Some of the most common questions I am asked from you guys in regards to nutrition, are around supplements i.e. “Should I be taking a protein supplement?” and nutrient timing i.e. “Is it better to have no carbs after 5pm?”. For most people, I refer them to this concept, The Nutrition Pyramid.
This is a useful visual tool for understanding where to focus your attention with your nutrition strategy, and equally as importantly, what not to get too caught up on!
- Energy Balance is the Foundation
You need to eat enough food. Not too much, not too little, just the right amount. In order to do this, you need to do a few calculations. What we need to work out is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), and you do this first by finding the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and then by multiplying that number by your Physical Activity Level (PAL). TDEE = BMR x PAL I prefer the Katch-McKardle for calculating Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) as it takes into consideration body composition, so that we are calculating calories for the amount of lean body mass that an individual has, rather than their body weight and sex
- Macronutrients – ALL of them
You need all the macros. I am going to repeat that for those who didn’t want to read it: you need all the macros. Including carbohydrates. Especially carbohydrates!! Animal protein too, as that is another category I see young women restricting way too severely and their bodies are stressed because of it. Your reproductive system will thrive when you get this right. Hint: if your reproductive health is optimised your body is optimised! Similarly, dehydration is a serious stressor on the body and it is estimated 80% of Australian are chronically dehydrated. If your body aches, your skin is dry, your stool is hard/not coming daily and you feel generally tired, it is highly likely you are 1 of them.
- Micronutrients + Fibre
Micronutrients refer to the vitamins and minerals that our body uses in all our daily functions. A deficiency of any particular nutrient in the longterm can have dire consequences on someone’s health, longevity and susceptibility to disease. Likewise, fibre is vital for intestinal and bowel health and around 1 in 5 Australians have reported symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
- Meal Timing
5:2 diet, intermittent fasting and other forms of time restricted eating are all tools that are utilised by coaches to control energy balance (the base of the pyramid). These are not miraculous dieting strategies. There’s no magic to skipping breakfast, nor, on the counter, is it the most important meal of the day, as has so often been touted. The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter so much when you eat as what and how much you eat. If you prefer to skip breakfast and eat more calories later in the day (and your digestive system is OK with this) then go for it. Some people like to eat before they train, others prefer to train on an empty stomach – and for most people, the difference in results between eating before or after training is negligible, so long as energy balance is matched. Don’t overcomplicate this – eat when you are hungry.
And finally…supps. Where so many people want to spend all their time researching and throw all their money. To be fair, many allied health professionals seem to want you to do this too, so I understand where the confusion may come from. However, please understand that unless you have a nutrient deficiency as described above, if you ensure you eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, then you probably do not need a lot of supplementation. Don’t get me wrong, supplements are incredibly useful in the right circumstances – but this requires bloodwork analyses and thorough consultation – we don’t just throw supplements at people and hope for good results. Except Magnesium…everyone gets magnesium.
The point here is simple, if you’ve been putting in effort and aren’t seeing the results that you want, rather than rushing to the latest gimmick or hot supplement, take some time to pause and reflect and make sure you are addressing the issue correctly – start from the base of the pyramid and work up. I will follow up shortly with a post about how to calculate your individual TDEE.
Love your guts
🦁 Barty xx