Regardless of what anyone says, I firmly stand by the belief that you have no greater weapon in your fitness arsenal than your nutritional discipline. By that, I mean your diet.
Believe it or not, diet is often overlooked by athletes and casual exercisers. Everyone is always saying how they want to get in shape and get cut, perform better in their sports, so on and so forth.
But what I don’t get is, if you wanna be the best at your given activity, how is that you can overlook your diet and still wonder why the results are not coming? Well, you can’t, and you shouldn’t!
Diet is King, and Queen
While it is indeed true that you can perform well and look good on a sub-optimal diet, you will never fully optimize your athletic abilities, or your cosmetic appearance, by just dilly-dallying around with your food intake. Diet is king. It is not optional – it is essential. If your diet is just OK, then you are certainly not optimizing your full genetic potential. It will be hard to reach peak performance with a sub-optimal approach to nutrition. You give it your all at the gym; why not give it your all in the kitchen, too?
Everyone, athlete or casual, seems to be looking for a quick fix to their problems such as a magical supplement or program that will cut through the monotony of clean training and clean dieting. Well, let me fill you in on something folks – the magic bullet does NOT exist! There are no shortcuts or magical entities that will ever replace hard work and dedication, ever!
What happened to striving for your goals? What happened to sacrificing parts of your life to achieve that dream body or that peak sports performance? Whenever there is a way to take a shortcut or cheat a little bit, we will usually take it. We convince ourselves that our dumb choices are justified. Why do we do the silly things we do? Human evolution seems to be the best suited answer I can come up with. But nevertheless, it’s still a sack of bullshit! If you want to achieve your goals, you need to strive and work hard to achieve them, no matter the circumstances.
Diet is the Foundation of Peak Performance and Looking Your Best
It’s not just about how you lift or how you play or how you fight or how you score a goal, a touchdown, a homerun, or whatever. It is mainly about how you eat.
Let’s face it, the better your diet, the better your sports performance. No one should tell you different. Anyone that says “as long as you’re working out and playing your sport, don’t worry about diet so much” deserves a swift quick to the nuts (or ovaries). Another group of people who deserve a swift quick to the aforementioned genitals, are those schmucks that actually believe this fallacy to be true. What kind of a fool does it take to actually believe it is OK to put nutritional discipline on the back-burner, no matter how elite of an athlete you are?
Dietary and performance goals can be achieved through a sub-optimal approach, but why not go for the gold in both aspects? Why bust your ass day in and day out, and then “refuel” and “repair” yourself with garbage?
So What Should I Eat, and When?
That is unfortunately an impossible question to answer. There are so many different dietary approaches and disciplines. Anyone that will give you a straight cookie cutter answer to this question is either trying to sell you something, or trying to impress you with their “extensive knowledge.” There is no right answer.
Dietary discipline is a lot about experimentation. Everybody is different, and everyone should handle their dietary approach differently. Dogma and cookie cutter methods can work for someone who is sedentary or so out of shape that any drastic change to their diet will yield a drastic change in body composition.
But if you’re here, chances are you’re more advanced than your average couch potato. Therefore, I will not pretend to have the magical answer for you specifically, but I will give you the answer on what foods to eat to optimize health, athletic performance, and just to look and feel good, all the time.
An Optimal Diet is Actually Pretty Simple
It is simple really. Just pick natural food choices. Pick quality, nutrient-heavy foods that serve a purpose, both physiologically and metabolically.
High quality animal proteins are essential for any athlete because they provide good clean calories, essential amino acids and satiety. Grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, chicken, turkey, and eggs, should all be staples of a nutritious diet. Stay away from fast food and all that crap. Even though they contain beef, chicken, eggs, and fish, they are so processed and deep fried that you might as well throw your diet out the window.
Make sure to include your vegetables. Any and all vegetables if you can. Veggies are low in calories and high in fiber, not to mention high in antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients, and minerals. Veggies should be eaten daily and frequently.
Whole grains should also be consumed, in my opinion, despite some new information saying grains should be removed from your diet. This is one of those cases where it depends on the person (a good portion of the population has gluten allergies but most people do not even know it). Oatmeal, barley, quinoa, brown rice, and even wheat pasta (sometimes) should all be part of a strict, nutritious diet.
And of course, fruits! We cannot forget about fruits! There are actually some people out there that think fruits should not be consumed when on a diet, or kept to the bare minimum. Here is a game I’d like to play. I DARE you to try and get fat on fruits. I double dare you! Sounds funny even saying it, right? That’s because it is. Eat your fruits just like your mom told you when you were a kid.
Track Your Diet When Appropriate
Macros and numbers still need to be kept in check, as that supersedes any and all dietary planning. Hitting your numbers is still the most important facet to maintaining that lean physique, or performing optimally in your given sport or activity. It’s not that difficult and it should not be over-complicated. Use a program like FitDay.com or MyFitnessPal.com to track your macro-nutrients ( protein, carbohydrates, and fats).
Do this for a week or two just to gauge how good or bad your diet actually is. Our eyes usually decieve our brains. Sometimes we eat a lot more than we think we are eating then wonder why we don’t lose weight. Others have the opposite problem of not being able to gain any weight.
You do not need to obsess over every calorie, 365 days a year. Establish a baseline over a week or two. The rest will come naturally.
The Bottom Line for a Clean, Optimal Diet
Generally speaking, if man made it, don’t eat it! If it was around thousands of years ago, or grows from the Earth, or had a face, then eat it!
Picking out which foods to eat and how much of is not the hardest thing in the world. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the easiest. Just know what foods you can eat and what foods you should avoid (man-made sugars and carbohydrates).
Construct a dietary structure to fit your lifestyle. Eat clean, work hard, and you will feel great and attain all your goals optimally, rather than sub-optimally. Going with the optimal route just makes everything else so much easier. Don’t half ass anything; always give your 110% in your workouts, AND in your diet.
Hope this lights some kind of fire under your ass to stop trying the new magical dogmatic or fad diets, or whatever new “diet trick” comes up. There are no tricks and there are no shortcuts. Just use the logic in your brain to pick out the best food choices and start consuming them on a daily basis. I promise you this – it is NOT that difficult once you get into a groove…