Wouldn’t it be great if getting and staying lean were virtually effortless? If you could build the muscle you want and set continual personal records in the gym?
Wouldn’t you love to know that your diet was promoting optimal health for a long, disease-free life? Wouldn’t it be a blessing to always be full of energy, with blazing-fast cognition?
How to fulfill all these desires?
You need an individual dietary lifestyle that speaks to your energy needs and is based on science. Here are ten superior dietary strategies you can use to create the best diet for your needs. Use them to avoid blind spots in your diet so that you know without a doubt that you are feeding your body instead of harming it.
1) Take Control of What You Put In Your Mouth
It’s critical that you take control of what you put in your mouth if you want optimal body composition, health, and performance. Doesn’t it seem like everyone has something to say about what you should eat?
Now is the time to make informed choices about what and how you eat. Be empowered by your decisions, and remember that no one ever ate anything by accident.
2) Get Fat Adapted
Being able to call on your fat stores for fuel is extremely beneficial if you want to get lean and be healthy. This leads to a state of “metabolic flexibility” in which your body is able to burn fat readily. It has a neuroprotective effect on the brain and decreases oxidative stress that comes from a higher carb diet.
To do it, you need to restrict carbohydrates in favor of protein and fat so that your body burns fat rather than glucose. One of many problems with living off carbs is that you have to continually eat them every few hours in order to maintain blood glucose levels. It’s not a very efficient way to fuel the body and it inhibits fat loss.
Use It: Get fat adapted by doing anaerobic or HIT-style exercise and modifying your intake of protein, carbs, and fat. Read more here.
3) Eat Fats That Are Good for You
Certain fats are extremely good for you. Coconut oil, red palm oil, seeds, fish oil, olives, avocados, butter, and nuts are all packed with nutrients. Eating them in a balanced fashion as part of a diet that limits carbohydrates can help you achieve a lean physique without hunger.
Fat is necessary for optimal hormone function. It is also delicious and very filling. When included in a low-carb, high-protein whole foods diet, it is difficult to overeat to the point where you gain fat.
We see this in practice: Association studies repeatedly show an inverse relationship between the consumption of “good” fats, such as nut and avocado, and body fat percentage. In addition, randomized controlled studies that have tested the effect of giving people a nut supplement daily have shown a tendency to decrease body weight despite an increase in total calorie intake.
Use It: In practice, eating whole “good fats” means to opt for minimally processed oils (olive and coconut), various nuts, avocados, olives, and organic animal fats from pastured meat, eggs, and dairy. Avoid processed fats such as canola, soy, or refined olive oil. Never ever eat trans-fats and avoid all packaged foods that contain sneaky trans-fats and other unpleasant things.
4) Restrict Carbohydrates When Eating Good Fats
Some people seem to thrive on carbs. There are many benefits to including carbs in the diet at certain times, such as to replenish glycogen, put on body mass for sports, or enhance endurance performance.
However, research shows significant benefits to limiting carb intake because it is carbohydrates, not fats, that elevate cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Carbohydrates activate pro-inflammatory processes through their effect on the fatty acid composition of blood lipids and cell membranes. This leads to the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Use It: One reason mainstream nutrition is scared of recommending a high-fat intake is due to the fear that people will simply eat more fat (particularly processed and trans fats) in addition to their high-carb diets. This is bad news. But, eating good fats from whole food sources, while restricting carbs to select vegetables and fruits has a completely different and favorable effect.
5) Restrict Carbs to Reduce Free Radicals & Extend Your Life...Leanness Too
The process required to breakdown most carbohydrates produces a large quantity of free radicals that wreak havoc on your genes, DNA, cellular and mitochondrial health.
You may recall from elementary biology that mitochondria turn energy from food into ATP to provide energy for cells to fuel activity. The byproduct of this process is free radicals, which bounce around and damaging everything in sight, accelerating aging.
The best way to avoid this is to not eat—enter calorie restriction and fasting—followed by reducing your carb intake in favor of fat. This leads your body to burn fatty acids rather than the glucose form carbs. Fat is a “cleaner” burning energy source, generating fewer free radicals than carbs.
Use It: Restrict carbs (other than fruits and vegetables) to become a fat burner. The effect is fewer free radicals, less DNA and cell damage, a neuroprotective effect on the brain, better body composition and greater metabolic flexibility. You’ll have healthier mitochondria, less inflammation, and a longer life. Not bad.
6) Reduce Damage With Fruits and Veggies
Another way to decrease your body’s free radical load and reduce damage to mitochondria and cells is to eat foods high in phytonutrients (also known as antioxidants). Research shows that even when you eat a seemingly nutritious meal with high-quality protein and fat, the body still produces some oxidative stress, even if your carbs are limited.
Adding phytonutrient-rich foods to your meal can raise your blood antioxidant status and prevent a rise in oxidative stress. If your trying to put on muscle or recover from a muscle-damaging workout, this is essential since the free radicals produced following a meal will muscle repair and degrade tissue.
In addition, fruits and vegetables support mitochondrial health, which is suppressed on a high protein diet. They also provide the nutrients that keep your gut bacteria healthy. As you’ll see in #8, this is critical because one of the blind spots to a high-protein meat-based diet can be gut health.
Use It: Protective phytonutrient-rich foods include blueberries, grapes, walnuts, almonds, kiwi, tart cherries, raspberries, blackberries, leafy greens, peppers, avocado, olives, pomegranates, and whey protein. Note that if your goal is to be a full-blown fat burner (in a state where you are in ketosis), you probably need to eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day and may need to limit fruit intake.
