Beginner’s Nutrition: Are You Overthinking Your Diet?

Just because a program is complex, doesn’t mean it’s effective.

Crazy training methods are one thing. You’re up for anything, but diet plans are a whole other world. After all, where talking body chemistries, hormone reactions, and even possible blood types to sift through. Dieting isn’t a simple discipline, is it?

These days it seems that the more complex a program, plan, or theory is the more effective it probably is. It must be right? I mean, someone with a ton of know-how must have come up with these sophisticated methods; someone with knowledge, experience, and the wherewithal required to make the plan work. Simple things just aren’t worth your time; you need science, testimonials, and a great backstory.

Okay, let’s sit down, take a deep breath, and take this one step at a time.

Don’t Get Insane Over Eating

Eating food is something we have to do so there’s no getting around that fact. But when we start acting too human is when we run into trouble. We are analytical by nature. Over the last few 100 years or so we have managed to categorize, plan, and dissect nearly every aspect of our lives. It gives us a sense of control—control over how we will move forward, hopefully for the better.

But as with many things in our increasingly, and sometimes self-sabotaging life, the pendulum swings to the other side and we resort back to our ancestral days of doing things. For example, consider how diets were handled just a few years ago; every calorie and macronutrient was counted, logged, and analyzed. This held true for a significant amount of time. If it seems “sciencey” then it has to be a good thing, right?

Lately, the pendulum has swung its bulbous-self all the way over to the other extreme of paleo diets and intermittent fasting, just to name two. These are more instinctually-based approaches that are derived from our former relatives a few thousand years ago.

This has all lead to a very frustrated audience; the types who make up the general public are poised to hear the latest craze and the testimonials, and also the research to back it up—get ready for some marketing hype.

But, the question begs: have we changed all that much? Is the perfect plan still out there?

Building Blocks of an Eating Plan

In all my years of studying nutrition and dieting for bodybuilding shows, getting my body fat down in the single digits (the low single digits), and helping the general public to work out their nutrition frustrations, always goes back to a simple idea. That idea is comprised of simple, balanced eating replete with natural, whole foods in moderation.

Fads of extremes, crazy habits, exact meal timing, and exclusivity of certain foods only seem to quickly fade away to make room for the next “big thing.”

So, simple is the way to go, as with most things in life. Think about it; does hard work, discipline, and the right mindset work more in your favor than cute little hacks to try and cheat the system? With that said, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Hard work and discipline can be a grind as well as adhering to a balanced diet.

Here’s a quick and simple breakdown of what any healthy diet should consist of:

  • Whole food protein: This includes fish, lean meats, turkey, eggs, yogurt (preferably the Greek kind), as well as other low-fat dairy products.
  • High fibrous, complex carbs: Go with oats, potatoes, rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Healthy fats: These can include avocado, nuts, nut butters, and olive oil.
  • Water: Yes, not a very sexy subject, but pure water, not soft drinks, is an extremely integral part to any eating plan.

How to Put It Together

Eat enough: Yes, this sounds like a stupid and redundant point to make, but many just simply don’t eat enough. Now, this doesn’t mean stuffing your gullet with anything in sight, but it does mean getting in the right kind of balanced meals throughout your day. Grabbing meals with empty calories leaves a lot to be desired on the recovery and progression fronts. Be sure to prepare balanced meals and be sure to pre-plan your day when traveling or brown-bagging for work.

Eat frequently, if needed: One practice that has caught a lot of flak lately is meal frequency. It was once thought that meals needed to be eaten often in order to take advantage of protein intake and metabolism elevation. Then the so-called pendulum swung to the side of “it doesn’t matter when you eat, just get in your nutrients.” There is, however, something to be said of stabilizing blood sugar and getting in enough protein throughout your day. Remember, balance and consistency are key when progression in the iron arts is your goal.

Eat balanced: As stated earlier, it’s important to get in balanced meals and a balanced overall daily intake of critical nutrients. Diet fads that consist of only one or two macronutrients, exclude specific healthy foods, and have crazy timing schedules that leave you famished don’t have longevity. A healthy diet plan that includes protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats is still a timeless and effective approach.

Eat patiently: Rushing into any type of diet plan with full force and expecting overnight results is a disaster in the making. For anything to work, you must have plenty of patience. Give any new diet plan at least four (or preferably six weeks) to notice any real change. You will have some initial changes in the form of lost water weight or slight fluctuations in body weight, but the real change will be noticed when you’ve invested real time into the plan.

Go Step-by-Step

A beginner’s diet plan need not be complicated and filled with calorie counting or detailed data collection. It should start from a place of simplicity and an adherence to the basics listed above.

Stop sweating the small stuff and get going.

  1. Plan three main meals and two smaller snacks that can bookend your training time, if needed.
  2. Each meal needs a complex carb, protein, and healthy fat.
  3. Carbs need to be complex in nature, including fiber. Make carbs for each of the three main meals around two fists worth, while the snacks can be one fist worth.
  4. Protein should be from whole food variety. Snacks can include a protein supplement if needed.
  5. Include small portions of healthy fats with your main three meals.
  6. Once you have a rough plan in place, put it into action for at least four weeks before adjusting anything. If you do decide to adjust, change only one aspect each time so you will know what is working and what isn’t.

More adviced on balancing your diet:

Tracking Macros: Does Your Nutrition Fit Your Body?