Does your food source matter? I mean how much of a difference does where your food come from have on the nutritional value and its effect on your results?
After all, 100g of Haribo has 10% more protein as the equivalent weight of broccoli (6.6g vs 6)…Practically a superfood.
The answer may not be as straightforward as you may initially think, particularly from a body composition viewpoint. Let’s remind ourselves of the nutritional hierarchy for successful fat loss:
At the bottom of the pyramid, the most important factor for successful fat loss is calorie balance. This is the foundation of fat loss. Eat more calories than you need and you gain weight, eat less and you lose weight. Now there are a lot more factors that may be involved, age, sex, activity level, etc. At its heart, fat loss is a calories game. You can lose weight on a diet of twinkies after all…
After that, we get macronutrients and fibre. The protein, carbs and fat that make up what we eat. Adequate protein intake is a no brainer. This provides the building blocks of our cells, hormones, neurotransmitters and gainz. Not to mention keeping you feeling fuller for longer and being super tasty.
Enough fat to do its job as a backup fuel source, cell membrane builder and vitamin storage unit. Finally, enough carbs to act as a primary fuel source, help with recovery and to fuel many of the cellular transactions that go on daily. Fibre is often overlooked here but is a key player in improved blood sugar balance, improved heart health, and decreased risk of stroke.
So, once again, the total volume of macronutrients is key. However, we have to start at least considering the quality and source as how much of these nutrients we can absorb and actually make use of starts to be more and more of a factor. There’s no point in eating your target in crappy protein if you only absorb 40% of it.
Next up, micronutrients and water. Micronutrients are all the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that come packed into the whole unprocessed foods that should make up the bulk of your diet. Generally, the more processed a food is, the less naturally occurring micronutrients appear in it. This is often compensated for by a big banner on the packaging reading, “Fortified with…” When you see this, stop and ask yourself why it should need to be fortified with anything, particularly if it’s a “health” food.
Micronutrients are only needed in small amounts but are vital to regulating the functions of many cells and deficiencies can cause issues such as rickets (lack of Vit D) and osteoporosis (lack of calcium). Since the processing of foods can reduce the amounts of available micronutrients, it becomes easier and easier to create these deficiencies leading to less than optimal health and performance.
So as we climb further up the pyramid, the quality of food becomes ever more important for sustainable fat loss, improved health markers and greater performance.
Water quality is a no-brainer for a number of reasons. Don’t drink puddle water.
The top 2 sections of the pyramid are about when you eat and whether supplementation is necessary for your goals. Really, if you are hitting your total calorie needs and your macro breakdown is good, you’re probably eating at the best times for you and your lifestyle. Don’t overthink it.
Outside of a decent whey protein, fish oil and vitamin D, I don’t really recommend much in the way of supplements. If you eat mostly whole foods, largely unprocessed and still packing a decent nutritional punch, supplements aren’t really needed.
Here are the key points:
- For fat loss, total calories consumed is still the deciding factor.
- Protein, fat and carb breakdown can be manipulated to improve results, but total calories still count.
- Processed foods tend to be low in usable nutrients and high in calories, making them easy to over eat and giving an excess of calories.
- Processed foods aren’t the enemy. Frozen fruit and veggies can be a great time saver, as can pre-made sauces as long as you make sure they aren’t packed full of sugar.
- Unprocessed foods are generally lower in calories but high in nutrients. No-one overeats a salad!