Nutrition for the 99%
The basics that apply to everyone.
In terms of general nutrition and training, most people are not unique. Very few people are in the 1%. But most people think they are part of the 1%. Instead, there are two main principles of nutrition that people can optimise for fitness and health.
food quality ("what to eat"); and
food quantity ("how much to eat").
Different mainstream diets are just different ways to spin these two concepts. They may also come with some complicated physiological rationale to distinguish themselves and "prove" their value. Don't buy into it and don’t get fooled.
When an individual finds success with a certain diet, it's usually because the specific rules of that diet best align with their current beliefs, goals, habits or lifestyles (not because of different physiological principles were at play. Or ‘secrets’)
Specific health conditions may need separate diet recommendations as directed by a healthcare practitioner; this post is not for, them.
WHAT TO EAT
Eat whole, unprocessed foods. This is a diet comprised of plant matter (fruits, vegetables (including beans! nuts) and unprocessed protein sources (meat, fish, eggs). Some may choose to include some minimally processed dairy and/or grain items
Whole, unprocessed foods give you all the nutrients you need to thrive (vitamins and minerals) while staying away from modern-day ingredients (sugars, vegetable oils, etc.) that are not associated with health. The overarching trend in the nutrition literature is that eating more whole, unprocessed foods results in favourable changes to biomarkers and health outcomes.
Buy food that has a shelf-life, buy food without an ingredient list. Stay away from foods you can't make in your own kitchen.
DON'T I NEED TO ELIMINATE THINGS? LIKE GRAINS, LEGUMES OR DAIRY?
Not necessarily. People can eat foods such as beans (legumes), butter or ghee (dairy) or even minimally processed grains (e.g., quinoa, rice) if it suits their needs. An elimination diet may be a valuable tool for individuals to evaluate food sensitivities.
HOW MUCH TO EAT
Take in just enough food to thrive in whatever activity you choose (which includes the range from inactive to working out multiple times a day). Calories do matter, but it is more useful to understand quantity in terms of macro and micronutrients.
Food can be classified as one of 3 macronutrients ("macros"): protein (e.g., meat), carbohydrates (e.g., fruit, vegetables), and fat (e.g., nuts, oils), based on which macronutrient provides most of its calories. For the 99.9% percent of us (which in my opinion, everyone here), adopting a diet with a relative balance of these macronutrients is a prudent approach. This approximates a "40/30/30" diet. 40% of the calories come from carbohydrates, 30% from fat, and 30% from protein. A first step in assessing quantity is making the conscious effort to eat macronutrient-balanced meals without weighing and measuring every item.
Make it look like another meal ! The time of day doesn't mean your body needs something different.
WILL I NEVER EAT DESSERT OR DRINK WINE AGAIN?
Didn't say that! I support sanity! However, the majority of your meals should look like what I posted above.
I WANT SPECIFICS
We all do. But, there are so many factors (genetics, stress, sleep, etc.) that we will likely never know precisely how much each individual "can get away with." Can you get away with a dessert or cheat meal every day? is a glass of wine a night ok or too much? We. Don't. Know. Some people live to 99 years old on a terrible diet, most others do not. The best we can do is eat a high quality diet in appropriate proportions with some dietary indiscretions sprinkled in for sanity and sustainability.
THIS DOESN'T SEEM LIKE ENOUGH. l'VE READ SO IVIUCH ON NUTRITION. DON'T I NEED TO DO MORE?
Until most of your meals follow what is outlined here, no. Here's the thing: getting quality and quantity right is how to optimize all that intricate physiology. For the otherwise healthy population, knowing more about what's happening on a cellular level doesn't necessarily change the practical application.
BUT WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
Until most of your meals follow what is outlined , no. Or yes, if your healthcare provider said so.
BUT WHAT ABOUT POST-WORKOUT SHAKES?
Until most of your meals follow what is outlined here and you are an elite-level athlete working out multiple times a day, no
BUT I READ AN ARTICLE . . .
Yep ! There ARE lots of interesting articles... But for most us, being consistent with the quality and quantity of the diet is where we will be forever. It is where the overwhelming majority of the benefit comes from and what is very hard to stay consistent with in the long-term. It can even be boring: it's committing to the fundamentals forever. It's figuring out which habits best support consistency with quality and quantity. It is a very iterative process, particularly as goals and beliefs change with time.
I'M VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN
Great! Eat all the plant matter. Use plant sources to get 30% of calories from protein. Minimally processed still applies.
I WANT A SIX-PACK
Except for the genetically lean individuals, most often six-packs come from incredible willpower or from weighing and measuring everything you eat. Re-read that. This is where we lose the majority of people; weighing and measuring IS more work.
DO I NEED TO ALWAYS EAT MEALS IN BALANCED MACRONUTRIENT RATIOS?
Nope ! But eating in balanced macros may result in greater sustainability (try coming up with a meal of 40g protein, 0g fat, and 0g carbohydrate at the end of a day). It also may allow for people to avoid exact weighing and measuring of every item as one's daily intake often becomes fairly routine.
Everything here is just advice. If you're in a diet now and you're counting the days of your next cheat day, then it's probably not sustainable for you. But whatever you do, do not fall into the mindset that nutrition is not important just because you're doing CrossFit. The base of the CrossFit methodology is Nutrition.
If you really want to get into the exact details about nutrition. In the next few months, CrossFit Subtero will be launching a Nutrition Coaching program headed by Coach Stej. We will provide you with a sustainable nutrition approach that will fit your lifestyle. This is not a generic unrealistic template. This will be custom tailored to YOUR needs. We will announce more details about it soon.
So with that, I hope I have given you more insight regarding proper nutrition. Eat well and train hard!