3 Strategies To Help You Fix a Broken Diet

You can find all kinds of nutrition advice that’ll promise you quick weight loss, building lean muscle mass, or an optimal diet. The truth is every diet you try will stop working eventually. It doesn’t matter how well it works initially, you’ll eventually hit a plateau. 

I’ll share with you the 3 strategies I use to help clients get their diet back on track and eating better. I won’t give you rules to follow or diet philosophy. Instead, I’ll share with you a few strategies to help you do whatever diet you choose better. This way whether you’re doing intermediate fasting, plant-based/vegan, paleo diet or just wanting to eat healthier, you can learn to do it better.

Identify and remove nutrition deficiencies

Dietary deficiencies (not getting the right amounts of nutrients) are the most common reasons why people struggle to function optimally. That’s a problem because when you’re body is deficient in key nutrients, it’ll negatively affect your energy levels, appetite, strength, endurance, and mood. You could be doing everything right nutritionally: eating within a specific time frame, not eat meat, lower your carbs, or counting your macros, and still look and feel bad.

How do nutrient deficiencies prevent weight loss?

A nutrition report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 10% of the U.S. population has nutrition deficiencies.

Overeating and under eating can both cause nutrient deficiencies. You can be undernourished even if you’re eating too many calories. If you’re following a restrictive diet, like vegan/plant-based, or keto diet you run the risk of nutrition deficiencies. Here’s a list of the most common nutrient deficiencies according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Iron
  • Vitamin D
  • Iodine
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium Omega 3’s fatty acids
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Copper

The most common deficiencies I see with new clients:

  • Water (low- dehydration);
  • Vitamins and minerals (especially from fruits and vegetables)
  • Protein (women and men with low appetites or following a vegan/plant-based diet in particular)
  • Fiber (95% of the population is deficient here); and
  • Essential fatty acids (particularly omega 3’s)

You can get your diet analyzed by a dietitian to find out whether you are deficient in key nutrients. Another option is to track your diet for a least 1 week and enter it into an online calculator like “Myfitnesspal”. I make it easier for my clients by doing a quick survey of their diets as soon as they start with me. After that I help them:

  • Eat more protein sources they like to eat.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables which will provide them with the vitamins and minerals they need the most.
  • Eat more carbs with high fiber.
  • Eat more healthy fats; and
  • Drink more water to stay hydrated.

As a result, my clients start feeling better. Lose fat and gain lean muscle mass. Feel more motivated.  And their performance increase during their workouts.

Benefits of removing nutrient deficiencies 

According to a study; Sixty-three adults with the diagnosis of postviral fatigue syndrome were enrolled in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of essential fatty acid therapy.  At 3 months, 74% of patients on active treatment and 23% of those on placebo assessed themselves as improved over the baseline, with the improvement being much greater in the former.  The researchers conclude that essential fatty acids provide a rational, safe, and effective treatment for patients with post-viral fatigue syndrome.

Step 2: Eat according to your body type

Once we’re providing our body’s with essential nutrients to properly function we can then focus on other issues like:

  • Calorie intake; and
  • Macronutrient breakdowns

In my coaching program, I help clients get away from calorie counting. Although calorie intake is important, I’m not a fan of calorie counting, because I’ve found it to not be a reliable long term strategy. Instead, I teach clients how to use their own hands as a measurement tool. For example, a client might begin by eating:

  • 1-2 palms of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 1-2 fists of vegetables at each meal;
  • 1-2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at most meals; and
  • 1-2 thumbs of fat dense foods at most meals.

I first help clients see what this looks like on a plate. Then I help the client adjust their food portions, especially carbs and fats, according to their individual body types and goals. For example:

  • Men whose goal is to build muscle mass would increase their fat to 3 thumbs of fat and/ or 3 cupped hands full of carbs each meal.
  • But men whose goal is to lose fat might keep their fat reduce their fat to 1 thumb and I cupped handful of carbs at each meal.

Just like any other form of nutrition planning this meal template is just a starting point. You won’t know how you’re body will respond in advance. So stay patient in the beginning. Start with a basic template and adjust your portions as you progress towards your goals.

Macro-nutrient Composition 

90% of people will start feeling and looking better after simply eliminating nutrient deficiencies and getting the proper portions right. For those with advanced goals or still struggling to get results after implementing the first two strategies, we’re going to discuss macro-nutrient composition. There are three different body types that people seem to have, and it is your body type that dictates how well you respond to certain types of training and food intake.

What are the three different body types?

The three different body types are ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph. Each has its own typical characteristics that can help you determine which body type you have. Then you will be able to adjust your eating habits accordingly to reach your goals.

