"Your Diet can account for up to 70% of the results that you see in the mirror."
Following an effective nutrition program is vital to your success with any exercise program. Your diet can account for up to 70% of the result that you see in the mirror, good or bad.
You will find a ton of information on this page, as well as a few tools and suggestions to help you understand and follow an effective program.
Still confused? No problem. We are here to guide you along the way with resources, information, classes, assessments, and check-ins!
Ready to get started? Read on, then schedule an InBody Body Composition Test to sit down with us and chat more about your nutrition!
Before we begin, let's set the record straight on a few key points:
1. In this article, when we refer to a "diet," we are not referring to a predetermined amount of time or rules to be used for a short period of time to "lose weight." We are talking about YOUR DIET, what you choose to eat day in and day out as a part of your lifestyle choices.
2. Our diet must be periodized. There will be periods of loss, maintenance (staying the same), and even gain. These periods are essential for continued results. Body composition change is a process!
Let's start with the most important part of our creating a new dieting lifestye: calorie balance. This dictates that, in order to lose weight, you must take in less energy than you use. This is what forces your body to break down its tissue to make up the difference. Without a calorie deficit, weight loss cannot occur. Moreover, when a calorie deficit is in effect, weight loss will always occur. While certain health conditions make it more difficult to eat less or burn more, anyone who manages to intake less energy than he or she uses will lose weight, hormonal or other conditions notwithstanding. All successful weight loss diets require a calorie deficit.
If you only focus on calories, however, you might not get the body composition changes you seek. Most of us would like to end a weight loss diet looking firmer and leaner, not smaller but softer, aka “skinny fat”. The latter result comes from losing muscle along with fat on your diet, which is easy to do if you are not paying attention to other principles of body composition change. This is where macro counting, the next key principle, comes in.
For those new to this stuff, macros are just the main nutrients (short for "macronutrients") that contribute to almost all of our daily calories: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. So, when you count macros, by default, you end up counting calories as well. As a bonus to weight loss, getting enough daily protein helps prevent muscle loss ... along with that dreaded “skinny fat”. Getting enough fat (though minimums can be pretty low) maintains healthy hormones and vitamin absorption. Carbs are great for sports performance and fueling effective workouts, and, while not mandatory for a healthy diet, neither is avoiding them. When losing weight, after protein needs and fat minimums are met, you can eat carbs too, provided you stay under your daily calorie deficit ceiling.
Let's take a moment to talk about our "macros," carbs, fat, and protein:
Carbohydrates & Fats
Carbs and fats fuel the body.
Fat is essential for hormonal regulation.
Carbohydrates, though not essential, help fuel our training which is the key weapon we have in our arsenal to tell the body to hang on to muscle when dieting. It's also the spark for muscle growth when in a weight gain phase. So, we don’t want to go too low with either when it comes to improving our body composition.
Some great carbohydrates sources may include:
- Beans & Lentils
- Fresh and frozen fruit
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain pasta
Don’t set your fat intake super high and your carbs low. Ketogenic diets may be trendy right now, but carbohydrates are necessary and can help you moderate energy levels and preserve muscle. Much of the latest scientific literature doesn't support a metabolic advantage for these diets, and they are overly restrictive for most people, making adherence more difficult.
Don't misread us, fats are essential to our diets. Fats help regulate hormone levels, provide energy, increase satiety, and well ... they taste fantastic!
Some great sources of fat may include:
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts & nut butters)
- Seeds (chia & flax)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Adequate protein intake ensures that we have the building blocks for recovery, growth, and to prevent muscle breakdown. It’s also the most satiating macronutrient, which makes it useful for combating hunger when we’re dieting.
Some great sources of protein include:
- Eggs and egg whites
- Lean cuts of meat
- Greek yogurt
- Beans and lentils (for plant-based diets)
It should be noted that the foods listed are not meant in any way to be an exhaustive list of foods to eat exclusively, but rather a broad and general starting point for example only.
Before we go on, let's pause here to appreciate the fact that about 80% of potential body composition improvement can be had with just these two core principles: first, a caloric deficit, and second, good macros.
The next few principles can help, but only by a small margin, so, unless those marginal gains are important to you, a lot of us can save ourselves further complexity on our weight loss journey. Calorie and macro counting can be done using intermittent fasting, IIFYM, RP Diet App, keto, or just about any other diet. All of these strategies can work when they facilitate a calorie deficit, and good macro choices are made.
So how to choose? The key is to find what will be sustainable for you. A very important question to ask yourself is: when my diet is over, will I have created healthy habits that I can continue through maintenance (once no longer losing but staying at/around my new weight)? By definition, when your diet is over, you will increase your macros, and therefore calories. Beyond this increase, however, your general diet - the types of foods you eat and when you eat - should stay largely the same. So, it's important to consider which diet strategy will be comfortable for you long term. We strongly promote a lifestyle change NOT a get-skinny-quick approach. More times than not, this is not a long-term solution!
If health is a consideration, food composition - sweet potato and almonds versus a donut to get your fat and carbs - becomes important. As such, IIFYM will no longer work for you, and the carnivore diet is also probably out. There is also some evidence that “healthier” food choices, in addition to being health-promoting and more satiating, can result in slightly better body composition changes as well. Not to mention the fact that long-term health is a prerequisite for fitness!
If you want to take your results up a notch, it’s time to take a look at the other, more minor principles for body composition change. You might be able to eek out another 10% worth of results by paying attention to nutrient timing. This is where intermittent fasting goes out the window, as meals need to be timed around training, and spread out more or less evenly over the course of the day. Finally, supplements such as protein powders, caffeine, creatine, and simple sugar drinks for training can add around 5% more icing to your results cake.
When choosing a diet, consider your current habits and lifestyle to be sure you're choosing a program that you can feasibly manage, and a sustainable structure that suits your lasting preferences. If you can better adhere when keeping it simple, just stick to calories and macros and try to choose health-promoting food options (lots of whole foods, plenty of plants). If you are up for the challenge long-term and want the absolute optimal results, pick a diet that hits all five principles represented in the chart below. And remember: the only diet that works is the one you can stick with, and weight loss is only maintained when sustainable habits are practiced through all diet phases (including, duh, maintenance... which is everything that comes after you've successfully lost the weight you wanted to)!