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Basic Nutrition Is Not Complicated

#nutrition

Recently, a friend told me about a debate she had with a trainer. The trainer said everyone should eat a high fat, high protein breakfast. The friend didn’t feel like that was necessarily right for her.

This situation begs the question: is there a right way to eat?

While there are some basic principles most people should follow, there are plenty of reasons why your diet may skew one way or another.

Genetic differences, cultural preferences and personal preferences to name just a few.

It’s worth experimenting with nutrition to figure out what works for you.

Some of the basic principles we should all follow include:

  • Prioritize whole foods
  • Eat enough protein
  • Respect serving sizes

Now, should you eat a high fat, high protein breakfast? Are small meals better than large meals? Is it bad to eat after 8pm?

If you are following the basic principles of solid nutrition, these things are not that crucial. What is crucial is finding out what you like and when you feel your best.

I understand why a trainer would recommend a high protein and fat breakfast. Protein is essential for a healthy body and most people don’t eat enough of it. Among many benefits, protein triggers hormones that reduce hunger and make you feel full. Fat is the slowest digesting macronutrient and its energy dense.

This type of breakfast could help you power through a long morning without crashing or reaching for a mid-morning snack. But it might not work for you because of any number of biological, societal or personal reasons.

For years, I ate a high protein, low fat, low carb breakfast that came in around 300 calories. It would keep me going from from until 12PM. Over the last six months, I’ve experimented with much larger breakfasts - higher protein and carb, and medium fat, coming in around 500 calories. I really like my new approach, but for years I was happy with the former.

Some people feel better eating a higher fat, lower carb diet, while others prefer a lower fat, higher carb diet. For example, let’s look at a moderately active 120-pound woman eating 1800 calories. Her protein intake should be between 84-120 grams, which equates to 336-480 calories. Let’s assume she goes with 120 grams of protein. That leaves 1,320 calories for carbohydrates and fat. If she split the calories in half (50% fat, 50% carbs), she would need 73 grams of fat and 165 grams of carbohydrates.

If you’re like me, you prefer more carbohydrates. If you’re like my sister, you choose more fats. It’s a personal preference probably rooted in genetic differences.

Food is the foundation of your health and you can’t live without it. It’s important to understand the basics and experiment to find out what works for you.

There is no right diet and there is not one right way to eat.

Instead, focus on the foundation.

  • Prioritize whole foods. What does this mean? Eat vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats. In short, foods that are not processed.
  • Get enough protein. What does this mean? Typically .7-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
  • Understand what true serving sizes look like. What does this mean? Weigh your food or learn to estimate using a system such as Precision Nutrition’s hand serving size guide.
  • Eat slowly. What does this mean? Take time to eat mindfully, without distractions, to give yourself time to enjoy your food and feel how your body reacts. This is my Achilles heel...
  • Drink water and low calorie beverages. What does this mean? Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol that add hundreds of calories, but no nutritional value to your diet.
  • Get enough sleep. What does this mean? Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep. Lack of adequate sleep causes a dip in hormones that promote satiety. You’ll feel hungrier if you don’t get enough sleep.

As we all navigate "resolution season", I suggest we focus less on quick fixes and more on building long-lasting systems that will get us where we want to go and keep us there.

Evy Lyons

I treat life like a professional sport and train like an athlete so I can stay in the game as long as possible and hopefully inspire more women to join the fun.