Ectomorph Body Type

Typical Characteristics:

  • Long and lean
  • Delicate frame
  • “Hardgainer” – Finds it difficult to build muscle and fat
  • Body similar to a marathon runner
  • Fast metabolism

Nutrition:

That being said, it is best to stick to complex carbs that can leave you feeling fuller for longer. It will also help to push protein to your muscles to help them to grow. This includes brown rice and brown bread.

Here’s an example of how that looks using our portion control guide.

Men begin by eating:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables at each meal;
  • 3 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods at each meal.

Women begin by eating:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables at each meal;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at each meal;
  • 0.5 thumb of fat dense foods at each meal.

Endomorph Body Type

Typical Characteristics:

  • Stocky build
  • Wider body
  • Stores fuel (both muscle and fat) in the lower half of their bodies
  • Has more muscle as well but usually, this comes with more fat
  • Has the best strength advantage out of the three different body types but may find it difficult to stay lean
  • Slow metabolism

Nutrition:

Endomorphs do need to have a stricter eating plan than the others. Unlike ectomorphs, those with the endomorph body type should eat fewer carbs and increase their higher protein intake. They should avoid simple carbs like white bread and eat more complex ones.

Men begin by eating:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables at each meal;
  • 1 cupped handful of carb dense foods at each meal;
  • 3 thumbs of fat dense foods at each meal.

Women begin by eating:

  • palm of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables at each meal;
  • 0.5 cupped handful of carb dense foods at each meal;
  • 2 thumbs of fat dense foods at each meal.

Mesomorph Body Type

Typical Characteristics:

  • Middle of the body types
  • Can be lean and muscular simultaneously
  • Natural athletics build with well-defined muscles

Nutrition:

If you have a mesomorph body type, your eating plan should include equal amounts of protein and fat, with a moderate amount of carbs making up the rest. Like I mentioned with the ectomorph and endomorph body type, you should still focus on complex carbs to help give your body energy and keep full in a sustainable and healthy way.

Here’s an example of how that might look like using our portion control guide.

Men begin by eating:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables at each meal;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at each meal;
  • 2 thumb of fat dense foods at each meal.

Women begin by eating:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables at each meal;
  • 1 cupped handful of carb dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods at each meal.

Tweaking the details

After covering the following steps:

  • Removing nutrient deficiencies.
  • Using a portion guide to adjust food portions.
  • Adjusting your food portion for your body type and activity level.

What’s next?

Now you can focus on meal frequency, carb cycling, and workout nutrition.

How often to eat?

For the longest dietitians, nutritionists, and other fitness experts (me and included) believed that eating small meals throughout the day was the best way to lose body fat. We assumed because of early research that increases metabolism helps control the insulin and cortisol, and helps manage hunger. But according to the Journal of the International Sports Nutrition says otherwise. This means as long as you’re eating according to your goals, how often you eat depends on what’s convenient for your schedule. You can every two hours. Or you can eat every 4 to 5 hours. I always recommend my clients to eat every 4 to 5 hours because it’s practical for the average person.

Carb cycling

Carb cycling is basically eating more carbs on intense days, and eating fewer carbs on non-strength training days. Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or get back in shape, carb cycling is an effective strategy. We manipulate carbs, instead of protein and fat, because carbs requirements are based on activity demands, and they affect your hormones and your energy levels the most. By increasing our carbs on more intense strength training days, we can keep fat loss going without the negative effects of low calorie or carb diets.

Like I said before carb cycling is pretty easy.

  • On none strength training days – or days you’re just doing cardio – eat your baseline amount of protein, vegetables, and healthy fats and minimal carbs.
  • On strength training days- eat starchy carbs.

It’s that simple. Remember, remove nutrient deficiencies, adjust your food portions, and eat according to your body type, and do it consistently before trying any other strategies.

Workout Nutrition 

What should you do before and after your workout?

I recommend my clients have a high protein and starchy carbs 1-2 hours before and after workouts. Your pre-workout meal will provide your body with the protein to prevent your body from cannibalizing muscle for fuel. The carbs will spike your blood sugar driving the protein to your muscles. Carbs also will fuel your workout.

If you feel like your diet isn’t working, or a beginner wanting to learn to eat better, I hope you’ve found this article helpful.

Remember:

  • Identify and remove nutrition deficiencies.
  • Control your food portions
  • Adjust your food portions to body type and activity level.
  • Track your progress, and adjust your portions accordingly.
  • Do it consistently for at least 30 days before trying new strategies.

Whether you’ve failed previous diets, have plateaued on your current diet, or simply wanting to learn to eat healthier, these strategies can help you get results.

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