Diet and nutrition are crucial components of becoming and staying fit. Nutrition refers to the organic compounds food is made of. Diet refers to the foods you rely on for nutrition, specifically, the types and quantities of those foods. In tandem with following an effective exercise routine, consistently eating the right combination of foods with the right nutritional contents is fundamental to achieving your fitness goals.
All the food you consume is made up of substances called macronutrients (a.k.a. macros). Macros are categorized into proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These three macros plus hydration are the four basic building blocks of human nutrition.
Building a nutritional plan starts with making four key determinations:
- How many total calories you’ll eat per day
- How many grams of protein you’ll eat per day
- How many grams of fat you’ll eat per day
- How many grams of carbs you’ll eat per day
You can use a nutrition calculator to help you estimate what your nutritional targets should be based on your specific goals.
Why Busy People Fail at Dieting
Most busy people fail at dieting because they give themselves far too many food options and select those that take too much time to prepare. Once you know your daily macro targets, you should construct meals that allow you to easily meet those targets. If you allow yourself too many food options, you end up with an overwhelming number of potential meal plans to manage, creating a difficult puzzle to solve every time you need to eat.
When you’re hungry and short on time, you need a low-friction solution. Your meals need to be nutritious, satisfying, quick to prepare, and easily accessible. Any diet plan that doesn’t meet these requirements is almost certain to fail in the long run.
Tips for Dieting Success
To simplify the dieting process, try to rely on a small number of core daily meals (three to five is a good place to start) to meet your macronutrient and calorie requirements. By consistently consuming these core meals with fixed portion sizes and nutrient content, you eliminate the need to make lots of decisions every time you eat, as well as high-friction activities, such as label reading and calorie counting. Designing a core system of repeatable meals takes some upfront work, but once your meal plan is built, no major decision-making is required on an everyday basis.
To develop effective core meals, identify a few primary sources of protein, fat, and carbs to serve as your main nutritional building blocks. I refer to these as staple foods. Having staples eliminates friction by narrowing the overwhelming range of options for macronutrient sources. In most cases, choosing a few different staples rich in each type of macro is best. For instance, you might have a primary staple protein food and one or two alternate proteins in your arsenal.
The fewer staple foods you choose, the less complex it will be to manage your nutrition. Of course, you can (and should) add variety to your meal plans over time as you become more accustomed to this dieting strategy, but limiting complexity in the beginning is much more likely to help you form good habits.
By leveraging these key ideas for removing complexity from the meal-building process, you can minimize tedious calorie counting and, most importantly, make effective nutritional planning and dieting a lifelong habit.