Which Approach to Nutrition is Best?

Paleo, The Zone, IIFYM, Nutrient Timing, Points, Blocks, Cleanses, and Plans.  I could keep going, but the point is that there are countless approaches to nutrition out there.  So, the question is, which one is best?  Well, let’s take a deeper look at a few of the most popular and see.

Paleo. The Paleo diet was born out of the ideas of Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf.  It was initially based off the idea that we should eat as our ancestors did, no not your Great Aunt Edna.  Think farther back to our most remote ancestors in the Paleolithic period.  The foods that are included in this approach are considered to be more natural, meaning you can hunt it or pick it.  You will find a great deal of meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit here.  What you won’t find is grains, legumes, or dairy.  Think optimal micronutrients.  However, we are seeing more and more athletes incorporate things like potatoes, brown rice, and some dairy in order to fuel more effectively.  So there has certainly been an evolution of this Paleo Diet since its inception.

IIFYM.  AKA Flexible Dieting.  Here the rules are a lot more simple. And loose.  The main focus here is macronutrients.  You get X amount of carbs, fats, and proteins to eat in a day.  Choose whatever you want to fulfill them, anytime you want.  Nothing is off limits.  Depending on your goals, these macros will look different.  Trying to build muscle?  You get lots of carbs and protein.  Trying to cut fat?  You aren’t quite so lucky.  The key is that there are no “evil” foods.

Nutrient Timing.  This approach suggests that you eat certain types of foods at certain times throughout the day.  Peri-workout (before and after) is generally the time for carbs.  Pre-bedtime is often suggested as a time for protein and some fats.  There are a lot of intricacies here and again, depending on when you train and your goals, the timing is different.

A Structured Plan.  When on a structured plan, you eat a specific preplanned and measured meal.  This will often go hand in hand with nutrient timing.  It is extremely rigid and specific.  Though inconvenient, many bodybuilders have had great results with this due to the accountability factor and mindlessness of it.

So which is best?  My answer is all of them.  Yes, how very diplomatic of me, right?  But, it’s true.  The best results I have seen in the countless people I have worked with on nutrition, eating behaviors, and relationships with food, have come from a utilizing the best parts of each of these approaches.

So what does that look like?  This “hybrid” approach uses the basic MBR and DCE equations to determine macronutrient needs with considerations for lifestyle and goals, a mostly whole foods approach to get plenty of vitamins and minerals, with some wiggle room for social occasions or “life”, and a bit of nutrient timing to optimize hormone levels, performance, and/or fat loss in accordance to those goals.  Got all that?  It is a lot more simple than it seems. The key is to not be dogmatic to any one approach. Be intuitive instead.  Use what works and don’t overthink the rest.  Nothing in life is hard and fast, or black and white, and nutrition is absolutely not one of them.

Every day we are learning more and more about nutrition.  So try things, see what works, and most of all, be healthy in your approach.  That is the best plan.

(*Personally I have tried all of these approaches and have found positives and negatives to each, bringing me to a more holistic attitude toward nutrition coaching.*)

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