10 OF MY TOP NUTRITION QUESTIONS ANSWERED (Without the Bullsh!t)
Nutrition is CONFUSING AS HELL; there are contradictions left and right, controversy is rampant, and there's a whole lotta bullshit being spat by self-proclaimed "experts" in the magazine you see at Lunds next to the peanut butter cups.
Well, it’s actually pretty simple. However, that doesn't change the fact that it confuses, stresses out, and annoys most of the people I work with. Then, when we coaches talk with other coaches it turns into a very controversial topic because everyone has their favorite nutrition strategy, many believe that there's ONLY way to coach it, and the media is blasting us with so many poorly constructed product ads that it'll make your head spin and make you quit altogether.
This is part of the reason I love it so much; nutrition is going to be different for each and every individual.
So here are the top 10 questions I tend to receive from new fitness goers. I answer them for you, and do so in a way that will finally end the frustration and confusion. If you read it closely, it is absolutely going to help you solve the struggles you’re experiencing with nutrition without the flowery nonsense you're going to read everywhere else.
Got it? Awesome…Because you’re gonna love this. Print this out, fold it up and put it in your pocket or somewhere close so you can constantly remind yourself of what you should be focusing on.
1.) Do I really need THAT much protein?
Well first let’s define “THAT much” because its generally different depending on who you ask or the person consuming it. But more than likely the answer is yes, you do need a little bit more than you’d probably expect.
It’s safe to say that 75% or more of the general population we work with tends to be low on protein and high on either carbs or fats, but calories in general.
That being said, you do NOT need to be eating 2g per pound of body weight, carrying around 6 Tupperware’s with tilapia in it, or sprint to your car as soon as you drop the weight on your final set in order to chug down your post workout protein shake.
But a good recommendation from myself is going to be anywhere between .7-1g per pound of bodyweight. The more weight you have to lose, the more likely you’ll be lower on that spectrum.
But at the end of the day, protein is a damn powerful macronutrient. It helps us stay more satiated while dieting, it’s a lower calorie nutrient, it provides more recovery for training, it promotes the building of more muscle mass and is really hard to store as body fat, and it also has the highest TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) of any nutrient, which means it burns more calories during digesting than anything else (almost 30% of the calories eaten in protein are burned).
So without sounding like the worlds biggest “bro” here… Eat your protein, bro.
2.) Will eating carbs at breakfast (or in general) make me fat?
Lets be very clear here, carbs are not the enemy. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that carbs are literally my best friend by now. I never get tired of them and they never get tired of me, it’s a great relationship.
So where did all the bad hype come from? Why do carbs have such a bad rep?
Honestly, we could think of a million reasons but at the end of the day it goes back to poor marketing and branding. The nutrition world ALWAYS wants a new fad and someone to blame.
If we think back, we can remember a time that gluten was the reason everyone was fat. At one point it was fats. Another time it was simply sugar. Back in the day you just needed to avoid anything with dairy in it. Oh yeah and we can’t forget the paleo craze.
See I could keep going; it's the media and marketing. But the good news is, you don’t need to listen or worry about that because it really is just hype to promote what they have going on.
So here are the best guidelines to follow with carbs…
- First and foremost, it’s overall calories that matter most. Whether you’re low carb or high carb doesn’t matter much, studies show that it’s overall calories that produce fat loss results. So whatever fits your lifestyle better, choose that.
- Carb timing has also been proving to be a pretty big mix up as well. In fact, the studies that showed carbs to be more effective and beneficial according to time had nothing to do with the time of day but the length of time they were consumed. Meaning whether it was morning or night, you may be better off grouping your carbohydrates in a 2-5 hour period each day rather than all day.
- Carbs are probably going to be absorbed and utilized best around your workouts, pre and post. So it may be a smart strategy to couple them around your workouts and if you train in the morning, this is perfect.
- Carbs can tend to cause more hunger later on, rather than fat and protein because fats and protein tend to be more satiating. So it may be in your best interest to move your carbs towards the evening, especially if you train later and/or have social meals regularly.
So what’s the take home point here?
If you like carbs… eat 'em up – just keep your calories in check and you’ll see great results.
In fact, it’s a good idea to keep carbs in your diet because carbs are the bodies preferred choice for fuel during high performance training.
3.) How many meals per day should I be eating?
How many meals per day do you prefer? Ok cool… Eat that many meals per day. Seriously.
The whole “Small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism revved up” is all a big myth. Studies have proven this time and time again and it turns out that your metabolism is actually dictated by one dominating factor, calorie intake.
This means your metabolism will adjust to your calorie intake whether you eat 2, 3, 5 or even 8 meals per day. Studies actually did this with many different meal timings and eating frequency throughout the day, no difference in any results if calories were controlled.
