Nutrition is the single most important factor when pursuing fitness goals, period. No matter what your fitness goals or aspirations are, without proper nutrition, you will have an extremely difficult time trying to reach them. With that being said, I have compiled my 10 best nutrition tips based on my personal experiences as well as inquiries from other members of the fitness community. There will be 4 tips on general nutrition, 3 tips on nutrition when losing fat and 3 tips on nutrition when building muscle.
(Disclaimer: I am not a registered nutrition expert or dietician, and DO NOT play one on the internet)
Tip #1 - Experiment and test constantly
Everyone is different, and different strategies and diets work well for some, and not for others. A case where this is especially prevalent is with meal timing and frequency. There are thousands of articles that describe when the best time to eat is (and how many meals to eat throughout the day). These articles are broad and are usually bias towards what works for them personally. So, whether it be meal timing and frequency, what diet to pursue, or any other nutrition-based strategy, find out what works best for you and go with it.
Tip #2 - Eat your damn vegetables
Although I just told you to find out what works best for you, I will tell you that eating 2 servings of veggies per day should be a part of your diet regimen no matter what. Vegetables contain essential nutrients and antioxidants that you simply can’t receive even from the best supplements. Speaking of supplements, that leads into the next tip.
Bonus tip: if you absolutely despise vegetables, raw baby spinach is for you. It tastes like absolutely nothing and is one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can buy.
Tip #3 - Supplements are NOT substitutes for real food
No matter what you hear, there are very few exceptions to this rule (Article on this will be written soon). Supplements are NOT substitutes. Taking a multi-vitamin will not replace the essential nutrients you get from fruits or vegetables. Food always takes priority over supplements. See our article on supplements here.
Tip #4 - Know what you're eating
As much of an annoyance as it may be, reading food labels is essential to maintaining proper nutrition. It is also important to not only focus on total calories but where the calories come from. Look over macronutrient totals, which are total fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Also, take note of micro-nutrient totals like sugars and dietary fiber.
Tip #5 - Develop a routine
Fat loss requires discipline in the foods you eat, and a great way to stay disciplined on your diet is to develop a daily or weekly routine. Having a routine allows you to be consistent with your diet and relieves you of the hassle of constantly making food decisions.
Tip #6 - Cheat days/meals are essential
Cheat days are an excellent asset to fat loss when used properly. Not only to they help curb cravings and allow for better adherence to the diet, they discourage the body from adapting to lower calorie totals. The body’s number one goal is survival, so it will adapt to run on fewer calories over time, which will stall fat loss. Cheat days and meals allow for a reset of what our body believes it needs to survive, allowing us to stay in a caloric deficit and lose fat.
Tip #7 - Avoid calorie-dense foods
One of the biggest obstacles to fat loss is the inevitable hunger that comes with it. The best way to combat this is to avoid calorie-dense food and seek out foods that keep you satiated without a large calorie count. Some examples of these foods include grilled chicken, oatmeal, rice and green vegetables. Avoid calorie-dense foods like potato chips, cakes and other pastries and nuts.
Tip #8 - It's not a free-for-all
When in a caloric surplus with the goal of building muscle, it is imperative to remember that the goal of the surplus is to build muscle without adding too much extra body fat. The only way to build muscle while limiting fat gain is to slowly increase the caloric surplus over time. Going all-out and eating whatever passes in front of your face may result in decent muscle gain, but it will come with a lot of extra body fat as well.
Tip #9 - Eat enough food!
Piggybacking off of the last tip, let’s cover the other end of the spectrum. After transitioning from a fat loss phase into a muscle building phase, eating enough food to be in a caloric surplus is a necessity. Take the time to experiment how much you need to eat to gain 0.5-1 lbs. per week and slightly increase the amount of food you eat every week based on that amount.
Tip #10 - Make fiber a priority
Dietary Fiber is an essential nutrient, and it becomes extremely important when in a caloric surplus. Along with lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease, fiber is in charge of maintaining a well-regulated digestive system, which works harder than normal when in a caloric surplus. Without a sufficient amount of fiber, the digestive system may be negatively affected which will lead to feeling sluggish and can even lead to constipation.