7) Go High In Protein
There are at least four benefits to eating a higher protein diet:
Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates. When people eat a greater percentage of their diet from protein, they feel more satisfied and eat fewer calories overall. A review of the issue found that for every 1 percent increase in protein intake, people naturally decrease calorie intake by between 32 and 51 calories daily.
Second, protein manages blood sugar and insulin, helping to prevent cravings for sugar. In contrast, there is considerable evidence that high-carb, low-fat diets promote insulin resistance and have been shown to worsen type II diabetes.
Third, the resting energy expenditure—the amount of calories the body burns at rest—is greater after you eat protein than carbs. Plus, one study showed that when subjects ate animal protein (meat) they had an increase in energy expenditure of 17 percent more than the people who ate vegetable protein (beans and plant sources).
Fourth, a higher protein intake helps preserve lean muscle mass when you are trying to lose fat, which is critical for maintaining your metabolism. If you lose muscle, your body burns fewer calories daily, which is a primary contributor rebound weight gain in the typical calorie restricted diet.
Use It: To achieve mild ketosis for greater fat burning, a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet is necessary (15 to 25 percent protein, 60 to 70 percent fat, and the rest from carbs has been suggested by researchers). If ketosis is not your goal, higher protein intake may be warranted for individual needs and body composition.
8) Eat Organic Meat & Eggs
Many people believe that red meat can cause harm. There are numerous observational studies documenting a link between processed meat intake, cancer, and increased mortality risk.
Large-scale studies and reviews of published data tend to agree that processed meat is very bad news, but unprocessed meat does not appear to increase disease risk. Rather than rehashing the intricacies of this research, lets focus on defining points that can help you make animal foods super healthy:
First, studies tend to show a healthy user bias, such that those who eat processed meat also eat fewer fruits and veggies, eat other processed foods, smoke, drink, don’t exercise, and are overweight. The underlying bit of truth here is that from a lifestyle perspective, it’s never one thing that kills you or causes cancer. It’s the confluence of genetics and care or damage you inflict on your body over a lifetime.
Second, avoid cooking your meat at high temperatures because this can cause harmful compounds that may increase cancer and disease risk. Avoid charring, grilling, frying, or burning meat in favor of milder cooking methods such as stewing or roasting.
Third, take care of your gut health. Remember the study that showed that the carnitine in red meat may increase heart disease risk? That was all about gut health. Simply, the meat eaters in the study were found to have a poor population of gut flora that produced a damaging substance called TMAO in response to digesting red meat and specifically carnitine.
Gut bacteria are pivotal in establishing an individual’s body composition, cholesterol profile, and long-term heart health. Support it by eating foods with fermented probiotics and lots of plant foods. Studies of groups that eat traditional diets have excellent gut health due to the high intake of root tubers, leafy vegetables, fruit, and nuts.
Use It: Be a healthy user when it comes to eating meat—go organic and pasture raised, and use gentle cooking methods. Protect your gut with probiotics and plant foods, and eliminate ALL processed foods.
9) Prevent Blind Spots
The optimal diet should be robust to weaknesses. As you compile your optimal dietary lifestyle, you’ll need to tackle the various vulnerabilities mentioned and any other that may arise. A few that are relevant to the goal of minimizing oxidative stress, aiding recovery from intense activity, and supporting mitochondrial health include the following:
Magnesium—very low in the diet today and needed for mitochondrial function as well as stress reduction.
Zinc—not dangerously low in meat and shellfish eaters, but low zinc is a disaster for preventing inflammation and supporting mitochondria.
B12 and Folate—due to difficulties metabolizing folate, and simply not enough B6 and 12 to counter stress, extra of all three may be warranted. A study of pro soccer players showed that higher B vitamins correlated with better antioxidant status.
Vitamin D—lack of daily sunlight makes supplementation essential.
BCAAs and Leucine—may reduce pain and soreness from hard training due to how they enhance protein synthesis, particularly if your dietary protein intake is low.
Carbs—yes, carbs. Some people think that restricting carbs means no carb (it doesn’t), and athletes, especially female athletes with an endurance component , tend to suffer on low-carb diets. The female athlete triad has been linked (not definitively) to lack of carbs, while no-carb diets have been associated with increased stomach cancer rates and health problems.
Use It: Get blood tests to check for weaknesses. Be smart about solving them—look for food-based solutions first followed by high-quality supplementation. Be open minded when looking for answers.
10) Strength Train & Do Sprints
Training and sprint or high-intensity exercise are critical components of the optimal lifestyle. One of the biggest problems with much of the dietary research is that it doesn’t include an exercise component, making results less relevant to real life as it should be lived.
Strength training and sprinting have the following amazing effects:
- Enhanced resistance to oxidative stress and lower inflammation
- Improved use of fat for energy and better mitochondrial health
- Enhanced genetic pathways that rebuild damaged tissue
- Better nervous system function so that you react faster and are able to apply greater force into the ground
- Better cognition, mood, and resilience
- Decreased blood pressure, improved heart function, and better sleep
- Less disease risk, particularly cancer and diabetes
- Better bone health and reproductive function
Use It: Don’t let lack of exercise be your blind spot. Exponentially greater benefits will come if you combine training and the optimal diet. Find a way to make it fun so that you enjoy movement—it’s what you were put on this earth to do!