In the health and fitness world, seemingly every way you look, every show you watch, and every social media account you follow all have a different viewpoint on nutrition.
Diets such as keto, carnivore, vegan, etc. all have merits and are all touted by different professionals and celebrities alike.
With so many contrasting options claiming to be superior, nutrition can seem like a daunting and complicated realm to dive into. But should it?
Here’s the secret nutrition advice that can help you accomplish all the goals you have for yourself — do what work best FOR YOU. It really is that simple. The easiest way to stick to a nutrition plan — whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle and everything in between — is to find a way of eating that is enjoyable and sustainable for you. If you can see yourself sticking to keto for the rest of your life, then by all means do so. Want to give up meat or dairy and be vegan? Great, then go ahead and adopt that lifestyle if you can stick to it.
While nutrition can be complicated, once you start to branch off into smaller or more minor details, certain foundational aspects exist. Many people have heard the term calorie, but what is a calorie? Quite simply, it is a unit of energy. All food has calories, some more than others. How many calories you consume determines whether you gain or lose weight. Within calories are two main groups, macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients involve protein, carbohydrates and fats. Every gram of protein and carbohydrate has 4 calories, while every gram of fat has 9 calories. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals.
How does this apply to training?
No matter what style of exercise or training you subscribe to, protein is going to play a very crucial role. Protein is what is referred to as the building block of muscle, and it is essential for keeping you performing at a peak level. Research has shown that the optimal intake for protein is anywhere from 1.6 to 2.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. But remember, this is simply what is optimal and may not be the most sustainable for everybody. Similarly, carbohydrate and fat intake can be very individualized. Some find that carbohydrates help them recover from strenuous exercise and becomes even more important when participating in lengthy bouts of endurance exercise such as marathon running or long bike races. On the other hand, if you train recreationally and find that too many carbs leave you feeling sluggish, then there is no requirement that you have to consume a set amount. Likewise, some fat is essential for maintaining proper organ function and giving your body energy and support for cell growth.
What about hormones?
I don’t claim to be an endocrinologist and do not pretend to know how to regulate your hormones or be an expert in the field. But two hormones important to consider are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone,” drops shortly after eating a meal and then subsequently rises. It tells us when to consume food when our bodies have low energy and promotes fat storage when needed. Leptin works as a regulator of energy and weight to both our bodies and our brains. In other words, it tells us when we’re full and don’t need any more food. Leptin levels will generally increase as we gain fat, though our body can become resistant to leptin’s signals. On the other hand, leptin levels have been shown to continually drop during a diet.
These two hormones play an important role in hunger-related issues. So what are some evidence-based strategies that can help reduce these issues? Eating carbohydrates, eating more protein, sleeping more, reducing chronic inflammation, eating more fiber, exercising consistently, and limiting the gain of excess body fat.
These strategies work not only for preventing many hunger-related issues that can rear their ugly head while dieting, but also help with overall health and well-being. But the most important thing to remember whether looking at hormones, training for a specific event, or just exercising for good health is finding a nutritional approach that works best for you and is indefinitely sustainable!