“Eat breakfast.” “Don’t eat breakfast.”
“Eat 5-7 times a day.” “Don’t eat for 16 hours.”
“Eat like a bird.” “Eat like a caveman.”
“Eat like a grown-ass man.”
The nutrition world is a vast and confusing landscape of strong opinions, billion dollar companies, individual tastes, facts, figures, calorie-labels, and piles and piles of horse shitted mis-information. That’s right. Horse shitted. Information that has been shat from a horse.
It’s no longer easy to know how to eat. Exotic fruits? Juice cleanse? Wild meats? Local vegetables? Organic? Inorganic? Paleo? Raw? Vegan? Häagen-Dazs?
The entire world is at the beck and call of our dinner plate but instead of a blessing, this overload of choice and info has led to paralysis.
What is a bro or babe to do?
Step 1) Let’s calm down. We’re gonna get through this together.
Step 2) Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves one simple, very important question…
What do we want from our food???
Seems like a smart place to start, right? In our pursuit of a long and successful life, on a personal level, what should our nutrition plan offer us?
1) First and foremost, our food should be healthy.
Seems like a no-brainer – good nutrition should be, um, good for us.
Mmmk. Thank you Rob/Captain Obvious. Not exactly mind blowing.
But let’s take this a step further because we don’t want to be sort of healthy. We don’t want okay health. Hell, we don’t even want good health. We want great health. We want rockstar health. We want mind-blowing, unfair, ass-kick, Scarface, the-world-is-ours health.
And our nutrition will absolutely dictate our wellness.
Food is medicine. It can kill. It can cure. It’s THAT powerful.
It can’t come as any surprise that some of the healthiest food for our body is the natural, unprocessed, from-the-earth superfoods that have gotten lost in all of the fasted, carb-hating, carb-loving, carb-loading hoopidy-doopity (technical term.)
Allow me to formally re-introduce you to vegetables.
The vitamins and minerals in vegetables are exceptionally bioavailable. That means our bodies are very suited to digest and utilize them (“it’s not what you eat, it’s what you absorb.”) The phytochemicals in vegetables are also powerful anti-oxidants and have a strong influence on our hormones. They suppress cancer development, protect our cell’s DNA and stimulate enzymes that help our body fight disease. For optimal physiological function, we NEED to consume phytochemicals.
But there’s more. Vegetables also do an impressive job of balancing our bodies pH. Veggies provide an alkaline load to the blood which helps neutralize the strong acid created from the breakdown of proteins (and grains.) Too much acid and not enough base means less bone mass and smaller muscles = no bueno. A strong, lean body wants to stay pH balanced which means a strong, lean body wants vegetables.
Fight cancer, destroy free radicals, protect cells, balance pH, get useable vitamins and minerals, maintain bone mass, get stronger, be lean. It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of vegetables. FIVE servings a day (minimum) is a good place to start.
Okay. What else defines good nutrition??
2) Our food should help us perform awesomely.
Food is fuel.
We eat to live successfully. Said another way, we eat to perform feats of greatness. And this isn’t limited to an athletic perspective. This is a good-life perspective. The food we consume should make us strong, capable, and energized for whatever we do:
This means we need to choose foods that fuel our awesomeness.
Unfortunately, when the conversation turns to fuel, the concerns always seems to be enough…as in, “make sure you get enough fuel.”
I call bullshit.
For many of us, the problem with our energy influx is not a matter of enough. It’s a matter of too much.
Over-fueling the body leads to a massive array of health problems, namely chronic heart disease, type II diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Take a look around. This country KEEPS. GETTING. FATTER. Yes. Eat to fuel your performance, but if you have weight to lose, you need to dial down your energy influx.
One of the easiest ways to prevent over-fueling is to limit your non-vegetable carbohydrates. Rice, oats, potatoes – all awesome energy sources. The question is, are you getting too much?
If you want to lose weight, keep your non-vegetable carbohydrates limited/nixed until you get lean. At that point, your carb tolerance is in a much better place and you can afford to eat more carbs.
3) Our food should make us happy.
Food is pleasure.
A badass life is a happy life. If our nutrition makes us miserable, we’re doing it wrong.
But in our insta-world, the immediate gratification of a “happy” meal is fool’s gold. A quick hit of serotonin from a sugary, trans-fatty delight feels sooooo damn good…until it doesn’t. The on-the-spot gratification of food needs to be weighed against its long term effects:
Ice cream sundae? Instantly gratifying.
Too many ice cream sundaes? Pure misery.
Now I’m not saying NEVER indulge. I’m saying, indulge intelligently. Ideal nutrition strikes a perfect balance of short and long term satisfaction. It’s your body and you’re gonna have to live in it tomorrow. That’s why optimal nutrition isn’t perfect. It’s balanced: Usually awesome. Sometimes guilty. Occasionally downright glutenous.
Make the right choice 85% of the time and you’re well on your way to a solid nutrition plan.
4) Our food should make us sexy.
Being sexy, feeling sexy, looking sexy, sexy-time – that’s all important.
Food can nourish our sexiness. Food can also sabotage it.
Now of course sex is a huge and complicated topic. It has caused wars, divided empires, and launched 1,000 ships. Or maybe that was Helen of Troy. Whatever. Point being, there’s a lot that goes into bringing sexy back.
And one such factor is our sex hormones. Dietary fat (particularly saturated fat) is a key player in sex-hormone production. In other words, our low-fat obsession of the past two decades has helped plummet America’s sex drive.
Fat is an important part of a healthy nutrition plan and, despite our collective misunderstanding, this INCLUDES saturated fat. Just about everything we thought we knew about SATURATED FAT is wrong.
Here’s how the story goes…way back in the day, sat fat was shown to increases LDL cholesterol – that’s the bad stuff. With heart disease on the rise, we thought it smart to avoid it. But as it turns out, the biomarkers for heart disease are much more complicated than we originally thought aaand sat fat raises HDL cholesterol – the good stuff – and can lower triglycerides – also a good thing.
Now I’m not saying sat fat is your BFF and that you should go lick butter, but I AM saying that the choice to replace the natural occurring sat fat in diary & meat with either man made trans fats (ex: margarine) OR processed carbs (ex: reduced fat yogurt) is NOT a healthy one. Taking active steps to avoid sat fat is causing more harm than good.
- Partially hydrogenated oil.
- Fast food.
(Leave it to McDonald’s to screw up somethings as amazing as fat.)
Ideally 1/3 of your fat is saturated (animal fats, coconut oil), 1/3 is monounsaturated (olive oil, nuts, nut butter, avocado), and 1/3 is polyunsaturated (fish oil, salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin and sunflower seeds). All equal. All delicious. All healthy.
*A deep breath*
Now of course, ALL OF THIS is only a jumping-off point. The nutrition world sits at a complex intersection of health, finance, morality, politics, socio-economics, individual tastes, etc. etc. etc. There’s A LOT to consider.
But a good place to start is the remind ourselves that a badass food plan should make us healthy, awesome, happy, and sexy.
Translate that into some actionables and that means eat more vegetables, be mindful of your energy influx, indulge intelligently, and don’t be afraid of fat.
Nail that and we’re in for a long and successful life of shred.