The 3 Best Diet and Nutrition Tips EVER!

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:

  1. lolz
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

That’s it.

Breaking that down a bit…

  • Calories
    • 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 contains much more specific recommendations.)
    • 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.
  • Protein
    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.)
  • Fat
    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.
  • Carbs
    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
    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.

Why?

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…

Design every single major and minor aspect of your overall diet and approach to eating in whatever way is most Preferable, Enjoyable, Convenient and Sustainable (#PECS) for you so that tip #1 (consuming the proper amount of calories, macronutrients and micronutrients) consistently occurs.

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.

It won’t.

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.

72 thoughts on “The 3 Best Diet and Nutrition Tips EVER!”

72 Comments

  1. an excellent article as usual
    just wanted to tell you, I have been following your advice *cough* calories *cough* an #PECS for one month now .. lost 10 lbs aready 😀
    Thanks!

  2. Hi..
    I am 56 year old man, 5ft 7 in height and weigh about 73 kgs and reasonably fit as I have been into exercise in some form or the other quite regularly.
    I have these queries:
    (1) Is it pos for me to grow muscle at this age?
    (2) How much time I should spend in the gym as I do not find any changes even if I do relatively heavy workout and only find myself exhausted.
    (3) If it’s not going to make a difference, if I work out heavy or stick to a maintenance work out, is it worth the time and effort? (Something on the lines that if a new building does not require to go more than 25 ft for the foundation, the developer need not go more below than that)
    (4) Should I consume protein shake? And which would be ideal for my age?

    Sayed

    • 1. It’s certainly possible, though your potential for growth will be less than it was at 46, and 36, and 26, etc.
      2. This one.
      3. If your goal is maintenance, training for growth would be the wrong idea. But if your goal is growth, training for maintenance would be the wrong idea.
      4. This one.

    • Hi Sayed,
      I am 54 and participate in a regular weightlifting program designed around the advice given by Jay both in his books and on the website.
      To give you an example, I regularly dead lift 160Kgs, Squat 180Kgs and Bench 130Kgs. Although the older I get the longer it takes to recover, you’ve just got to keep plugging away being consistently true to the program.
      It wont happen overnight but it will happen.

    • Hey Sayed, I’m a 55 year old man and I’ve put on 5kgs of muscle this year while losing 7kgs of fat. I regularly check my body fat percentage by measuring skin folds with digital calipers, so I’m very confident of this surprising result. Age is not the barrier. Sticking with a good diet and regular workouts is all.
      Tim

    • Just to add on to what others have said…
      I’m 56, 6′ @ 190, and restarted my resistance program (4-day upper/lower split) in January, and am progressing nicely.

      I restarted relatively light on the weight, as I was concerned about not having a joint or tendon injury. Then I just allowed the minimum add-ons to bring me up to where I’m really into progressive overload.

      I think that worked well, as the joints & tendons I was worried about — my right shoulder, in particular — have had time to strengthen and are now taking greater load without being troublesome, than when I started.

      I use both whey shakes and chicken breasts interchangeably for protein.

      Jay has a wealth of information on diet and excercise, and I highly recommend reading through all of it. That’s how I put together my program.

      I say go for it!

  3. Wow. This is pretty good. I was actually expecting you to say #1 there is no magic and fuck all those list. You should make more list.

  4. Great information…. Straight way Encounter as usual….. Waiting for Superior Fat loss…..

  5. A lot of people overlook your advice to make their diet convenient and sustainable. I know a number of guys (usually guys) who have very regimented routines and diets.

    The problem is that most of us have regular type lives. That is we have a boss that expects us to go out to an occasional lunch. Or a spouse who expects a dinner out. Or kids who have birthday parties. We have social obligations where bringing a shaker of protein powder isn’t going to cut it. By following your #1 tip, counting and tracking calories you can more easily adapt to any situation because you’ll know what you can and can’t eat. You can flex. If I know I’ve got 750 calories for lunch, I can find something on a menu that fits.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a number of years now. I dropped from 260 to 205-210 and still going!

    • It sounds to me you’re getting a bit hung up on “daily calorie counting.”

      There is nothing physiologically special about a 24-hour period. You don’t need to limit your dinner out with the wife or boss to whatever amount of “calories you have left for the day.”

      It is completely fine to look at a bigger picture (actually it makes more overall sense to see if you’re within a proper range by the week, 10 day, month, etc. Set up a spreadsheet or use an app and check your averages, not your day by day numbers–they’re nothing special. You could gorge yourself one day and fast the next, you could cut back an extra X number of calories and then go to a Vegas buffet and split your pants… whatever.

      • …it is the daily average which is key, absolutely.

        To impress on people that the human body isn’t actually operating on a 24-hour closed cycle, I sometimes advise people seeking weight-loss advice from me to think in terms of a three-day calorie average (which is of course arbitrary as well). And, for those of us, perhaps, who’ve been calorie-mindful for so many years that it’s as familiar and automatic as tying our shoes, managing calorie intake in “the bigger picture” is manageable and effective.

