Weight Loss

How to get your eating back on track – Part 2

food sandwich eat fitness

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I introduced some of the simplest ways to fix a “broken diet” and start eating better, including identifying and removing nutritional deficiencies, adjusting food amount and food type, and the pitfalls of calorie counting. In this Part 2, we dive deeper into some more sophisticated strategies around food and macronutrient composition and eating for your body type; meal frequency, and calorie/carb cycling.

Food and macronutrient composition

Oftentimes, once you simply eliminate nutrient deficiencies and get food portions and quality right, that’s all you need. Small adjustments in those two areas – and nothing more – will make a huge difference in how 90% of people look and feel. It’s that simple.

However, if you want to go further – because you have more advanced goals or because you’re already doing the first two and still struggling – let’s talk about food composition and how your body type affects it.

You’ve probably noticed that human beings come in different shapes and sizes. Just like dog breeds, you’ll see everything from the giant Wolfhound to the Chihuahua; from the slim and wiry Whippet to the muscular Bulldog to the rotund little Corgi.

Dog breeds also vary in their body composition, energy levels and metabolic rates -just like humans. Some people seem to be always fidgeting, always in motion; whereas other people tend naturally to be more sedentary.

Different body type groups — also called “somatotypes” — typically include a few general characteristics:

  • Morphology and skeletal structure
  • Hormonal environment
  • Metabolism (including metabolic rate and how nutrients are processed)

The three general categories (or somatotypes) are:

I Types (ectomorphs),

V Types (mesomorphs), and

O Types (endomorphs).

Here’s a male example of each body type:

Male body types

Here’s a female example of each body type:

Female body types

Importantly, these are just general conceptual categories. The principles behind them can potentially help target a person’s nutritional strategies, but only after first eliminating nutritional deficiencies and adjusting food amounts.

Moreover, body types are not “set in stone.” They’re NOT a basis for “nutritional rules” or any specific system. In other words, not all ectomorphs will be exactly the same, and being an ectomorph doesn’t necessarily cause anything to happen.

Instead, your body type is simply a starting point. It’s a way of thinking about possible differences in your metabolism, activity types, and nutritional needs from other types.

Nutrition for “I Types”

Elite endurance athletes, climbers, and dancers are typically light and lean; sparsely muscled and light-framed, with delicate bones. They may be tall and long-limbed (which is helpful in sports that need both height/reach and low body weight), or they may be smaller (which is helpful in sports where low absolute body weight is important, such as cheerleading or horse racing).

I Types (ectomorphs) tend to prefer endurance activities, and/or sports where a good strength-to-mass ratio is important.

Their engine speed is set to “high revving”. They tend to be thyroid- and sympathetic nervous system-dominant, with either a higher output or higher sensitivity to catecholamines like epinephrine and norepinephrine. They typically have a high metabolic rate.

They’re high-energy. They’re often fidgeters and pacers. They tend to burn off excess calories with near-constant movement throughout the day. They tolerate carbs well and usually have higher carb needs. These are the rare people who can seem to eat cookies with impunity.

I Types therefore generally do best with more carbohydrates in the diet, along with a moderate protein and lower fat intake. So that’s what’s recommended: more healthy carbs and less fat with a moderate amount of protein.

A nutrient distribution for this body type might be around 55% carbs, 25% protein, and 20% fat. But don’t drive yourself crazy with the math – just think “higher carbs and lower fat.”

Here’s what that might look like using the portion control guide I described in Part 1:

I Type 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.

I Type 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;
  • 5 thumb of fat dense foods at each meal.

Nutrition for “V Types”

Football running backs and safeties, soccer players, hockey players, wrestlers/MMA fighters, rugby backs and flankers, and other sports that combine all-around athleticism with speed, strength and power are typically mesomorphs: solid, strong-framed bodies that easily put on muscle.

If they’re taller, you might find them in sports like rowing, rugby, hockey, or basketball. If they’re shorter, you might find them in weightlifting or gymnastics.

V Types (mesomorphs) have a medium sized bone structure and athletic body. If they’re active, they usually have a considerable amount of lean mass. Their bodies are designed to be powerful machines. Excess calories often go to lean mass and dense bones.

They tend to be testosterone and growth hormone dominant. Thus, they can usually gain muscle and stay lean easily.

V Types therefore generally do best on a mixed diet, with balanced carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They often gravitate to activities that require this kind of metabolic flexibility.

A nutrient distribution for this body type might be around 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Again, don’t drive yourself crazy with the math. Just envision a roughly balanced mix of all three macronutrients.

Here’s what that might look like using the portion control guide I described in Part 1:

V Type 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.

