Answers To The Most Frequently Asked Nutrition Questions
There’s a ton of information out there about nutrition and what you’re supposed to eat in order to reach “X” fitness goal. It’s difficult at times to push through misconceptions and misinformation in order to arrive at the truth.
So to clear up some things, these are the most common questions I hear.
What is the best way to eat in order to lose weight?
There’s no best diet or best way to eat. Despite what certain products or books will have you believe, there is no single correct way to eat.
If you are burning more calories than you are consuming, then you will lose weight. However you manage to do that and do it consistently is the way you should be eating.
The more nutrient-dense food you have, the easier it will be to meet your calorie goals because they don’t contain many calories in the first place.
So as a general rule, eat more nutrient-dense food, but it’s okay to have the calorie-dense stuff from time to time. This helps with cravings and your own sanity.
What’s the difference between losing weight and losing fat?
“Losing weight” is a much more general term. It doesn’t specify what exactly you’re shedding. It could be muscle, bone, water weight, or anything else.
Losing fat means losing fat. It’s a much healthier and sustainable goal over the long-term.
If you’ve ever weighed yourself, you’ve seen how the scale can fluctuate even after doing seemingly everything right. This is because the scale only sees your total mass and doesn’t take into account your fat levels which is a much more dependable measure of health.
You could maintain your weight but drop 2 dress sizes for example.
To be fair, measures of fat percentages, such as through a handheld monitor, can also be inaccurate. But measuring in the same conditions consistently can give you insight on body fat trends over time.
So if you want to lose weight, just dehydrate and starve yourself. You won’t be healthier and I highly recommend doing neither.
If you want to lose fat, be in a calorie deficit in cooperation with exercise. This ensures that the weight you lose will be fat while preserving and strengthening muscle and bone density.
Are “superfoods” for real? Do I need to include one or all of them in my diet?
Superfoods are called as such mostly for marketing purposes. It’s defined as a highly beneficial food because of a high nutrient density.
Depending on who you talk to, a wide variety of foods could be considered “super”. The most commonly mentioned ones are berries, eggs, leafy greens, and nuts among other things.
Yes, these foods are nutritious. Just be wary of who is delivering the message.
Rather than focusing on the marketing of food, just focus on including nutritious food in your diet. No, you don’t need to eat kale just because everyone says it’s good for you especially if you dislike it.
The best way to eat healthy, as I mentioned before, is in a way you can consistently maintain for the rest of your life.
Do I need to be taking supplements?
There are 2 categories of supplements in my mind, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, and workout enhancing ones.
If you have a deficiency in a certain nutrient like Vitamin D or iron that can cause health issues, by all means, look into supplementation.
But if you’re able to correct a deficiency through diet, that should always be your first choice. Nutrition from supplements doesn’t get absorbed in the body as well as it would from natural sources.
Dietary restrictions or lifestyle choices can make this more difficult which makes supplements a more valid option.
When I refer to workout supplements, think of protein powder, creatine, pre-workout etc.
Outside of protein powder, which is helpful for people who frequently train or those who are vegetarian or vegan, supplements are largely unnecessary.
In the end, sure they can give you a boost and help you work out harder, which leads to bigger gains, but they should not be relied on.
Especially if you’re a beginner, there’s no real reason why you need workout supplements. Just focus on the fundamentals.
If you become a powerlifter or an athlete, or you’ve been lifting for years, that’s a different story.
Do I need to count calories?
To some degree, you need to keep track of your food intake in order to make the adjustments you need to reach whatever goal you have.
If you’ve never tracked food before, or you’re generally unaware of the calorie values of foods you commonly eat, counting calories is a great awareness tool.
The problem is that calorie counting can be a very imprecise measure. Food quantities and the ways foods are prepared can make calories vary greatly. Over the course of a day, this can give you an imperfect picture of your actual total.
This doesn’t make the exercise useless.
Tracking is much easier these days with apps like MyFitnessPal. And rather than trying to hit a specific number exactly, like 2000 calories, aim for a range such as 1800-2300. This gives you room for error.
With this approach, you can combine this data with changes in your weight and fat percentage to make intelligent adjustments in order to reach your goal, whether it’s losing fat or putting on muscle.
Do I really need to avoid carbs in order to lose fat?
Short answer, no.
As I mentioned previously, a calorie deficit with exercise will help you lose fat, regardless of how you got those calories.
Lately, it has become the trend to vilify carbs with the popularization of the keto, or high-fat, diet.
But remember not too long ago, fat was the enemy and the main cause of obesity. The pendulum has swung the other way and our obesity problem hasn’t gotten any better.
Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are carbs too. I would never recommend anybody cut those out. But when we picture carbs we think of pizzas, doughnuts, and pastries. These sometimes have just as much fat as carbs.
The take-home message is to ignore trends and focus on eating nutritious food. Blanket statements like “all carbs are bad” don’t usually stand the test of time.
Does “when” I eat matter? How important is meal timing and frequency?
Nutrient timing can be important for high-level athletes and bodybuilders. It can increase performance and allow peaking at the right times, (for example in competition).
But for the average person, it doesn’t really matter.
Remember the calorie balance equation, the total numbers are more important than “when” you consume them.
To bang home this point again, the most important aspect of nutrition is to eat nutritious food in the best way that makes sense for YOU.
If that means 2 bigger meals or 6 small ones, go for it. As long as your food quality is there, it’s all about preference.
To your good health,