        However…
        For many, especially those new to effective bodyfat-loss, daily calorie-counting and establishing a daily calorie goal forms an important tool for staying focused and consistent with their dieting. Because of the variables in their work, family, and social time, it’s often more manageable for them to remember shorter-term calorie goals of a day or two, rather than longer-terms during which it’s easier to forget to log or track, or, worse, to “procrastinate” calorie subtraction for too many days so end up never quite balancing those days they’ve surfeited with days of deficit.

  6. I’ve just been diagnosed with Polymyalgia & possible temporal arteritis. The Doctor has told me I will have to take a steroid called Prednisone to bring down the inflammation. It attacks the immune system, weakening it.

    I am presently healthy & probably under weight having lost quite a lot to the condition I now know I have. I work out by swimming regularly & Pilates & weights even though I’m sore & stiff all the time.
    Have you got any suggestions regarding this?

  7. Hi Jay,
    Just a note of thanks for sharing your knowledge, and with humor! I began following your guidelines almost three years ago, and took off 25 pesky pounds. By revisiting your basic recommendations, I’ve kept them off as well. My heartfelt thanks for educating me – and reminding me- to keep it simple!

  8. I love your common sense approach and like everything I do in life, I try to keep it simple so that I can sustain it. Fantastic article!

  9. The 1,001 tips thing reminds me of a casual conversation I had with a with a peer a few years ago (we’re both about age 60 now) whom I recognized by physique as another muscle-head…turned out, he was owner of a couple gyms and a personal trainer, catering mostly to non-hardcore folk.

    During the normal twist-n’-turns of casual conversation, I mentioned how all the principles of productive training and nutrition are few and simple enough that they can be learned and understood by almost anyone in less than an hour. To which he chuckled and replied, “Of course, you and I know that — but if we tell the public that truth, then those of us making a living in the fitness industry will be out of business!”

  10. Man, you are awesome. This KISS approach to everything… don’t think anyone I’ve ever read has approached this subject this way… always so much fluff and overcomplication…

    I was doing ok just Weight Watchers and light exercise… losing 1-2lbs a week…

    I read your plethora of awesome articles and it changed things for me…

    Past two weeks, lost about 8lbs…. So stoked.

    Thank you!

  11. this article is great …. it’s amazing how so many people don’t know this … I was watching a popular tv show in my country and even celebrities don’t know much this things …. one guy who is also a well known celebrity was just asked how does he stay in shape or what does he do to stay healthy ? You know what he said ?

    His answer : ” what do i do ? well first of all my weight goes up and down all the time … I don’t really stay constant …. second of all I just learned from nutrition so far that if a food tastes bad …. it make you lose fat and if it taste good it makes you gain fat ” :)))) … I was screaming at my screen : ” dude you are sooooo wroooong … I feel sorry for you “

    • Yeah, if I had to make a list of “people to not take diet/training/health advice from,” I’m pretty sure celebrities would be near the top of that list.

  12. I also am 53 yrs.old I Bench 250lbs.1rep max.squat 230lbs. And deadlift 265lbs. Not to shabby I’d say.

  13. Great list! I have no idea why people think they need a secret decoder ring to figure out how to lose weight. It’s a simple thermodynamic equation. I lost 115 lbs in a year by doing exactly what is on your list. The physics behind weight loss is not a mystery, and it’s amazing that people will try EVERYTHING ELSE except arrange their lives so they are operating at a constant calorie deficit. They make it so much harder than it is. Occam’s Razor, people!

    I’m now working on toning things up with your weight training routine (things DID NOT go back where they came from after childbirth and miserable marriage weight gain). Two weeks in, and so far so good. Thanks for all the work you put into this!

    • I’m just a commenter here, but have to intrude to say, Congratulations on your amazing weight loss!

      Heheheh…well, as a 61-year-old who’s been bodybuilding and calorie-controlling to keep a washboard waist for forty-five years, I’ve observed that for most people, operating on a consistent long-term calorie deficit IS the hardest thing, in their minds. Most hope there is some “mystery” other-thing with which they can rapidly shed weight so not have to control their eating for the months it will require to lose bodyfat and lose it properly (as your great success has shown you it requires).

      People wish to literally have their cake and eat away their bodyfat too, so they keep trying the next grocery-checkout magazine “super diet plan to lose 60 pounds in three weeks!” or “newest dieting discovery!” Heck, I wish I could eat whole strawberry pies and drink half a gallon of mocha latte all day every day, yet keep my bodyfat below 12% too, but — alas, human biology ain’t cooperated with me neither in those forty-five years! I’ve never met anyone else for whom biology will cooperate that way either.

      As you work at your weight training, keep the same motto in mind which you applied to lose bodyweight: “Perseverance, patience, consistency.” *CONTINUED SUCCESS To ya!*

    • Yup, people will thoroughly exhaust every possible option – regardless of how illogical, stupid, crazy and/or impossible it might be – before even considering the possibility of doing the one fact-based thing that requires some effort. People are funny that way.

