I met Brian MacKenzie a few years back at a coaching seminar.
He made a profound statement at that event that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “If you’re going to advise people on nutrition, or help them with gaining or losing weight, then you must be willing to experiment with your diet.”
It doesn’t matter much what you know. You need to be able to give people advice based on what you’ve actually done. If you have never been through what you are asking them to go through, it’s going to be hard for you to advise them properly. That’s the truth.
No matter what the diet -Paleo, Zone, high-carb, low-carb – you need concrete, effective advice based on real world experience. You need to try different things so you can find out what works best for you.
Here are 4 reasons why experiment is so important.
1. Everyone is different.
To fully understand yourself you must experiment with your body, and every body is different. There are ectomorph’s, endomorph’s, “hard-gainers,” slow metabolism’s and fast, there are so many different types of people. And in-turn, everyone responds a little bit differently to food. There is no “perfect” solution.
The best thing you can do is change-up the way you eat from time to time. Whatever you approach might be, change it. Shake-up your diet rules. I would even take the time to consider how you were raised, and your attitude towards food. If you’re like most people, your parents probably weren’t feeding you with optimized fitness in mind.
You have to own up to bad habits and beliefs, new and old. I’ve certainly got some experience there. For years I ate chocolate chip cookies, a honeybun, and some orange juice from the local convenience store every single morning before school. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, I just knew that my mom didn’t cook much. It took me years to break those bad habits. It wasn’t going to happen on its own.
Had it not been for my relationship with CrossFit, I would not have gotten involved in the healthy eating lifestyle and business that I have now. All it took was a willingness to test assumptions, learn from past mistakes, and make some changes.
I’ve now got the best kind of diet you could ever find – The one built through years of trial and error.
2. Recognize patterns, and take out failure points.
I have eaten many different ways, testing all kinds of diet. And I can say for certain, this is one of the hardest things to do because it taxes you mentally.
We are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to food. We get used to eating the same thing over and over, the same patterns and choices. Even if you are the type of person who experiments all the time, you will still settle back into old eating patterns. This is a skill you have to keep working on.
I think we only make things harder on ourselves with ultimatums. When you tell yourself, “I’m not going to eat bread,” or “I’m not going to eat any fried foods or sugar,” you’re basically laying down a personal challenge. You might succeed, sure. But you probably won’t. Not if previous experience is any guide.
Like just about anyone, you’re going to want the thing you can’t have. So, don’t set yourself up for failure. Do not exclude foods from your diet. Likewise, we have to break is the urge to add more and more “healthy foods” to our diets all the time. Again, I think added complexity and choice increase your risks of failure.
The hardest part of eating well is focusing on taking out the bad stuff. That focus isn’t always easy to maintain, but it will train you to make better food choices.
3. Experiment leads to real change.
The human body is a complex and sophisticated machine. It constantly adapts to stimulus, circumstance and surroundings. That’s why CrossFit is so good.
When it comes to body transformation and building fitness, it’s hard to beat the constantly changing nature of the loading, movements and time domains. Just look at the top Crossfit athletes competing today. They’ve got the numbers and physiques to back up the method. Our bodies adapt quickly when we do the same workouts over and over again. That’s why you see the same guy in the gym that’s been doing the same thing for years and he never changes.
The same holds true for our nutrition. If we continue to eat the same old things over and over again – living by the same guidelines and rules – then our bodies will adapt and we’ll be unlikely to experience any significant changes. But when you shift your diet in a big way your body goes into alarm. That’s good. If you are fueling and training your body with purpose, you will start to see big changes. That’s how you actually make progress.
Loved Cooking live at the Cookeville Home Show. #mealfit #foodtv A photo posted by Thomas Cox MealFit.co (@thomas_mealfit) on
4. Focus more on food.
Many people believe that working out and exercise is the key to fitness. And it is very important, of course. But let’s think about this for just a second. If you work out for one hour a day, five days a week, you will see some big changes.
