Nutrition Isn’t Black & White
Written by: Coach Slater
Nutrition isn’t black and white because our bodies aren’t black and white. They have lots of ways to accomplish the same purposes. What works for me, might not work for you. Intermittent fasting? Eating six meals per day? Post-workout supplement regiments? Many people rave about these practices, while others don’t have any success with any of them.
It’s not that those things don’t make a difference; it’s that, if they do make a difference, the difference is probably small. They’re small because they’re just details, not big-picture items. But, they’re sexy and get a lot of clicks.
Calorie intake, protein intake, and training volume seem to be regarded as the most important factors determining your body composition. They’re the big picture. Just outside that picture are training intensity and training specificity. Everything else is just details. Our bodies are extremely complex, with redundant systems in place, so many of those small details only have a trivial effect. So, if you want to tackle the most important factors affecting your body composition, focus on those first three items.
As far as caloric intake, body size, body composition, and activity level are the primary factors in determining your calorie needs. But, keep in mind that we’re pretty bad at gauging our activity level and effort. Most of us think we’re more active than we really are, and train harder than we really do. There are thousands of different sites for determining your caloric needs, but I like this one from Healthy Eater.
With protein intake, 0.8g/lb is a good number to start with for protein consumption. Basically, just make sure you’re eating enough of it, space it out throughout the day (whether in 3 meals or 6), and get it from high-quality sources like lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs and whey. Simple.
For training volume, I tell people that attending class 3x/week is good for “breaking even”, 4x/week is when you see changes, and 5x/week is when you see life-altering change (as long as your caloric intake and protein intake are on par). Attend 6x/week or 7x/week and you might dethrone Megan “Megatron” Courtney for best attendance. But, as you increase your training volume, be sure you’re spending more time on your recovery: sleep, hydration, nutrition, positioning (or posture or joint centration), stretching, self-myofascial release, heat, ice, and compression.
If you aren’t satisfied with the results of your nutrition, don’t be afraid to play around with it. If you’re trying to cut or lose weight, don’t immediately assume you need to drop calories lower. Play around with “when” you eat your carbs, or move the bulk of your calories to one or two meals, or try carb/protein and fat/protein meals instead of mixed meals (or vice versa), or move more calories around your workout (especially carbs), or run a higher surplus on training days and a larger deficit on rest days, etc…