Before I get rolling here I need to clarify something - I am not a dietitian, I am not a doctor, and I am not a nutrition guru. When it comes to nutrition I have a couple basic guidelines I stick to. First, as a vegan I eat a plant-based diet focusing on mostly whole and fresh foods. Second, I use common sense.
The amount of conflicting information about nutrition is enough to make anyone's head spin. It's downright painful. Particularly in the fitness industry where bodybuilder's and other physique athletes are looked at as icons of optimal health. Eat tons of protein, carbohydrates are evil, saturated fat rocks, it's all about macros bro, and on and on. It's ridiculous. If you eat enough healthy, whole foods to fuel your activity level you will get all the nutrition you need. You won't be protein deficient, you won't have to worry about your "macros", and your muscles will not atrophy.
Please understand, and to all my bodybuilding friends my deepest apologies, but bodybuilding is not a healthy endeavor. To be fair, neither is powerlifting or any sport taken to the extreme. Physical competition, regardless of the sport or discipline, is about winning and pushing the limits of human performance. Often what is required is far from healthy, both from a nutrition and training standpoint.
Now, am I saying don't compete in anything? Absolutely not. If you want to be an athlete or competitor by all means go for it! I think there are many things that you can learn about yourself as an athlete. Some people are driven to be the best and that is awesome. This article is not for you.
This article is for people who want to be healthy, who use exercise and nutrition to promote a certain lifestyle. This is for the people who have careers, high levels of stress, family responsibilities, and whose lives do not revolve around the gym and posting sweaty selfies in the bathroom mirror all day.
We have a huge problem in this country and it's namely our health. Sure, due to advancements in science and medicine we are living longer, but what is the quality of our lives? Are we truly living? What good is making it to 90 or more years of age if you are so unhealthy that you cannot take care of yourself and enjoy those years?
I have seen people in their 70s and 80s who were active, fit, healthy and looked half their age. On the flip side I have seen people in their 30s and 40s who can barely move and looked twice their age.
Lack of exercise, and movement in general, certainly contributes to this, but I believe it all begins with the fuel we put into our bodies.
First and foremost total calories matter, and there is plenty of research and data to back this up. Dr. Garth Davis points to many studies that demonstrated weight loss based on caloric intake regardless of the macronutrient breakdown in his new book. There was even a nutrition professor who lost a lot of weight on a predominantly junk food diet by keeping his caloric intake around 1,850 a day. However, being truly healthy involves a lot more than just weight loss. This is where I disagree with the "macros" crowd. I have literally heard some people say that your body, at the cellular level, does not know the difference between carbohydrates and fat from almond butter and apples and carbohydrates and fat from Oreos.
Now I like Oreos as much as the next person but you have to be kidding me. Remember what I said about my common sense guideline earlier? If our nutrition provides the building blocks for our cells would you prefer your body building itself with the nutrients from nuts and fresh fruit or processed cookies? Yes, when it comes to weight loss, for the most part, controlling calories is the most important thing but I'd be willing to bet the end result of a body built on fresh, whole foods is a little different in appearance to a body built on processed crap. This doesn't mean that you can't still be healthy and indulge in your favorite snack or dessert on occasion, just use a little common sense!
I honestly believe that every time you eat you have the opportunity to eat something that is health promoting or something that is not health promoting. This is where it can get a little muddy. I think we all can agree that cookies, cake, candy and other junk food is not health promoting, and that vegetables and fruits are health promoting. Well, you do have those whackos who say fruit is sugar and is no better for you than a candy-bar, but if you're one of those people I'm honestly surprised you're still reading this or even following my blog! Where it gets muddy for me is meat and other animal-based foods. I am in the camp that believes animal-based foods are not healthy. The research and ideas presented by professionals like Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. Neal Barnard have convinced me that animal-based foods are not health promoting.
That being said, nutrition is a personal choice and I know many people who justify their consumption of animal-based foods as healthy. The purpose of this blog is not to get into a vegan vs. omnivore debate. The purpose of this blog is simply to state that nutrition really doesn’t need to be anymore complicated than this - is what you are eating health promoting or not? Unless of course you are dealing with some sort of chronic disease or illness, if you are you should be working with medical and dietary professionals not reading fitness blogs.
Scott’s Five Simple Steps to Healthy Nutrition
- Is the food I am eating health promoting or not health promoting?
- Eat mostly health promoting foods (roughly 85-95%), fresh whole foods focusing mainly on fruits, vegetables, beans / legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, etc.
- Eat less non-health promoting foods (roughly 5-15%), processed and snack / dessert foods, soft drinks, etc.
- Drink mostly water, I’m fine with unsweetened coffee and tea as well, but mostly water.
- Stop stressing out about what you eat, forget about your protein addiction, hitting macros, counting calories, weighing your food, and just eat healthy, whole foods.
So there you have it, I honestly believe that nutrition does not need to be any more complicated than this.
Stay Strong AND Healthy!-Scott
P.S. If you are sick of all the ridiculous fad diet and training information and want a simple and highly effective solution to health and fitness, check out my online coaching program. I offer both short and long term planning to help you fit healthy nutrition and training into your daily routine. Click here for more information and for feedback from people I've worked with through this program.