The year 2017 is here, and I for one am excited! Coming off of the holiday break, I am fully refreshed and prepared to hit the ground running. And while no one can be fully prepared for what life has in store for him/her, most people can make smart decisions about where they want life to take them. Which is why it’s this time of year that I like to say that when it comes to health and fitness, you’re not special, but you are unique. No, this saying doesn’t make any sense out of context. It’s really a broader term that can be used to help you realize that there are guidelines for people like you to follow, and individualized approaches that you should use when making your health and fitness resolutions come to fruition.
Let’s focus in on weight loss/body composition. By now, almost everyone should know that if you want to lose weight, you have to master your nutrition before exercise (1). The number one rule for weight loss nutrition is calorie balance. This means you are consuming fewer calories than you are burning. This doesn’t mean “eat less, move more” because if it were that simple, the advice “buy low, sell high” would make us all rich! These two pieces of advice don’t take into account the complexity of getting to the end result, and really don’t mean squat at the end of the day. Instead, calorie balance simply means you need to take into account how much you’re eating on a day to day basis. If you don’t know how much you’re eating, you don’t know what needs to change. So you can break out a food scale, weigh your food, and calculate how many calories are in each meal with a calculator and food label information (very accurate, but very time intensive). You can guess how much you’re eating and enter it into a calorie calculator like My Fitness Pal or Calorie King (not very accurate, but a modest amount of effort needed). Or you can use the old “your hand is your serving size” method (not accurate at all, but little effort needed). Calorie balance being the most important factor for success, I would recommend the former, at least at first.
The second most important factor is food composition or macro nutrients. And while there are thousands of books that have been written about this topic, you really should keep it simple by prioritizing protein over carbs, eating fruits and vegetables, and avoiding over-processed junk food (2). These simple actions will keep you feeling full and decrease your total calorie intake without you even realizing it (3). Success is not measured from meal to meal or even one day at a time. To succeed in a weight loss program, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn on a weekly and monthly scale. These final factors are what everyone should be considering on a day to day basis, but are low on the priority food chain, so to speak.
– Calculating and eating exactly the right amount of proteins, carbs and fats
– Nutrient timing
Are You A Snow Flake?
Would you agree with the statement that what we do and where we are may be more important than what we are? If so, then you would agree that we don’t need a unique individualized nutrition plan. This is because we, with the rare exception of those with disability or disease, are not unique snowflakes. We are more like… cars, for example. We may have different years, makes, models, colors, and possibly aftermarket alterations, but we can function more or less the same way (4). Even our genetic makeup doesn’t tell us what the best nutrition program will be (5). Heck, we can’t even predict something as simple as height by using genetic analysis let alone the complex issue of nutrition and health outcomes (6). Not even our individual gut microbiome can be of any help in creating a personalized nutrition program (7). Environmental, cultural and behavioral factors greatly overshadow our individuality (8). So, what are some personal factors that should influence your nutrition then? The answer to this includes factors such as age, body/fat mass, physical activity, and even pregnancy. Due to the fact that all of these factors are subject to change (especially physical activity) throughout our lifetime, an optimal diet should not only be determined by what you’re currently doing but also to what you should be doing (9). To sum it all up, our nutrition should be tailored to the varying demands and requirements we face on a daily, weekly, seasonal, and lifespan basis (10).
- Malhotra, A., Noakes, T., & Phinney, S. (2015). It is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: You cannot outrun a bad diet. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(15), 967-968. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094911
- Klok, M. D., Jakobsdottir, S., & Drent, M. L. (2007). The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: A review. Obesity Reviews, 8(1), 21-34. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00270.x
- Holt, S. H., Miller, J. C., Petocz, P., & Farmakalidis, E. (1995). A satiety index of common foods. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 49(9), 675.
- Smith R (2012) Stratiﬁed, personalised, or precision medicine. Avail-able at: http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2012/10/15/richard-smith-strati-ﬁed-personalised-or-precision-medicine/ (accessed 14 September2016).
- Celis-Morales C, Livingstone KM, Marsaux CFM et al. (2016)Effect of personalized nutrition on health-related behaviourchange: evidence from the Food4me European randomized con-trolled trial. International Journal of Epidemiology. doi:10.1093/ije/dyw186.
- Gudbjartsson, D. F., Walters, G. B., Thorleifsson, G., Stefansson, H., Halldorsson, B. V., Zusmanovich, P., . . . Stefansson, K. (2008). Many sequence variants affecting diversity of adult human height. Nature Genetics, 40(5), 609-615. doi:10.1038/ng.122
- Zeevi, D., Korem, T., Zmora, N., Israeli, D., Rothschild, D., Weinberger, A., . . . Segal, E. (2015). Personalized nutrition by prediction of glycemic responses. Cell, 163(5), 1079-1094. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.001
- Joyner, M. J., & Prendergast, F. G. (2014). Chasing mendel: Five questions for personalized medicine. The Journal of Physiology, 592(11), 2381-2388. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2014.272336
- Blundell, J. E., & King, N. A. (1999). Physical activity and regulation of food intake: Current evidence. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 31(11 Suppl), S573.
- Betts, J. A., & Gonzalez, J. T. (2016). Personalised nutrition: What makes you so special? Nutrition Bulletin, 41(4), 353-359. doi:10.1111/nbu.12238