25 Jan What Your Nutrition Plan Needs to Accomplish
Before delving deep into the murky waters of setting up your diet for fat loss, muscle gain or just general health, I wanted to touch on the definition of a “good nutrition plan”.
Most of you probably stumbled upon this article because you’re trying to lose weight. Now, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, losing some weight has been shown to improve health markers associated with longevity. So, you’re on the right path there. However, I want to be clear, there are other variables involved when crafting a good nutrition plan; losing weight is only one of them.
The goal of Synrgy is to ensure that you get the complete picture when it comes to health. Nutrition is no exception. In fact, you’ll notice that we’re not married to any one diet lifestyle (i.e. ketogenic, paleo, low-carb high fat, high-carb low fat) because the majority of the fad diets out there are incomplete.
For example, if someone were to follow a very low carbohydrate diet, they effectively eliminate an entire food group that can provide energy to boost physical and mental performance. Indeed, it can become increasingly difficult to perform intense sports or exercise when following a diet that doesn’t provide enough energy to fuel those activities. Additionally, there is usually a 3-week period before your body becomes adapted to the new very low carb lifestyle and your mental state returns to normal.
So, when crafting a good nutrition plan, you’ll need to make sure that your nutrition plan accomplishes a couple of things:
- It needs to improve your physique
This one will resonate with most of the readers and although you CAN accomplish this goal with a nutritionally UNSOUND plan, I don’t recommend it.
You can just go on a very low-calorie diet, increase your cardio and crash diet your way into a new physique but will it feel good? Probably not. A good nutrition plan should improve your physique without you having to sacrifice your health to get there.
When you grow up eating garbage (like I did) it can be hard to picture what your body will look like by changing your food choices. How much can it really help right? I promise though, that by simply eliminating certain foods from your diet and swapping them out for wholesome, nutrient dense items, that your physique will be the first thing that’ll change.
In the beginning, you’ll notice that you’ll lose fat and build muscle (if you started a training regimen). Not only will these changes make you feel good about yourself physically but you’ll also see changes in yourself mentally. Quality of life improves tremendously when your physique improves. One way to look at it:
What is happening on the outside is a physical manifestation of what’s happening to you on the inside
So, you’re seeing changes physically? Don’t stop, it’s a sign of things to come if you make the decision to keep going.
- It needs to Improve your health
Nutritionally unsound plans can definitely make you look great by helping you lose a bunch of weight. However, who actually wants to look good if they feel like crap all the time? Not me. This should be a no-brainer but in reality, most people will most likely leave a few things out that might leave them devoid in vitamins/minerals. I believe (especially nowadays) there will come a time when you suddenly become aware of your terrible eating habits. Whether you went in for your annual physical and got less than stellar results or you looked in the mirror and actually saw what you became, there’s going to be some point in your life where you start to think “I need to get healthy”. Getting healthy starts with and continues with food. It doesn’t just end there though. Like I mentioned earlier, anyone can shift their diet habits and lose weight but what’s the cost?
For example, the new rage these days is following a very-low-carbohydrate, ketogenic style diet. This diet promises rapid weight loss because when you cut carbohydrate intake to 50 grams or less, your body needs to adapt to burning fat in order to continue living. It does this by using free fatty acids (FFA) since most tissues can use this as fuel.
However, your brain and nervous system cannot use FFAs as fuel but can use ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are produced through the incomplete breakdown of FFAs. Your brain is a fuel hog and can derive 75% from ketone bodies and the rest of the 25% from glucose.
However, it can take up to 3 weeks for your brain to derive that much energy from ketones which is why there is a “brain fog” or “keto flu” associated with ketosis until your body fully adapts.
If you think about it, the entire process is cool. Your body, sensing a lack of carbohydrate, immediately starts shifting its metabolic processes to favor fat utilization in order to survive. Keyword: survive.
When was the last time you experienced famine? Unless you’re in a situation where carbohydrates are going to be indefinitely scarce, there are better ways to health. One of the biggest issues surrounding ketogenic diets are the elimination of whole grains, and starches that provide your body with fiber, and healthy resistant starches for microbiome health. It’s incredibly difficult to maintain a healthy gut when you eliminate an entire food group for the sake of faster weight loss—which has actually been debunked, read my research review here.
- It needs to Improve performance
Whether you like to go to the gym, hit the bike trails or are an elite athlete, your nutrition plan should be sound enough that it helps your performance in every part of your life. Remember the very low-carb diet I mentioned earlier? Maybe it improved your health and your physique but you found that it’s becoming harder and harder for you to continue to work out the way you were before. This, according to our framework is unacceptable. Is it really a good nutrition plan if you can’t even function? No.
The reason that a very low carb diet saps performance comes down to the metabolism of certain substrates. FFAs will allow you to perform very light exercises because your body simply can’t burn it as fast as compared to glucose. Light jogging doesn’t require any quick bursts so your body can readily provide you with energy from FFA. On the flip side, when the intense effort is necessary (i.e. sports or any anaerobic activity for that matter) your body needs to have a quick fuel source available, which is what glucose provides—and is derived from carbohydrates. You can’t provide your body with energy to perform the high-intensity activity on a ketogenic diet unless you actually consumed carbohydrates. Which would kick you out of ketosis immediately. See where I’m getting at?
A good nutrition plan should incorporate foods that help you overall. Whether it’s improving your lipid values or decreasing your risk of diabetes, if your nutrition plan doesn’t improve your health, physique, or performance, it’s time to rediscover what good nutrition is.