods and theories, but at the end of the day even the most perfect diet won’t be effective if it doesn’t for your goals.
So let’s have a look at what you should be focusing on for your goals.
When eating for a general healthy lifestyle you should be aiming to find a balance that enables you to eat high quality foods as much as possible in a routine that will be sustainable long term.
The focus should be ensuring that you get high quality whole foods that allows you to have energy throughout the day without eating too much that you start to put on unneeded body fat. Although weighing and measuring may not be necessary it is important to be aware of your intake to ensure you are not over consuming too much of one nutrient
Most of your meals should consist of high quality and unprocessed whole foods. Basically lots of veggies, plenty of meat, some fats and a little starch and fruit.
Once a good routine and great habits are formed then following an 80 / 20 rule seems to work for many. This basically means that 80% of the time your meals are of high quality and the other 20% is saved for special occasions and treats.
In terms of the Nutrition Continuum they’d most likely sit towards the middle more towards the side of the person that weighs and measures.
In terms of this article I’m referring to body composition mainly in the aesthetic sense. In this scenario a person would be eating for those toned arms, abs and basically definition throughout their body. Think of a body builder preparing for a competition.
The focus here should be ensuring you get the right combination of macro nutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) that enables you to drop body fat or maintain a specific body fat percentage whilst also maintaining muscle mass
Weighing and measuring your intake is extremely important to ensure you are consuming an optimal amount of macro-nutrients.
Based upon where in your cycle you are (bulking or cutting) will depend on what macro-nutrient combination you will follow.
For many people this is extremely hard to maintain and stressful on the body and thus is not sustainable for long periods of time.
In terms of the Nutrition Continuum they’d most likely sit towards the far side close to the edge of the person that weighs and measures.
Performance focused eating is what you’ll generally find many athletes doing. As mentioned, the priority when eating for this is to have enough energy for their training sessions and ensure that their nutrition supports their recovery so they can hit their training sessions at 100% effort.
Again, understanding your intake is important to ensure that you are eating enough so that you achieve the priorities of your training session without putting on unneeded fat.
If you look at many athletes (especially power athletes) you may see that they may not be as lean as body builders but that is because of the amount of food they need to fuel their body for performance.
For them it is more important to be less lean and have more energy than be leaner and not be able to complete a training session with intensity.
In terms of the Nutrition Continuum they’d most likely sit between the general health and body composition nutrition profiles.
No matter where you fall, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay in that space of the continuum. But it does mean that if you want to become better at certain aspects, aesthetically or performance, then you MUST start getting a good sense of what and how much you are consuming.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of where you should be sitting nutrition along with what you need to do to achieve your health and fitness goals!