      Oh, and congrats on the 115lbs lost. Impressive! If you ever wanna show off your progress on the website or facebook page some time, shoot me an email.

  14. Love all the no nonsense articles, well written and articulate always getting straight to the point. I bought and read your “greatest workout routines” back in 2012, and then superior muscle growth around this time last year I’ve been following those principles ever since… LOVE the calorie and macro nutrient cycling. Can’t wait for superior fat loss as well for this years cut cycle. I pretty much don’t go anywhere else except for “a workout routine” when I need info, and I recommended it to all my fellow soldiers and friends (if I actually care that they make progess, sometimes I just nod my head and listen to the bro science.) You da man.

  15. Hey man, big fan of AWR! (I like the no BS approach)

    What’s your take on IF, especially Leangains’ minimalist training approach based around RPT?

    For me it seems OK since it’s based on compound movements but the whole Macro cycling and always pushing to the max goes against what you’re saying (I’ve read your book)

    Thanks!

    • Depends what aspect of Leangains you’re talking about?

      What I remember of Martin’s training recommendations, they are solid and certainly capable of producing strength/muscle gains… but the minimalist nature (and low frequency? I don’t really remember the specifics off the top of my head) are sub-optimal for growth in my opinion.

      I’m a fan of calorie cycling myself (my book has a whole chapter on it), though I don’t think it’s necessary… especially if you hate it and it negatively affects diet adherence.

      As for the fasting aspect of it, with all else being equal… there’s nothing remotely special about it.

  16. As soon as I read the first sentences of the e-mail and clicked on the link to this article I was expecting some major yet eloquent roasting.

    Was not disappointed.

    Chapeau!

  17. Jay, I have absolutely no problem figuring out my calorie deficit and macronutrient ratio. But I have a hard time equating exercise, being honest, sometimes I do it sometimes I don’t (more often not). My training from you leads me towards equating my calorie deficit, macronutrient ratio in expectation that I will not exercise at all. But if I happen to feel motivated to exercise all of a sudden, fine? I do know (from you) that if I exercise I need to eat protein and carbs 1 hour before to fuel my workout and 1 hour after my exercise to feed my muscles and body. But if my calorie intake does not equate regular exercise, isn’t that still ok as long as I’m fueling my workout and feeding my body afterwards with my daily ratio of macros?

    • Basically, if you’re losing weight at an ideal rate… you’re doing everything right.

      If not, adjust calorie intake downward or calorie output upward (or a little of both).

      In the end, this is really all that matters.

  18. Stumbled across your website yesterday or the day before and I can’t get enough! You’re an excellent writer, and a very entertaining one at that! Thanks for providing such a wealth of BS-free information 😀

  19. Hi Jay! I have spent my entire day binging on every article I can read 🙂 I am truly looking forward to my workout tomorrow using one from your guides. I noticed that there is not much information for people who are trying to grow their glutes. Are adding sets of exercises like hip thrusts and cable kickbacks etc alright? what do you recommend with that being a goal in mind?

  20. I was a skinny guy when I was a senior in high school but I was strong for my size at the time and I was doing 225 lb squats one day and one of the coaches proceeded to really ream me out in front of a class of some 35 students basically calling me anorexic and scrawny and at the same time telling me I was blessed because I had such a slender build. And the wrong genetics to be lifting heavy. He also informed me that I needed to eat 5,000 calories a day and eat more fat. This was in 1999. His advice was shit. At least for me it was. All I did was get fat. I had to bust my ass to get rid of it.

    I wish I had found your site or one like it before I followed that advice.

  21. Hi Jay,

    First off, thank you so much for all the free advice given. Without going into too much detail, through following your advices since September 2015, I have lost 31 kg’s (I live in South Africa so the possibility of being able to high-five you in future are slim).

    I am now a much fitter and leaner 30 year old male and am about to start eating at a calorie surplus and lifting heavy to gain muscle.

    My question to you is, is there anything I can do about excess skin? I would really appreciate your no ‘BS’ advice on this – if I’m stuck with it then so be it – I just don’t want to waste my time and, most importantly, money on trying to get rid of it.

    Thank you again!

    Ryan.

    • Glad to hear it dude! Awesome progress!

      As for loose skin, if it’s a fairly significant amount of it, there is unfortunately nothing you can do about it other than surgery.

  22. Hey Jay …. I am a streetdancer and I am now doing dance classes 5 times per week … in adition to some calistenics on weekends … the thing is that my lower back muscles started to hurt … but only when I don’t do physical activity(while dancing or doing pushups/pull ups etc .. back doesn’t hurt) … previouly before I started doing dancing … my back didn’t hurt at all … so is there any solution for this ? I can’t just dance or do calistenics non stop just to avoid the back pain …. I have to rest at some point ….

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