V Type women begin by eating:

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

Nutrition for “O Types”

O Types (endomorphs) have a larger bone structure with higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass. Football linemen, powerlifters, and throwers are typically endomorphs.

Their engine speed is set to “idle.” They tend to be parasympathetic nervous system dominant. Unlike ectomorphs, endomorphs are built for solid comfort, not speed.

They’re naturally less active. Where the ectomorphs tend to burn off excess calories with near constant movement, excess calories in endomorphs do not seem to cause that same increase in expenditure. This means that excess calories are more likely to be stored as fat.

They typically have a slower metabolic rate and generally don’t tolerate carbohydrates as well, particularly if they are sedentary.

O Types therefore generally do best on a higher fat and protein intake with a lower carbohydrate intake. They often gravitate to activities with lower carb demands.

A nutrient distribution for this body type might be around 25% carbs, 35% protein, and 40% fat. Again, no math gymnastics – just think higher fats and protein, lower carbs.

Here’s what that might look like using the portion control guide I described in Part 1:

O Type 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.

O Type women begin by eating:

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

 

Step 3: Fine tune the details

So far, we’ve covered the following steps:

  • Remove red flags and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Control your calorie intake without counting calories.
  • Adjust your food composition based on your body type and activity.

What’s left?

In the grand scheme of things, everything else – meal frequency, calorie/carb cycling, workout nutrition – is just a minor tweak. A very minor tweak. Let’s address them here.

Meal frequency

For years dietitians and nutritionists thought that the best approach to splitting up your daily food intake was to eat small meals frequently throughout the day.

From early research it was assumed that this would speed up the metabolism, help control the hormones insulin and cortisol, and help better manage the appetite. However, a recent review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests otherwise.

What this means is that as long as we eat the right foods in the right amounts, meal frequency is a matter of personal preference.

You can eat lots of small meals each day (i.e. every few hours) – or you can eat a few big meals each day (i.e. with bigger time gaps between them).

My personal advice about meal frequency is this: Listen to your own body and apply the “how’s that working for you?” test.

If you’re covering all your other bases and your current meal frequency isn’t “working”, try switching it up. Experiment with fewer meals if you eat more frequently, or more meals if you eat less frequently. Because either approach is valid, you’re free to find the approach that works best for you.

Calorie and carb cycling

Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, see your abs, or get back in shape, carb and calorie cycling can make a real difference.

While it may sound very technical, carb cycling is simply eating more carbohydrates on some days – usually on high volume or high intensity days – and eating fewer carbohydrates on other days – usually low volume, low intensity, or off days.

We focus on carbohydrates (and not protein or fats) because carbs needs vary the most based on activity demands, and they have the biggest impact on hormone status and how you feel. By changing carbohydrate and therefore calorie intake on particular days, we can keep fat loss going and metabolic rate humming along, without the ill effects of stringent calorie or carb restriction.

The carb and calorie cycling approach is simple, and is based on your activity:

  • On days you’re not lifting weights, doing low intensity or short duration exercise – eat a baseline diet of mostly protein, vegetables and healthy fats with minimal carbs.
  • On the days you are lifting weights, doing longer duration or high intensity exercise – add starchy carbs to your baseline diet.

No need to measure grams or count calories. Simply follow a baseline diet on lower carb days and add carbs on higher carb days.

Once again, remember this: Removing deficiencies, controlling calorie intake, and beginning eating for your body type – and doing all of this consistently – must come first. If you haven’t done those first, this calorie/carb cycling strategy usually backfires.

Summary

If you feel like your nutrition’s off track – but aren’t sure what to do about it – hopefully this information has given you something new to consider and try.

Remember:

  • First, remove red flags and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Control your calorie intake without counting calories.
  • Consider your body type and activity level.
  • Observe your progress carefully. Adjust your intake as needed.
  • Do all of this consistently and long-term first, before adding any new strategies.

Whether you’re a beginner and trying to get started in the right direction, or you’re experienced but still spinning your wheels, these steps – when applied in sequence – can make all the difference.

 

Note: Content in this article was sourced from How to Fix A Broken Diet: 3 Ways To Get Your Eating On Track by John Berardi, Ph.D. www.precisionnutrition.com

 

Laurie Kelly is a Precision Nutrition Certified Level 1 coach, specializing in exercise and sports-based nutrition coaching. She is also a NASM-certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, and a Road Runners Clubs of America Certified Adult Running Coach, and a Certified Professional Triathlon Coach by the International Triathlon Coaching Association. She’ll work with you one-on-one to help you live a healthy and active life and achieve your unique fitness goals. Contact her here or follow her blog at www.dragonfly-fitness.com.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.