In the world of Nutrition it is very easy to be confused, not knowing where to start or who’s advice you should listen to and can soon be quite easy to sack it off all together.
I like to take a simple approach with my nutrition, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). If we look at the pyramid in the picture, this is the order in which I would prioritise things. I’m not going to run through numbers and formulas in this post and just instead explain why I think this should be the order of priority.
1 – Calories
Calories are everything, they should be the main focus no matter what your goal is. Consume less calories than you burn and you lose weight. Consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Simplez. If you are very active and are eating for sports performance you will need to make up for those calories that you burn during training and competition otherwise you will find yourself in a calorie deficit which means you are not meeting your daily calorie requirements to support your activity and thus your performance will start to drop off including your own motivation to train in the first place. It will also make you less efficient at recovering – Not Good!
So for me Calories are the priority, they should be the ground works for everything else. Match your calories to your goal required for you first of all!
2 – Macronutrients
These are your Protein, Carbohydrates & Fats. Once you have your calories at where you want them that allows you to fuel performance, recover sufficiently but NOT gain unwanted weight you can then begin to look at your P,C & F. Each nutrient has a different role, protein is mostly required for building and repairing, carbohydrates are predominantly used as fuel and fats are used as fuel as well as a bunch of other things such as hormone balance.
Protein should be an amount that provides a sufficient amount of amino acids to repair and recover after exercise, generally 1.6-1.8g/kg of bodyweight is good for most people. Remember there are 4Kcal/g of Protein.
Carbohydrates should be enough to fuel performance and replenish fuel supplies post workout. Carbs is also 4Kcal/g.
Fats should be from the healthy sources mostly, so think of your oily fish, nuts & seeds, avocados etc. And the amount needed should be enough to take up the rest of your calories you have left over from your Protein & Carbohydrates. Fats have 9kcal/g.
3 – Micronutrients
These are mainly your Vitamins & Minerals so your Fruit & Veg predominantly. You should be trying to get as much as these in to your diet as possible (BUT, keep in mind their Calorie & Macronutrient content). As a whole you get more nutrients and less carbs/sugars from your Veg so make this the priority here. As much as you can, with as much variety as possible. If you are exercising regularly you will need more than the average person or you can be at risk of potentially weakening your own immune system.
4 – Timing
You’ve probably heard eat little and often, or intermittent fasting, carb back loading, carb cycling etc. These are all forms of meal timings. Generally, it doesn’t make that much of a difference on the whole as long as you are reaching our entire daily nutrient intake. I personally prefer to eat 3 meals a day then + my workout nutrition such as pre-intra-post strategy (see last blog post).
Its about what works for you. If you don’t ever feel like eating first thing, don’t worry. Instead of eating at 7am/12pm/5pm just shift the time you eat to something like 10am/2pm/7pm etc. I am generally not a morning person so getting me to eat first thing is like trying to get a baby to eat veg! So I just shift it to later in the day, remember the priority is getting the Calories & Nutrients in by the end of the day.
5 – Supplements
This may seem weird, I work for a supplement company and I am saying they are the least important, surely I should be selling them to you?!?!
Well supplements are not around to replace nutrition, it should only be used to fill in the gaps after you have done everything you can to cover all bases through food. If you struggle to eat fruit & veg then maybe try a good high quality multivitamin or Greens Powder. If you don’t eat enough protein that day then maybe time to reach for a protein shake. Or you don’t like fish and nuts, Omega 3 supplementation would be a great alternative.
Always start at the bottom and once you have that covered work your way up to the next level. Take your time with it and don’t start to do everything all at once especially if you’re new to this as you will probably fail that way. Make it a routine, find something that works for you and is easy to follow.
You will probably find by consistently hitting the right Calories for you on a day to day basis that you will begin to see an improvement in your performance/physique anyway. Consistency is the key!