A true minefield of a topic. One that’s awash with not only contrasting opinion, but variable information and widely misleading research.
The availability of ready-made diet plans, supplement bundles and nutritional advice is at an all time high. The complexity that individuals within the health and fitness profession place on developing a nutritional plan, often leaves the consumer at a loss. Requiring unrealistic time management, resources and expense in maintaining a regimented clean eating approach to day-to-day food consumption.
At IFT we are big believers in the Pareto Principle, the law of the vital few, or more simply put, the 80/20 rule.
Named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, the Pareto Principle outlines how 80% of the effects we see, come from just 20% of our directed efforts. If we apply this to the concept of nutrition, 80% of the results we will see from any implemented strategy, both aesthetically and in increased performance, will result from just 20% of the underpinning principles that we put in place.
We’ll call this 20%, our basic pillars of nutrition.
These pillars are the things that if they become habitual to the point of being subconscious, we’d see a vast change in the the way we look, feel and approach the concept of nutrition.
The IFT pillars are built around simple, understandable and easily applied concepts from which we build. They’re neither revolutionary nor innovative, they simply outline things we already know, yet seem to so commonly miss.
We often get lost on the resources that take up both our cost and time, weighing out “x” amount of this macro, paleo this, or flexible dieting that… adding in supplement “A” to offset the effects of “B”.
So much so, that we largely miss the results that are possible from simply getting the 20%, the basics, the bare minimums, right to begin with.
So without further ado, these are our pillars….
1) Don’t skip meals…
Breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner. Sounds simple enough, yet how often do we truly stick to this?
Skipping breakfast in an early morning rush, missing lunch for a business meeting or avoiding dinner altogether due to that overindulgent office buffet, we’ve all been there…
At a very fundamental level, we’re looking to keep the body in what’s called an anabolic state (building) as opposed to catabolic (breaking). When we exercise, we break down large particles within the body into smaller particles, which are more readily used to convert into the energy sources we need, this is catabolism. Once exercise or activity ceases however, we want to start the process of building back up these stored supplies as quickly as possible, shifting towards anabolism.
We require the smaller particles, such as those that we take in from food, to build back into the larger particles, such as muscle tissue, needed for growth and recovery.
To avoid the body slipping into catabolic states too often throughout the day, we want to provide it with fuel somewhat consistently to keep supplies available for recovery and further growth. We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve noticed a change in mood state and feelings of lethargy as blood sugar begins to drop. No one enjoys being hangry…
By abiding by this sub-principle we also adhere to the concept of the 2/3 by 2/3 guideline, two thirds of calories consumed by two thirds of the day. By meeting the requirement for our first 3 meals of the day (2/3 by 2/3) we meet our satiation needs. On days where we skip a meal, we push the need for satiation further into the day, increasing the likelihood of binge eating late in the evening.
Now many of us will be familiar with the concept of intermittent fasting, in which we consume foods only within a certain time window (time-restricted fasting), completely reduce intake during the alternate days (complete alternate day fasting) or by reducing calories below maintenance levels on certain days (such as the 5:2 strategy). Whilst we fully accept the potential metabolic and health benefits that intermittent fasting can have in each of its variations, this must be considered beyond a beginners introduction to nutritional strategies. As a general public, we collectively may lack both the awareness and education around food quality and quantity to apply such an approach and still obtain the necessary levels of required nutrition.
Once we’ve established basic eating patterns we can then begin to consider manipulating timing windows.
2) Consume lean proteins throughout the day
Breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Remember, lean protein doesn’t solely just mean meat and fish. Non-meat sources include; grains such as quinoa and oatmeal, dairy options such as egg whites and yoghurt, as well as various legumes, nuts and seeds.
Regardless of your exercise and training goal, the maintenance and/or growth of muscle mass should be a constant consideration. A steady supply of lean protein sources across the day promotes the benefits of our first pillar, whilst providing the further virtues that protein has on suppressing appetite and providing satiation.
