Be prepared for some tough love, because I am tired of seeing adults eating like an unchaperoned child at a birthday buffet. We are putting so much effort in our training, we optimise sleep and lifestyle, yet we pay little attention of what we are actually putting into our bodies besides “hitting our macros”. It is nice to have a flexible diet, but that doesn’t mean you can squeeze as much junk in it as you can. It is time for a reality check!
Training at “Day Gym” in Vienna, I am constantly surrounded by bodybuilders and other strength sport athletes, yet I am continuously shocked of what they eat. These guys (and girls) spend hours in the gym training with incredible dedication, optimising every repetition of every set of their training, squeezing out as many incremental advantages with sleep and recovery, yet their diets are mostly children cereals, whey shakes, junk chocolates and a few frozen berries on top to give it a “healthy” appeal. I think there is much room for improvement here! Lets approach our diets with the same focus as we do with training and recovery. Let’s “eat like an adult” like Dan John likes to say!
We like to think in extremes and diets are no exception to this (with diet I mean its original meaning of “the way I eat”, not losing weight). First, there was clean eating and everybody was obsessed to find the cleanest foods, demonizing everything that didn’t directly jump from nature on our plates as “bad”.
Then there was flexible dieting, bringing the relieving message of “only calories matter” to us, starting the trend of “just hitting macros” and ignoring everything else.
I think now the time has come to seek a more nuanced approach to our diet, as both “clean eating” and “flexible dieting” are wrong and right at the same time.
The golden rule of dieting
Calorie balance is king. We cannot ignore thermodynamics, therefore calories matter. This is where flexible dieting is right, as it teaches us to eat calories depending to our goals. And clean eating gets it wrong, as it focuses too much on the type of foods we eat, mostly ignoring calorie content. Your paleo, vegan, kosher brownies may be the cleanest brownies on the planet, but if you eat too much of them, you will get fat.
So respect the energy content of foods, no matter how healthy they are. Factor in your energy needs and eat to match your goals.
thermic effect of food and Fibre
A calorie is a calorie, right? Well, at first glance it is true, but taking a closer look reveals that it isn’t that simple. Our body uses energy to process the food we eat, which is called TEF (thermic effect of food). This means that the energy needed for chewing, digesting and absorbig the calories of pure sugar or a pear differ significantly, as you need virtually no energy processing sugar. This is especially important when you are losing weight, as it has a huge influence on satiety and also indirectly on energy balance.
Speaking of satiety, the fibre content of food is a major factor on how long you feel satiated. Perhaps even more important is the role of fibre on gut health and your microbiome (the amount and types of bacteria in your guts). While there is still little of good research on this, getting enough fibre is important for health and satiety and the easiest way to get is, is vegetables, legumes and fruits. And guess what, all that ultra processed junk is virtually devoid of fibre. So eat your veggies (and fruits)!
Micronutrients – more than just macros
Everybody knows that minerals and vitamins (the “micros”) are essential for our health, yet most people pay virtually no attention to them. And to be honest, it is pretty difficult tracking them. Which leads to taking multivitamins “just to be sure”, which is problematic as many products are rather low in quality and bulk up on cheap ingredients like vitamin C, skimping on the stuff you would really need.
You know what is really rich in micronutrients? Meat (especially organ meat), seafood, fruits and veggies. Shocker! And yes again, junk food is virtually devoid of micronutrients due to their highly processed nature (which destroys many important compounds) and high content of ingredients that are lacking micros naturally, like sugar, plain flour and cheap fats.
can I never eat “junk” again?
Before you freak out because you just can’t live without you favourite junk foods, relax. You can have your junk, but with moderation. True moderation! I think most people can easily allow for 10% of their calories to be reserved for junk food, which means if you have 2000kcal per day, you may use 200kcal of them for your treats.
Also try to go for more quality over quantity. You can find much better variants of common junk foods in health food stores or bake/cook them yourself. Sure, they are more expensive or it will cost you some time, but they taste better and you don’t support huge multinational companies whose only concern is maximising profit while destroying rain forests and letting children work for them.
So choose your treats wisely, enjoy them in moderation and mindfully and focus on the quality of your overall diet. It will pay off!
Are you struggling with a boring diet or are you not enjoying your training anymore? Contact us and let us talk how we can reach your body composition or strength goals and let training and eating be fun again!