Within the span of about a week, I unintentionally came across two big lists of diet and nutrition related tips.
One claimed to contain the “50 best tips,” while the other apparently took things to a whole other level to contain the “101 best tips.”
Upon seeing this, there were three thoughts that immediately popped into my head:
- I wonder if I could write something like that? I mean, I’m sure I could fill a list that big if I really wanted to. But, would I truly be providing the “best” and most useful diet and nutrition tips at that point, or would I just be writing as much useless nonsense as possible to stretch things out enough to fill a list with 50-101 items on it… just like the writers of these lists obviously did?
- I wonder if I can do the opposite of this? Rather than shooting for quantity and writing the largest list possible, I want to shoot for quality to create smallest and most useful list possible.
And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
After giving it some thought, it turns out there are just 3 diet and nutrition tips that I would truly consider to be “the best” and worthy of actually giving a crap about.
Here now are those tips…
Tip #1: Consume The Proper Amount Of Calories, Macronutrients and Micronutrients Each Day
Regardless of whether you want to lose fat, build muscle, get stronger, improve performance, become healthier or anything similar and/or any combination of these things… this first “tip” is the sole dietary means of making it happen.
There is nothing else in your diet that will directly play any significant role in allowing you to reach these goals besides your daily calorie intake, protein intake, fat intake, carb intake and micronutrient intake.
In that order of importance.
Breaking that down a bit…
- A caloric deficit is the one and only requirement of making fat loss happen. Creating a deficit that is about 20% below maintenance level tends to be a good starting point for most people. (Superior Fat Loss, the book I just finished writing (yup, it’s finally done), will provide much more specific recommendations. Stay tuned!)
- Staying at your caloric maintenance level is the one and only requirement of preventing fat from being gained or regained. (Details here: How To Calculate Your Calorie Maintenance Level)
- A caloric surplus is one of the two dietary requirements for allowing muscle growth to happen. Creating a daily surplus that is about 200 calories above maintenance for men and 100 calories above maintenance for women tends to be a good starting point for most people. I cover this in detail and provide my much more specific surplus recommendations (based on age, genetics, experience level and gender) for building muscle without gaining excess body fat in Superior Muscle Growth.
A sufficient protein intake is crucial for the overall health and function of the human body, is the second dietary requirement of muscle growth (a caloric surplus is the first, Superior Muscle Growth covers this as well), is a requirement for maintaining muscle while losing fat, and will play major roles in terms of hunger control, increasing the thermic effect of food, and more. Consuming anywhere within the range of 0.8g-1.3g of protein per pound of your current body weight tends to be ideal for most people with these types of goals. (Those who are significantly overweight should use their goal body weight rather than current body weight in this calculation.)
A sufficient fat intake is also crucial for the overall health and function of the human body in a variety of ways, including the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and optimal hormone production. Getting about 20-30% of your total daily calorie intake from fat is the sweet spot for most people (details here: How Many Grams Of Fat Should You Eat Per Day?), with that fat intake coming from a good mix of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with an extra added emphasis on getting a sufficient amount of the omega-3 fatty acids.
A sufficient carb intake – while not-so-required for sustaining life compared to protein and fat – will still be crucial for your training performance and recovery, as well as your ability to generally be a happy person who doesn’t feel like shit as a result of restricting their carb intake pointlessly low (like countless misinformed people tend to do). The ideal carb intake for most people is simply whatever calories are leftover in your diet after your protein and fat intake have been factored in. (Details here: How Many Grams Of Carbs Should I Eat Per Day?)
Micronutrients (i.e. various vitamins and minerals) will play an infinite number of crucial roles within the human body, and it would take quite a while to break down each of these roles along with how much of each individual micronutrient a person needs to eat each day. Not to mention, attempting to track your consumption of each individual micronutrient on a daily basis will drive most people insane. That’s why I typically don’t get too specific with my recommendations, and instead prefer people do what I personally do myself. Which is, eat a high quality diet on a daily basis comprised of a good balance of protein, fat and carbs that come primarily via higher quality nutrient-dense foods with an extra added emphasis on fruit and vegetable consumption. Do that (and use supplementation to fill in any nutrient deficiencies that you are unable to take care of through diet alone), and all of your micronutrient bases will be covered.
Tip #2: Make Everything Else PECS
You know the tip you just read? Tip #1? The one right before this?
That’s the only diet and nutrition tip truly worth caring about, and I could honestly end this list right here without going any further.
But alas, I’m not going to do that.
Because while tip #1 is the sole key to your diet, tip #2 is the sole key to ensuring that tip #1 actually occurs.
And it’s something I’d explain like this…
This includes factors like meal timing (will you eat earlier in the day? later in the day? evenly throughout the day? have breakfast? skip breakfast? etc.), meal frequency (will you eat 2-4 meals per day? 5-7 meals per day? use some form of intermittent fasting? etc.), food choices (will you eat white rice or brown rice? magical superfoods? paleo approved foods? gluten free foods? clean foods? vegan foods?), the degree of strictness and flexibility within your diet (clean eating or IIFYM?), and so on.
The truth is, as long as tip #1 is in place, each and every one of these factors become a minor detail bordering on meaningless.
Because regardless of how you adjust them (and other dietary factors like them), you will still lose fat, build muscle, prevent fat gain, prevent muscle loss, improve performance, gain strength, become healthier, maintain health, etc. etc. etc. exactly the same way… as long as tip #1 is in place.
That’s the one tip that makes all of these things happen or not happen.
Which means, the only thing to take into consideration when it comes to every other aspect of your diet is figuring out what suits YOUR needs and preference the best (and will therefore make you most likely to consistently have tip #1 in place)… and then adjusting these factors based entirely on that.
Tip #3: Ignore Everything Else, Including Lists Of Diet And Nutrition Tips
And last but not least, we have tip #3.
And this one is pretty damn simple.
Tip #1 is what truly matters.
Tip #2 is what makes tip #1 happen.
And tip #3? Tip #3 exists on this list as a simple reminder that tip #1 IS what truly matters, tip #2 IS what makes tip #1 happen, and anything claiming otherwise should be ignored completely.
Yes, even articles that supposedly contain lists of 5, 10, 20, 50 or even 101 additional diet tips that will in some way benefit you.
Most (if not all) of what you’ll actually find will serve no purpose whatsoever beyond confusing you, making you second guess proven facts, overloading you with unnecessary (and often incorrect) information, wasting your time, wasting your money, wasting your effort, and simply distracting you from what you need to be focusing on… thereby preventing you from doing what you truly need to be doing (aka Tip #1).
Tip #3 is to avoid that.