So the key is consistency. What can you honestly stay consistent and compliant with in the long run? If it’s 4, do that. If its 3, do that. If 6 small meals per day works best for you, do that!
The only times we truly want to tweak things is when someone needs better recovery, has multiple training sessions per day (typically athletes), or when someone wants to put on some serious lean muscle mass.
In these cases, we may want to spread protein out evenly across our day – shooting to eat 25-45g per meal and spread them out every 3-5 hours. This causes a greater response of Muscle Protein Synthesis and may have a better effect on your muscle tissue growth, repair and recovery.
Other than those specific cases, which are usually only needed for advanced trainees, you can literally eat how ever many times per day you prefer and you can stay consistent with.
4.) I heard dairy and fruits could make you gain weight? Are they not healthy?
First we need to separate and define the difference between “Healthy” and “Weight Loss”.
See unfortunately just eating “clean” or “healthy” won't always lead to fat loss or body composition change, because you can over eat your calories regardless of how healthy your food selections are day to day. So the point being, calories in vs. calories out are the biggest contributing factor to changing your body composition.
That being said, it’s still VERY important to eat healthy foods – I recommend to my clients that 80-90% of their calories should be coming from whole foods, in which dairy and fruit would be included.
This question is very common for us and yet it is pretty simple to answer, because just like anything else in life we can over do a good thing leading it to no longer be that good anymore.
So can you have dairy or fruit? If it sits well with your stomach and you do not have any intolerances to it, then yes – in fact we recommend it because they’re both filled with lots of great nutrients to supplement your health AND your physique.
So the take away here is to work on becoming more aware of your body cues and how things work with you personally. If some dairy doesn’t sit too well, then take it out. But once again the big dominating factor in changing your body comp or increasing your rate of fat loss is going to be getting your calories under control.
5.) How many calories per day should I be eating?
Unfortunately I just can’t answer this question without working with someone directly and seeing what their current nutrition/diet looks like. Because everyone we work with is so different and individual to each situation, we often change so many details for each and every client program.
But because I know you’re reading this saying, “C’mon Boom Boom! Give me some kind of answer or number to work with!” – I’ll do my best…
First and foremost, it depends on whether you’re looking to gain muscle/weight or if you’re looking to lose body fat/weight.
Someone with a healthy and decently quick metabolism would look like the below:
Weight/Fat Loss = 10-12x Bodyweight in Calories
Muscle/Weight Gain = 14-16x Bodyweight in Calories
Unfortunately, this isn’t very often the case with fat loss (usually is with muscle/weight gain as that’s more difficult).
So in many cases, for weight/fat loss it will tend to be more like 8-10x your bodyweight. This doesn’t mean this is unhealthy, but it the biggest and most important thing to remember is that the ideal situation (the one we should strive for) is to eat as many calories as possible while losing weight.
This allows more flexibility, better performance, better sustainability, and of course better health. So my suggestion for you is simple…
Start with the higher number. If you want weight loss, start with 12x your body weight and make sure you’re consuming enough protein (as stated above) to be sure there is much less of a chance of storing any extra body fat while on your journey.
The second, and preferred, option is to start recording your diet now for about 7-14 days without changing anything. After this time period, take your average caloric intake and use that as your guide to base the calories off of. If you’re fat from 12x your bodyweight, go for 10x and bump up your protein to bodyweight in grams.
As always, everything is a work in progress and takes adjustments along the way. One of the many reasons having a coach is such a powerful tool – Click Here to schedule a nutrition assessment and we can help map out your progress from start to finish.
6.) Does eating before bed make us store more fat while we sleep?
The cool things about half of the nutrition questions we get, is that the relate to fat loss directly and the most common answer we give is the same… Calories in vs. calories out are all that matters.
So how does that apply here? Simple. If you enjoy eating before bed and you fit it into your caloric intake, you’ve got nothing to worry about. In fact, some studies and experiences have led to believe that it can actually help you lose more weight if you have a snack before bed.
How so? Glad you asked!
Many people tend to wake up mid night with hunger or cravings, so they walk to the fridge and grab something easily accessible, eat it up and pass back out. This obviously will lead to over eating and cause weight gain. Having a pre bed snack that is healthy and fits within your calories can cure this issue.
The second reason is because many people just like the situation above, wake up in the morning with a big hungry belly. They usually grab the quickest thing and/or they over eat calories during breakfast. So having a snack before bed can allow you to wake up more satiated and choose a better breakfast.
