As a personal trainer I often get asked by clients, potential clients and people on the street:
- What kind of diet do you recommend?
- Do you write meal plans?
Since I’m not a dietician, I don’t provide specific meal plans. That said, unless you’re an elite-level athlete or you’ve got a specific medical condition, I find most people only require the basic, general nutritional guidelines I’m sharing below.
The following is the exact nutritional guidelines and diet information I tell my in-person and distance clients. This is what I call the “Too Simple To Be Sexy Diet.”
It’s no secret that what you eat affects not only your overall health but also your training results. Therefore, in order to help you achieve the best results from your training efforts, I offer the following simple nutritional guidelines:
Eat mostly foods based on fruits and vegetables and on high-quality meats, eggs, and fish (or protein substitutes, for vegetarians and vegans). Limit your intake of refined foods, simple sugars, hydrogenated oil, and alcohol. And don’t overeat.
If you start by focusing on the quality of the foods you eat—emphasizing fruits, vegetables, high-quality proteins—you’ll likely end up taking in fewer calories without even counting them. Indeed, when it comes to calories, the easiest approach is to first emphasize the quality (i.e., nutrient density) of the foods you eat rather than the quantity (i.e., the number of calories) and see where that gets you. It spells success for most people because fruits, veggies, and lean proteins are generally lower in calories than are fast food and candy. You don’t just want to be well fed; you want to be well nourished.
You most likely already knew these things, but the goal of marketing is to make you think you need something more — like a special diet formula or magic bullet supplement. This explains why just about every figure girl I’ve ever trained has told me about the countless times they get asked “what do you eat?” and “what supplements do you take? as if these girls know secrets about nutrition that aren’t readily available. Secrets that are the reason for why they look so good. I’ve jokingly recommend they give these people what they want by telling them something crazy like, “I eat Reticulated Python meat for muscle and put powdered bumblebee urine on my thighs and belly before I workout to accelerate fat loss in those areas.” Of course this is ridiculous nonsense, but it does demonstrate how we often think we need to use exotic exercise and nutrition practices, and make the process of improving our health and fitness way more complicated and unrealistic than it needs to be. Sometimes everyone just needs to be reminded to keep it simple.
It can often seem that contradictory scientific conclusions about nutrition appear almost daily. However, if you scrutinize them, remain skeptical of “magic” and “miracle” claims, and avoid being taken in by marketing hype, you will see that most legitimate studies amount to no more than tinkering with the basic nutritional principles and simple advice that I’ve provided here. Not to mention, the nutritional information and the “complimentary eat” strategy I provided in the “Nutriton for Fat Loss” chapter of my book, Strength Training For Fat Loss is based solely on these proven principles.
In every fad diet there is always some sort of hook, like eating at certain times of the day or consuming certain percentages of nutrients, while some diets deem certain nutrients (e.g., fat or carbohydrate) to be the enemy. In other fad diets, it’s not a type of nutrient that is the enemy, rather, it is a specific type of food or foods. Many of these diets take foods that a small portion of the population are allergic to, like foods containing gluten or dairy and advise everyone to avoid them as well, which is not only scientifically unjustifiable, it’s like saying that since some people are allergic to dogs, no one should get a dog. Other diets demand that you eliminate a whole host of common foods that they claim are the “true cause” of sickness and disease, which is a hallmark of pseudoscience and nonsense. Interestingly, these diets often make mutually incompatible claims as to which foods cause disease and which they claim to “prevent” disease.
In other words, theses diet books claim different “true causes” because some of the foods that are on the “no-no” list in one magic-bullet cure-all diet are emphasized as “good” to eat in another different magic-bullet diet. If this alone isn’t enough to highlight why these “cure-all” type diets are based more on great marketing than they are on good science, keep in mind that every few years, there seems to be a new “cure- all” diet that claims to be better than the last. It’s no wonder these diets never seem to gain any credibility among the legitimate medical and scientific community. Let’s face it, if these diets worked as advertised, those who came up with them would get the Nobel prize and their methods would become standard practice in medicine and nutrition.
The fact is, when you strip away the big claims and different formulas, what all of these diets have in common is that they get people to eat more lower-calorie, nutrient dense foods and less higher calorie junk foods. So, the reason why you can find people who swear by just about every fad diet is NOT because of the diet-dogma and special eating formula this or that special diet promotes, but because it simply got people to eat more nutritious foods more frequently than they were before.
With this reality in mind, the most important factor that will determine successful and sustained fat loss, improved health outcomes, etc. on any diet is adherence. As I highlighted above, there are multiple dietary approaches that work for improving one’s eating habits. So it’s smartest to choose a diet approach that you can stick with as a lifestyle.
Speaking of lifestyle, the reason why many people still fail when attempting to improve their eating habits, isn’t usually because they didn’t change their lifestyles, but because the lifestyle changes they made were unrealistic and misguided. In that, they try to change their diet behaviors too much, too fast. This is why it’s important to 1) choose a healthier eating style that’s realistic for you to stick with and 2) gradually implement it by making small changes in your eating behaviors and turning them into positive habits before changing other eating behaviors.
Nick’s Upcoming Live Events
Teaching AFPT Convention on August 26-28th in Oslo, Norway.
Teaching at the SCW Midwest MANIA Fitness Convention on Sept 30 – Oct 2nd in Rosemont, IL
Teaching at the NSCA Personal Trainers Conference on October 14-16th, 2016 in Jacksonville, FL.
Teaching at CanFitPro event on Oct 28-30th in Windsor, Canada. (Website info coming soon)