Eat real food in sensible portions.
I. The most critical element of your diet is the quality of food. High-quality foods are real foods: they have little to no human processing (see: Processed Foods) such that they are consumed in a form similar to how they exist in nature. This means real foods are perishable. They lay the foundation of healthy, capable, and fit humans primarily because of the nutrient density therein. Real foods contain the types and amounts of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) necessary for health and fitness. Additionally, they contain no refined sugar and are free from man-made substances that are not associated with health (artificial oils, chemicals, etc.).
II. Real foods include meat, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and traditionally prepared grains. These are conventionally found on the perimeter of the grocery store, although some exceptions exist. Farmer’s markets provide an exceptional resource for sourcing real foods. The more natural the environment the food is produced in or from, the more ideal in terms of health (i.e., free-range, grass-fed, wild-caught, and/or organic labels are best). However, if these are not available or are cost prohibitive, individuals should still select real foods without these distinctions.
1. Lindeberg, S. (2010). Food and Western Disease. (BOOK).
I. It's also important to have some limit on the overall quantity in your diet and balance intake across the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) to support your goals (e.g., fitness, health) and activity level. Intake between individuals can vary considerably once one accounts for sex, age, genetics, goals, and activity level. As an example, two people of the same height may have disparate intake levels if one is a younger male trying to gain muscle mass and the other is an older female trying to lose weight. Once the overall intake is established, a rough balance of the macronutrients (40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, 30% fat based on calories) is recommended for most of our population (i.e., the non-professional-one-workout-a-day-crowd).
II. Our coaches or nutrition partners can help estimate the total amount of food and specific macronutrient distribution one needs relative to their context. Even without an individualized plan, one can eat balanced meals (generally 3-5 meals per day, 3 for smaller females and 5 for larger males). At each meal, it is important to have protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy), carbohydrate (fruits, vegetables, legumes, traditionally prepared grains), and fat (nuts, seeds) represented. Generally, protein portions can be the size of your palm, starchy carbohydrate sources can be the size of your fist (plus as many vegetables as you can fit on the plate), and fat the size of your thumb (be aware certain meats, eggs, dairy, or the cooking oil for preparation may already provide enough fat for those trying to lose weight). Some individuals may need more personalized macronutrient distributions, but this is a good starting point for most.
1. Cordain, L. (2002). The Nutritional Characteristics of a Contemporary Diet Based Upon Paleolithic Food Groups. https://thepaleodiet.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/The-Nutritional-Characteristics-of-a-Contemporary-Diet-Based-Upon-Paleolithic-Food-Groups-The-Paleo-Diet.pdf
2. Synkowski, E. (2018). Nutrition for the 99 Percent. https://optimizemenutrition.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/nutritionforthe99percent2.pdf