Have you ever struggled with trying to figure out what nutrition advice to follow? Many of us have tried countless different things and more often than not, these tips come from well-intentioned friends, family or the latest v-logger on YouTube. One of the problems with follow advice from these sources is that you end up a pretty wide variety of suggestions around what will work for you. Some of the suggestions might contradict each other, and ultimately, just because it worked for them doesn’t mean it will work for you!
Trying to find sound nutritional advice can drive one mad. Prior to becoming a Dietitian, I remember feeling the same way. I would read one thing and then the very next day read something else that recommended taking the complete opposite approach. Cue the endless frustration and confusion.
The reality is that everyone is completely different in how they respond to various nutrition and lifestyle changes. We all have our own unique metabolism, our own day-to-day life factors, and our own individual responses to different stimuli. And while there are good, sound, fundamental strategies that the majority of people should be using as a foundation of good health, there are also a lot of common tips that you can simply just ignore.
YOUR DIET NEEDS TO BE PERFECT TO GET RESULTS
Diets such as keto, intermittent fasting, and paleo offer a strict set of guidelines. Many people love the idea of having a program to follow because we feel like we are doing something radical or different from what our current diet looks like, and we feel good about it. All of these diets offer different benefits for different people based on their own health and nutritional needs. By no way am I saying these diets can’t be beneficial. However, the average person wanting to clean up their diet, improve energy, change their body composition, etc. should be focusing on trying to make good nutritional choices 80% of the time, not 100% of the time. When we try to take the “all or nothing” approach, we set ourselves up for failure. When you make even the slightest “error” in the diet, you feel like you’ve messed it all up and quit. Or, you find that even when you follow the diet 100%, you’re not getting results.
What to do instead: Focus on following good eating habits 80% of the time and allowing yourself the other 20% to go out and have fun, socialize, and eat what sounds good versus what is “perfect” helps to set you up for long-term success. Even the healthiest people don’t eat healthy 100% of the time.
YOU SHOULD WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY DAY
Many people turn to the scale to measure whether or not all the hard work they have been putting in in the gym and kitchen is paying off. Oftentimes, we can become compulsive over this habit and start weighing ourselves every day when we wake up or after a workout. One major problem with this is that there countless factors that can affect your weight on a day-to-day basis — how much water and food you’ve taken in that day, if you have gone to the bathroom, or for women their menstrual cycle timing. These are only a few examples of factors that can greatly impact what the scale says at any given moment. Another aspect to consider is that weight doesn’t tell us the full picture as to what is going on with our body. For example, if we jump on that scale and you up 1 pound from yesterday, there is no way to know if that weight is coming from muscle, fat, extra water or even the scale potentially needing a recalibration. Looking at weight alone sets us up for failure. We ideally want to be looking at our full body composition. Determining what is happening with our amount of body fat versus our muscle mass is vital to proper health and weight management. You could also look to using circumference measurements or how your clothes are fitting. These are great indicators as to the changes your body is going through.
What to do instead: If you are going to be using the scale, limit this to only once a week at maximum, and keep as many factors constant as possible (what you’re wearing, day of the week, time of day). This allows your body a fair amount of time to adjust to diet or exercise changes you’ve made. Or better yet, find a way to measure your body composition with technology like a Styku to get an accurate look at the whole picture – body fat and muscle, and how they’re changing.
IF YOU EAT WELL, YOU DON’T NEED A MULTIVITAMIN
The age old debate, should I take a multivitamin? Do I really need one? Can I just focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and not have to spend the money? All of these are real questions when it comes to general health and nutrition. However, the reality is that most of us probably should be using a multivitamin. The fact of the matter is, many of us don’t meet the recommendation of consuming 9-11 servings of vegetables daily or meet our daily needs for vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. You also have to factor in the quality of the food that you are consuming. Is it organic, fresh, locally grown? These are just a few factors to consider when considering how important a multivitamin may be.
What to do instead: Try thinking about your multivitamin the same way you would with your insurance policy. We may eat healthy the majority of the time, however there will always be those gaps from time to time, and at the very least we have our multivitamin to pick up the slack!
YOUR WORKOUTS CANCEL OUT POOR FOOD CHOICES
We’ve all been there. Trying to justify the poor choices we have been making nutritionally by working out more to counterbalance the junk food. The reality is that 80% of the progress we’ll see is done outside of the gym. Yes, exercise and training are vital to the changes and improvements we want to see but a poor diet will likely undermine your efforts working out. Getting in your lean proteins, healthy fats, and abundant vegetables are vital to things such as blood sugar management, cholesterol and lipid health, cortisol control and many more aspects of health. Calories and sugars can add up very quickly when consuming more processed foods and most of us don’t spend enough time in the gym to be able to even begin to repair the damage from these foods! We also have to consider how we feel when we eat more processed and refined foods. Many of us feel sluggish, tired, puffy and sometimes even in pain. More often than not, when we’re feeling unwell we really don’t feel like working out, which doesn’t help with the mindset of “I can eat this now, I’ll go to the gym later”.
What to do instead: Using the 80/20 guideline, try to consume your “20%” meals post workout. Your body can better utilize processed carbs (because let’s be real, normally your 20% meals are going to contain them!) AFTER you’ve worked out.
YOU SHOULDN’T EAT CARBS AT DINNER OR EVEN AT ALL
“You should eat low carb, go keto, or only eat them with breakfast”. These are just a few examples of different styles of eating people may tell you try when it comes to carbs. The reality is, you still DO need carbs to some extent! How much you exercise, your body type, gender and age will factor into how much you can or should have but, let’s talk about some basic fundamentals. Carbs help us to build tissue! When we eat carbohydrates, it signals to our body to start building things such as lean muscle. They also drive an insulin response which is one of our strongest anabolic hormones. So, trying to include some source of carbohydrates post-workout with a lean protein is great for recovery. Another important aspect to consider with carbs is that it can have a big impact on cortisol, our stress hormone. Cortisol helps give us energy and carbs play a big role in this. If you eat too low-carb, this can cause your blood sugar to fall too low, which can lead to an unhealthy spike in cortisol, which puts our body under more stress! This can lead to other negative effects such as disrupted sleep, more difficulty recovering, and impacting other hormones such as testosterone. The take-away – your strategy around carbs needs to be tailored directly to YOU.
What to do instead: Working with a professional nutrition coach is always helpful to determine what is right for you when it comes to carbohydrate intake. They can help you figure out when, how much and different types are right for you based on your lifestyle factors that are vital to consider.
Nutrition can be confusing and frustrating at times because there are so many different factors to consider and everyone has a different take on what’s best. However, you can always feel confident in focusing on the fundamentals. Try to make good nutrition choices 80% of the time, such as lean proteins, healthy fats and green vegetables. Set yourself up for success by taking your multivitamin, and do not weigh yourself everyday! Above all else, when you feel like you are struggling or don’t know which direction to go, ask for help! At WellWay, we have an amazing team of fitness and nutrition professionals to help guide and support you in whatever goals you have.