Balanced Energy Begins with Balanced Nutrition
Often, I talk to people about their nutrition. I ask, “What are you eating? How do you feel? Is it working you towards your goals?”
Sometimes the response is, “I am doing great, I could use a little help understanding this one thing,” or “I am stuck and don’t know what to do;” and also, my favorite, “I am doing this (insert diet), and I am pretty sure I have superhuman powers!”
Now, I’ll start by stating, I am always excited to talk with folks that are excited about their nutrition. It’s awesome, and a good step for anyone who is in the pursuit of finding what works for them. That said, I also know how this usually goes when I follow up with this person in a month or so.
“Hey, how’s (insert: keto, low-fat, low-protein diet) treating you?” I ask.
The reply goes something like this, “Oh, that… I hit a wall. I was always hungry, I stopped losing weight, I felt tired…etc…etc… I just couldn’t maintain.”
I’ve been there, not too many diets I haven’t tried or use from time to time to get the desired result. I’ve done: Paleo, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, Weekly 24-48 Hour Fasting, High Carb/Low Fat, and I’ve also done the Eat Whatever You Want; and have had success with everything except the latter. Success is found in each of these in varying ways, but the constants are: you have to measure something, stay disciplined to what you are doing, and be able to make adjustments based on how you are responding. This can be tough, and with a lot of these diets, you must be super consistent for a long time to be successful.
Let’s Use the Ketogenic Diet as an Example.
First, you have to measure ketones to know if you are actually in ketosis. Blood testing has been shown to be most accurate, but breath testing has been shown to be reliable as well. I used the pee strips because it was easy and most affordable, considering I only do it 3-4 months out of the year.
Secondly, discipline is KEY when doing the Ketogenic diet. There are no cheat meals, binge eating, or drinking beer. Any time I did this early on, I would drop out of Ketosis for 3-5 days and feel terrible. I would be hungry, less excited to workout, and it would take a long fast to fall back in. I did adjust and found a balance of long fasts during the week, fewer workouts, and how to make sure I was eating enough of the right macronutrients.
I followed the suggestions of Dr. Dominic D’ Agostino, in “Tools of Titans,” by Tim Ferris.
(≈ 1.5- 2.5g Fat per kilograms of body weight, ≈1-1.5g Protein per kilogram of body weight, and next-to-no Carbs). I found it worked well when I ate meat, fats (MCT, Olive Oil, Butter), and got in my leafy green vegetables. That last part is the most important and the biggest downfall I hear when talking to people trying the Keto diet, they don’t eat anything but fatty meat and butter… Eww!
If you measure your Ketones, you can figure out how many Carbs you can tolerate before dropping out of Ketosis. I could eat as many green leafy veggies as I wanted and never drop out, so I did. Post-workout, I could get in some sweet potato and still be good. My main point is, if you don’t measure, you don’t know and could be suffering unnecessarily. Measure, stay consistent, and you will be able to make personal adjustments.
So, Why Don’t I do This Diet All the Time or Any Diet for that Matter?
Demonizing entire macronutrients can be detrimental to long-term success. Saying this is “bad,” and the other is “good,” is taking a guess and gambling on what will keep you healthy for as long as possible. A lot of the evidence for any diet is limited and biased, and what works for some, doesn’t always work for others, so I always suggest balance. I like to eat a variety of meats, fats, vegetables, fruits, starches, grains, and dairy. I have found that this has helped me from feeling the negative effects of eating something that is on a list of a diet’s “no goes.” Everyone reacts differently, so you have to explore what works for you.
Dialing in your nutrition can be tricky, but it is a process that can be both fun and rewarding. I believe in a Zone based approach as described in the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar. Weighing and measuring out Carbs, Fats, and Proteins can get you on track with finding the balance between them. Once you have that down, you can start to pull out and add different foods that may or may not agree with you. It is all based on feel, get some consistency, then you can start dabbling in the other nutrition realms or diets.
Nutrition Shouldn’t be a Sprint or Something that is a Short-Term Fix; There is No Magic Pill
Learning to eat healthy, whole foods, and not too much will get you on track, and allow you to reach any of the health, fitness, or life goals you set. If you ever want to sit down to learn how to make the changes to get on track, there is nothing more I’d like to do.