You’ll be leaner, more muscular, and stronger. And that’s five hours a week. But if you eat three times a day, seven days a week, at 30 minutes per meal, that alone is over 10 hours with a fork in your hand. More than double the time you spend in the gym.
Next to sleep, food represents your next great area of focus. You spend so much time and effort experimenting and searching for answers in the gym, and rightly so. It’s the best way to find out what works for you. So, why not take the same approach to nutrition?
Keep experimenting and trying new things. Test rules and assumptions frequently. See what works, and what you should throw out. With time you’ll find that the greatest diet is the one that you find through your own experience.
If you’ve got diet questions I’d love to help. Just leave me a note in the comments below.
what do you think of the zone diet. Is it a good way of me getting from 160lb to 180lbs alongside training.
The zone diet is a good diet. For me it is a little high on the carb content. For you trying to gain 20 lbs, I would say to steer away from the zone diet and not worry about the blocks. Zone is time consuming and in my opinion not the best option.
I was just wondering if you had any advice on timing in reference to carbs and fats for pre and post workout. My overall goal is to lose body fat. however, I am having a difficult time getting rid of the last 10-15lbs. My normal routine is CrossFit class 5-6x wk and 3-4 two-a-days.
Thank you so much for your help!
Great question and one i get quiet often. I would say limit your carb intake throughout the day. When you do consume them, get them post workout and make sure they are low glycemic carbs. As far as pre-workout, I would limit you calories in general. I am a exercise on a empty stomach type guy. Email me if you have any more questions
Why do you recommend a low-glycemic carb source post workout versus a simple carb source?
I want to try to keep insulin levels lower range. Not huge fan of a major insulin spike.
When do you recommend to have the biggest meal of the day and why?
For me I like Dinner being the biggest. I think it is fuel for the next day. I don’t like eating alot through out the day because i feel like it slows me down.
Hope this helps
I like dinner being the biggest too. I usually work out first thing in the morning, and I don’t have enough time to allow a proper meal to digest. When I have a bigger dinner, I can get away with just some fruit and peanut butter before my workout and feel sufficiently fuelled.
hey! Thanks for the article! I read the above comments and I am similar in that I’ve lost 75lbd in the past. Have put on a lot of muscle doing Crossfit. I can’t seem to lose the last 15-20. And I’ve experimented with paleo and diff things. I saw where you advised doing only carbs post workout. I can try it again but when I did low carb in the past I did not have much energy at all for lifting heavy. Should I stick with it for a few months even if I can’t lift heavy? (I just really love lifting heavy weights
you should look into getting into Keto.
It could mix things up and help a ton.
I love it. I have super lean athletes that are doing it and love it.
It takes about 2 weeks to get adapted, low energy and a dip in strength also.
Good stuff. This is the best book i have read about it.
Its called Keto Clairty
Let me know if you need anything else
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This post is right on. Being in nutrition really does mean constantly self experimenting. I also love the point about ultimatums, so often we act like whatever diet changes we make are going to be or even should be lifelong, but diets change all the time. You really shouldn’t be eating the same way your entire life – babies require a different diet from toddlers from teenagers from a pregnant woman, etc. And from an evolutionary perspective, seasonal changes would have affected our diet on a cyclical basis – look at the Hadza, they eat very differently depending on whether it’s the wet or dry season. Overarching patterns are definitely the way to go, that’s why I love the 80/20 principle – it’s not “cheating,” it’s just the 20% 🙂
Thanks a ton
Hi! I was wondering what y’all would recommend eating at as far as a deficit, Maitenance, etc for fat loss/muscle building. Some members at my gym say they just eat clean and don’t track and have great physiques. I know plenty about nutrient timing, I just prefer having atleast an idea of how much to eat so any help would be great. Thanks
I am currently doing intermittent fasting to try to loose that last 15 lbs and lean out a bit. I have gained weight! How does that happen? Its not like I’m eating a bunch of junk either. I’m still eating healthy and counting macros.