I get asked this question on a weekly, if not daily basis: “What kind of nutrition do I practice and preach?” Am I paleo? Low carb? Intermittent fasting? Do I follow the standard RD stuff? What about vegan or vegetarian? Essentially, these are all of the same questions, phrased in different ways: What’s the best diet for me?
I get really frustrated with this question. Not at the folks asking but at myself because I’ve yet to craft the perfect witty response! I need a meme for this. I simply cannot give you a catch-all, cookie cutter answer. If this were a choice between Republican and Democrat, I guess I would be an Independent. Sounds like a cop-out doesn’t it? I’m sorry I can’t fit into a specific category and check that box for you. Let me explain.
I have come to realize after working with athletes, moms, businessmen, folks over 50, etc. that there is no single best diet for everyone to follow. Why? Imagine the differences between a mom trying to cut fat to get back into her skinny jeans and a male athlete trying to build muscle to hit a new snatch PR. Two totally different programs! We have to take into consideration body type, nutrition preference (maybe she has a gluten sensitivity and he can’t eat shellfish), budget, prior knowledge, time, etc. The list goes on. There’s simply no way to send someone off with the same road map if they each have a different destination and vehicle to get there. Am I making more sense now?
Sure, if a particular philosophy works for you and you happen to like the results, say Paleo or Primal, that’s fantastic! You should be happy you’ve found a good nutritional means that works for you. If I were to preach that as a one-size-fits-all way of life that every athlete in the gym should follow, it would go against our foundation as coaches. Not every squat looks the same and not every cue works to fix a poor squat. Each athlete is different and must be coached differently. Besides, if there was one diet that worked for all, I wouldn’t have a job and neither would the thousands of other nutrition coaches out there.
If you are still scrolling down, waiting for me to surprise you with the answer of “what is the best diet,” you can stop here. I’m what I would consider, a nutrition independent or nutrition agnostic. It’s possible to be fit and have performance at optimum levels whether your diet includes mostly meat or mostly veggies, mostly fat or mostly carbs, (no gluten or all dairy), many times a day or just a few. There’s no perfect answer in my opinion.
To simplify things a bit more, here are some suggested focuses on nutrition and a good measure to test if a diet is a “good one” (based on markers from Precision Nutrtion*): Awareness, Nutrient Density, Intake, and Exercise. By simply paying more attention to what we are putting into our body, I think we can all agree that there are benefits to knowing what and how we are fueling our bodies. We must also seek out foods that offer the most ‘bang for their buck’ and allow us to eat more of something with the most (nutrient) density. The quality of our food matters. We also have to look at those macro and micronutrients and ensure we have the proper amount for our body composition, activity, and goals. Lastly, when we are adding exercise into the mix, whether it’s a mix of low or high intensity workouts, our bodies can turn that food into functional tissue and NOT fat.
So what’s the best diet to follow? The one that’s right for you. You’re welcome. 😉
If you have hung around long enough and have questions, or would like to talk more in depth about nutrition and a program that might be right for you, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Precision Nutrition is the largest private nutrition coaching and research company in the world. They offer a Level 1 certification program founded by Dr. John Berardi, PhD, writer, researcher and professor in the Exercise Science field.