Nutrition seems to be one of the most debated topics in the fitness industry. I’ve had numerous discussions or debates with other trainers about the value of tracking your food intake using some form of journal or nutrition diary. I argue in favor of using a journal or a free app like My Fitness Pal to track your calories and macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbs), or to at least have some awareness of portions and approximate macro intake. Those who oppose tracking often recommend just “listening to your body” to determine how much to eat.
With every new year comes new fad diets promising fast fat loss. These range from low carb, low fat, elimination diets, food timing diets, liquid diets, “clean-eating” diets, and the list goes on. But like I’ve said many times before, the fundamentals of fat loss nutrition remain the same:
1) Caloric deficit – take in less energy than you burn off.
2) Appropriate macronutrient ratios – particularly higher protein and adjust carbs and fats according to calorie goals.
3) Food quality – choose less processed foods, adequate micronutrition and fiber, and consume mostly natural “whole” food.
4) Nutrient timing – consider WHEN you eat, such as meal frequency and timing your carb intake primarily after exercise.
Check out my blog post on this topic:
The one recommendation that I most often see debated is following a High Protein Diet. There is still a lot of confusion and misinformation about whether eating more protein is good or bad for you, and some misguided recommendations have evolved from poorly conducted or misinterpreted/misunderstood studies suggesting that a high protein diet is “bad for you”.
The mainstream media has been polluting us with anti-protein propaganda recently with claims that simply aren’t supported by sound scientific research. For example, some people bring up research showing that people with kidney dysfunction should restrict protein intake, however a high-protein diet itself has never been shown to ’cause’ kidney damage.
Also, while there are claims that a high-protein diet increases the risk of osteoporosis, research clearly shows that it actually helps prevent osteoporosis. There is enough solid research now available to prove the benefit of consuming more protein, especially if you are trying to lose body fat.
Why is Protein Important?
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Your body uses the amino acids from protein to build muscle, tendon, organ, skin, as well as hormones and enzymes vital to life. You need to consume enough quality protein to get certain Essential Amino Acids that your body needs to survive.
Animal-based sources of protein are the most complete, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, but certain plant-based proteins like rice and pea protein are high-quality sources of protein as well. Continue reading
One of the things I’ve frequently noticed in interviewing new clients, speaking to other trainers, and communicating with other fitness freaks online, is how many different opinions there are and how much confusion there is related to fat loss nutrition. Some people are just completely clueless, while others are so devoted to a particular way of eating that their diet becomes like their religion!
People have some pretty strange ideas about their diet.
With so many different fad diets and nutrition protocols out there, it’s no wonder people get confused. For example, you’ve probably heard about: Paleo, Keto, Atkins, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Low Fat, South Beach, The Zone Diet, Volumetrics, Raw Food Diet, Dr. Bernstein, No Carbs After 6:17PM, etc. That’s not even getting into tracking systems (calorie / portion control plans) like Weight Watchers or Nutri-System.
Now, I’m not saying that all (or any) of the above nutritional strategies are necessarily bad… there are probably positive aspects to most of them. But how do you know which ones are right for you, or which ones work best? And if it works, why? Part of the problem is that people don’t understand the basics of nutrition for fat loss and they start desperately grasping for a trendy quick fix plan to get results. Another issue is that many of those “diets” can not be sustained over the long term.
If you’re into fitness chances are at some point you’ve considered using supplements to help you reach your goals. The problem is there is so much hype, marketing, and misinformation about supplementation that it makes it really difficult to know which supplements are actually worth taking.
As a trainer I get a lot of questions about what supplements to take, and since I became sponsored (by SD Pharmaceuticals) I’ve done a lot of research into this topic. The fact is that there are some supplements that can have a very significant benefit to you, while others are probably a complete waste of money.
I used to be a strong advocate of consuming carbs and protein within an hour post-workout to take advantage of the supposed “Anabolic Window”, when insulin sensitivity is greatest, damaged muscles are starving for protein, and muscle glycogen stores are depleted and ready to suck all that nutrition in to support faster gains. However, I recently attended a lecture by Brad Schoenfeld in which he discussed nutrient timing, and questioned whether it was as important as many thought. Because of this lecture and the reading I did following it, I have changed my opinion… I no longer believe the post-workout “anabolic window” is as narrow nor as important as I once thought. Let’s look at why.
First of all, one argument in favor of consuming carbohydrates within 30 minutes post workout is that this would cause a spike in insulin which has an anti-catabolic effect and would increase nutrient uptake as well as replenish glycogen stores. However, consuming just whey protein also raises insulin levels significantly, so carbs really become a secondary concern. In fact, eating a regular meal with about 75g of carbohydrate, 37g protein, and 17g of fat will elevate your insulin for up to 3 hours. This means that you will benefit from the anti-catabolic effects of insulin for about 3 hours after each meal.
Despite being one of the most well-researched sports nutrition supplements around, there still seems to be a lot of misunderstanding surrounding Creatine. In this article I will attempt to clear up some of this confusion, explain exactly what creatine is, introduce Five Big Benefits of Creatine, and provide a few links to some of the relevant research.
What is Creatine?
First of all, let’s take a look at what exactly creatine is. Here is a simplified description: the basic currency of energy in your body is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When your body uses it, it gives up a phosphate group becoming adenosine diphosphate (ADP).
Creatine is stored as creatine phosphate (CP) in your body. Before your body starts using glucose for energy, it first breaks down ATP as a quick energy source. So when your body needs energy quickly (ie: power for the first few reps), the creatine “donates” its phosphate to the ADP, which becomes ATP, providing your cells with some extra energy.
Creatine is a completely safe, natural food supplement. It is already present in our bodies and in many of the foods we eat (especially meat).
Research says that “there appears to be no strong scientific evidence to support any adverse effects…”
Here is a great interview with Examine.com that covers most of the basics about supplementing with creatine:
Someone on Facebook recently asked me what supplements I recommend before and after a workout. Since pre-workout powders and drinks seem to be all the rage right now, and everyone is also talking about what supplements to take during and after your workout to optimize recovery and maximize “dem gainz”, I decided to shoot a video discussing my own peri-workout recommendations:
Every winter we get inundated by what I call “flu shot ads”… basically a marketing campaign to promote the importance of getting the flu vaccine. Well, I suppose this makes sense, because this is the “flu season”, although the flu vaccine may carry with it a few health risks itself; but there is another way to safely protect yourself against the flu virus. Vitamin D!