All that being said, did you notice that I said small snack in the above? That’s because some people may have disturbed sleep and/or digestion if they consume to big of a meal late at night. This isn’t to say that causes weight gain, but it is to say if your sleep and digestion is disturbed frequently you may experience negative results with your body composition as a secondary effect from this.
So again, pretty individual but this gives you some specific things to consider and implement into your personal plan.
7.) Are my cheat days ruining my results?
Hmmmm…The answer here could be yes, but it could be no. For it to be no, I’d have to see a whole lot more info associated with the individuals training, recovery, nutrition, etc…
For the answer to be yes, it pretty much boils down to how significant that cheat day is. If it’s an all out binge of food and drinks every single week on the same day, it very likely will have negative results – especially to those of you who have been consistently dieting and training for a while now.
For someone who literally just started working on training and nutrition, was sedentary before, and is still at the beginning stage of their fat loss – they can get away with it more likely, but not for very long.
My suggestion is simple, track your nutrition in some form and be more accountable on every day of the week – even weekends. If you eat an extra ______ calories every single Saturday and you’re only burning that much throughout the week, you’ll be at a standstill.
Just make sure that the day after this “Cheat Day” doesn't essentially turn into a second day off and it turns into an “I’ll start back up on Monday thing”. Trust me - Monday may never come it that's the approach. Success is what happens right here, right now, in the next 5 minutes.
Once again, the best option is to track and be accountable to yourself or someone else, so you can monitor and stay within the guidelines. Not to say you can’t enjoy yourself, but it’s simply to say enjoy yourself with some kind of boundaries.
8.) Should I stay away from artificial sweeteners? Or can I keep drinking my diet cokes??
This one is a really debated and controversial topic, for a couple reasons. But I should be able to break this one down for you pretty quickly…
First and foremost, artificial sweeteners do not have any effect on rate of fat loss. They do not actually cause cravings, can be a good aid to help people cure sweet tooth cravings, and the “Fake Sugars” inside them do not promote fat gain or slow your rate of loss.
So if that’s your only concern, you’re good. In fact, so many studies have been published and proven this to be the truth it’s insane.
The second thing is the concern on health. Does it have an effect on long-term health?
We actually don’t know, because not enough studies have been focused on that and any study done with these hasn’t been long enough to know for sure. What we do know, is that they do not cause any short term health effects at all – unless you consume an absurd amount, I’m talking loads of cans of diet coke a day (or something of that nature).
What we do know is that the gut microbiome can be sensitive and is a very important part of our health, body comp, and essentially life. So you may want to take them lightly and focus on not over doing them, in case your gut would be effected long term.
We also know that your body composition is one of the biggest influencers in disease prevention and overall health. So if you do use them to help you aid fat loss and improve your body composition, I’d actually encourage them in moderation because you will be healthier and live a longer life.
9.) I’m never hungry in the morning… does skipping breakfast really ruin my metabolism?
Aha!! Another one…If calories are equated for and your balance of calories in vs. out is in check, you do not need to eat breakfast technically.
But the big things to remember here are simple.
Will eating breakfast create more consistency and compliancy with your overall diet and calorie control? If yes, then eat it every morning.
Will skipping breakfast and extending your fast help you create a caloric deficit more easily and keep you consistent and compliant with your nutrition plan? If yes, then skip breakfast regularly.
The only other exception to the rule is typically for women with sensitive hormones or people experiencing adrenal fatigue. In these cases, balanced nutrition and calories throughout the day are very crucial. The same goes with extreme deficit diets; if you’re in either of those categories we wouldn’t recommend you dropping calories to significantly.
10.) I constantly crave sweets, how do I fix this?
There are a couple things to consider here. The first is whether or not you have a nutrient deficiency. Now you can go get tested for this or you can start journaling exactly what you regularly crave and research what nutrients may be found in those foods.
For example, if you crave salty foods a lot, you may actually be lacking electrolytes, sodium intake, or be dehydrated (or a combo of all three).
Maybe you constantly crave chocolate; maybe you’re deficient in iron, magnesium, calcium etc…You get the point here. Do some research and try this before all else.
The next thing to consider is really just overall nutrition and commitment. Do you have a set plan? Are committed to the process? Is it revolved around stress? Are you sleeping properly?
Use those questions as a checklist for you cravings. If you cannot give a positive answer to even just one of those, then you may have found your cause of cravings right there.
There you have it, the top 10 questions that we get asked when it comes to nutrition. The reality is that some need some deeper detective work and problem solving.
If you’ve gone through the roller coaster of ups and downs with diets and are finally ready to take control of your eating, nutrition and lifestyle and would like support and coaching – talk to one of our coaches for a fitness and nutrition strategy session, with no strings attached, about a blueprint to help you take control of your nutrition and launch you into the right path for long term success!