The recommended daily allowance for individuals participating in resistance training currently sits at between 1.2 and 1.4g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. A 70kg individual therefore would be aiming for between 84 and 98g of protein a day. Many new clients when beginning to establish baselines for protein intake are shocked to find how far below this level they fall on a consistent day-to-day basis.
3) Up your fruit and vegetable intake
Breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, consider them as Priority #1.
High water content, often limited calories, high in satiation, high in vitamins and minerals. We know we should, so why don’t we??
We often get asked when it comes to discussion of fruit and vegetables two major questions…
- Do I need to be eating Organic?
- If I eat too many fruits/vegetables my carbohydrate numbers go way above target!
Some elements to consider in answering…
- You’ll often see organic fruit farms close by to non-organic, much of the pesticides that are used non-organically will still be dispersed into the air and likely impact whether something can ever be truly called organic. If you can afford to buy all organic fruit and vegetables from local vendors then great!!… But there is fundamentally nothing wrong with consuming fruit and vegetables in any form. Between a choice of non-organic vegetables and a reconstituted, manufactured equivalent?… It’s a no-brainer.
- Everything we consume has to be taken into context. Whilst as humans we love to put things into clear distinct buckets, the grey areas between still have to be considered. The issue isn’t often that individuals are eating too many carbs from fruit and vegetables, more that they’re also taking in 70% of it from other processed sources…
4) Reduced processed carbs
If you don’t understand more than 85-90% of the ingredients on the back of a packet on what should be a relatively simple food item, consider whether it’s something you should be putting into your body…
Processed foods tend to be high in added sugar, added sugar comes hand-in-hand with some unwanted friends, namely added unhealthy fats, increased sodium, as well as a host of other preservatives.
We’re left with a high supply of empty calories without any real nutritional value. But we know this already, right?….
5) Have a good strategy for starchy carbs
A carb-dense food is a calorie-dense food. Those choices we know will pack a punch in terms of calories from carbohydrates need to be utilised at times when we know the body needs it. We’ve two main windows of carbohydrate depletion…
- After 8 hours sleep (ideally!) the body requires replenishment of all resources, carbohydrate depletion is prevalent, this is an ideal time to apply pillar five…
- Post-training… energy supplies are drained, time to refuel.
At these two points in the day it makes sound nutritional reasoning to go for that carb-dense, high calorie option.
For meals and snacks outside of these time periods? See Pillar 3….
6) Drink more water
In line with Pillar 4, at the pinnacle of added sugar sits high-caloric beverages. At a fundamental level, the body doesn’t recognise calories consumed in liquid form in the same way that it does from solid sources.
Therefore, that can of full fat Coke with 30g of sugar doesn’t get processed by the body to provide that needed feeling of satiation and fullness, so we drink the can, still feel hungry, and consume twice the level of calories and unwanted extras that lunch and a glass of water, tea (green or otherwise) or coffee could have provide us.
Remember if you feel thirsty, you’re likely already dehydrated.
Our approach to providing nutritional advice is in developing guidelines and frameworks upon which an individual can personalise to there own individual requirements from a taste, intolerance, allergy, availability, cultural and financial flexibility.
Set a solid structure that meets the essentials of what we need, get these right, ingrain them as habit and enjoy the 80% of results you’ll gain from just 20% of your resources.
Beyond these pillars, regarding increased individualisation and the use of supplementation, unless an individual can wholeheartedly hold their hands up and conclusively demonstrate that they have each of these pillars in place, we are chasing the smaller 20% of results whilst taking up 80% of our available resources.
If an individual or client can happily demonstrate the six pillars and wants increased specialisation, GREAT!!
Let’s see how we can expand the framework to pin-point down on your training goals that may require greater nutritional focus.
If not, we have a weak framework built on questionable foundations, adding more to it only increases the instability of our poorly assembled scaffolding.
Lay the groundwork first…