You're reading this because you haven't been able to achieve the body composition that you want.
You've already ruled out "not working hard enough" as the issue... because let's be real. You work your ass off in the gym. Consistency and effort aren't the problem.
If this sounds like you, the gap between where your body is at and where you want it to be can be bridged by fixing a few simple nutrition mistakes you're undoubtedly making.
Ready to learn the nutritional keys to building your best body composition ever?
Let's dive in.
#1: You’re Under-Eating Carbs
Like we've already talked about, you train hard.
I work with many online clients coming from the exact same situation as you...
Many start coaching following a higher intensity modality of training (e.g. Crossfit). They're working their asses off, but the results aren't reflected in the mirror.
The most common mistake new clients like this are making?
The paleo diet has really rode CrossFit's wave of popularity, and become the go-to nutrition approach for many CrossFitters, along with many non-CrossFitters but health-seeking/hard training individuals.
And look, eating most whole foods is smart.
The problem is, the paleo diet is usually one that's relatively low carb.
To understand why this is a problem, you need to gain a quick understanding of your energy systems...
So, if you look closely at the energy system that creates energy for the majority of intense activity from ~15-60 seconds (the anaerobic-lactic system), you'll see that it's fueled by carbs.
If your goal is to build your leanest, strongest body composition, a good amount of your training will be fueled by this energy system.
A lower carb approach means that this energy system will essentially be "short on fuel" - you ability to train intensely will suffer. As a result, you'll continue to struggle achieving the levels of performance & adding the lean muscle needed for the physique you want.
Not only are carbs are your body's preferred fuel source for training, but they also aids your recovery and ability to build more lean muscle.
Carbs stimulate the release of the hormone insulin in your body. Insulin has an inverse relationship with cortisol (the stress hormone), meaning that as insulin increases, cortisol decreases.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone - it's primary role is breaking things down for energy. Now, while cortisol isn't "bad" (like all things, it's very context dependent), spending too much time in a catabolic state will of course hinder your ability to build lean muscle.
Due to the insulin and cortisol relationship, adding more carbs to your diet can help get your body out of a catabolic state, and recovering better/quicker.
#2: You’re Overeating Fat
To clear up any confusion that could arise from this headline...
You absolutely need some fats for health.
Most of us should be chasing at least .3-.4g/lb of fat daily.
But here's the problem...
With the paleo movement came a fixation on healthy fats... but many of us have forgotten that even healthy fats still contain calories.
No matter how clean and/or full of healthy fats your diet is, you still have to control calories to lose fat.
If you’re eating clean, but still struggling to lose weight, you’re probably making the same mistake I've made in the past - forgetting the importance of calories.
So while keeping fat in your diet is essential for your health, it’s important to understand that eating LOTS of fat-dense foods will rack up the calories quickly, as fat is the most calorie-dense macro.
Often people struggling to lose fat will be eating lots of things like:
- Grassfed butter
- Natural nut butter
- Olive oil
- Fatty grassfed beef
- Grassfed, pasture raised, preservative-free bacon
Again, there’s nothing wrong with these foods. They are a great source of healthy fats. But... healthy fats or not - you still have to control calories to get lean.
#3: You're Neglecting Nutrient Timing
Nutrient timing is something that's been looked down upon in the fitness industry as "unimportant".
And look, it's straight up NOT as important for changing your body composition as your overall macros and calories.
But, how you time your nutrients does have a big impact on your training performance and recovery. Over the course of a few months, a lot of shitty workout + sub-optimal recovery VS. a lot of well-fueled workouts + optimal recovery = a big difference in your body composition.
So, for online clients like you with calories, macros, and food quality on lock, here are my recommendations:
—> Protein Timing Across The Day - It's true that calories are the primary driver of weight loss or weight gain. But for optimal lean muscle growth, you need to consider muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
Muscle protein synthesis is basically the process of your body turning dietary protein into actual lean muscle.
Consuming protein (with the most optimal amount being 25-50g) increases muscle protein synthesis for ~3-6 hours.
So, to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis through your day, it's most optimal to spread your protein (and meals) across 4-6 meals, with 25-50g protein at each.
—> Pre-Workout Meal - What you eat pre-workout is key for kick-starting the recovery process, and helps fuel your body through intense training.
To prevent as much muscle protein breakdown (the opposite process of muscle protein synthesis - muscle protein is being broken down) as possible, and create optimal circumstances for recovery/growth, you should consume ~25-50g of protein in this meal. If you really don't have the option to eat a pre-workout meal (e.g. you workout super early), I'd recommend at least drinking a protein shake before hand. This will digest very quickly, and shouldn't give you issues.
If you have time to allow the meal to digest pre-workout (>1 hour), adding ~25-50 grams carbs to the mix is smart. A mix of carbs from starch and fruit gives you a combo of faster and slower releasing carbs to fuel you through the workout.
We want to avoid too much fat in this meal, because it will slow digestion, and have you feeling sluggish during your training.
A solid pre-workout meal could look something like:
- Greek yogurt (slow digesting protein)
- Whey protein (fast digesting protein)
- Oatmeal (starchy carb)
- Berries (carb from fruit)
Typically, you'll feel best eating this 1-2 hours before you workout. I like to split the difference here and go with 1.5 hours pre-workout. Eating this meal too close to your workout will have you lifting with food still digesting in your belly, making you feel sluggish.
—> Post-Workout Meal - As far as protein, aim to eat another ~25-50g of protein within an hour post-workout (as it will have been about 3 hours from your previous bolus of protein at this point).
With carbs, insulin sensitivity is highest post-workout. (Basically, your body will most efficiently use carbs for muscle-building purposes at this time.) So it makes sense to time lots of fast-digesting carbs post workout (e.g. white rice, spotted bananas). This is the most important time to consume carbs, as far as timing goes - so if your carbs are limited on a diet, putting most of them here is smart.
On a similar note, an intense training session will trigger a stress response. Basically, when you experience stress, cortisol (the stress hormone we talked about earlier) rises and your nervous system enters a sympathetic state or “fight-or-flight mode”. In this state, your brain perceives an imminent threat, and slows or stops all bodily processes but the most vital to either “fighting or fleeing”. This means processes crucial to your recovery - food digestion, hormone production, and muscle growth itself - are slowed or essentially stopped.
So obviously, to optimize recovery, you want to get out of a sympathetic state as fast as possible post-workout, and get into the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” state. Here, your body focuses on nutrient absorption, repairing damaged tissues, etc.
The beauty of timing your carbs intra/post-workout like this is, carbs help decrease cortisol levels. So consuming carbs post workout will help you create a better environment for building lean muscle.
Similar to the pre-workout meal, we want to keep fat low here. Fat would slow your body's ability to digest the nutrients you just took in.
—> Pre-Bed Meal - Now, sleep is a crucial part of your body actually being able to make build muscle & burn fat. Eating too close to bed will slightly disrupt your sleep quality, but we also want your body to have some protein available throughout the night. ~1 hour before bed, eat 25-50g protein from a slow digesting source (casein powder, greek yogurt, cottage cheese).
So to wrap all of this up simply:
Once you have calories, macros, and food quality of point, you can focus on making the meals around your workout are high protein, high carb, and low fat. The meal(s) further from your workout are still high protein, but higher fat and lower carb.
#4: You're Focusing Too Much On Specific Foods, And Not Enough On Calories/Macros
Look, you only need to check one box in order to lose fat...
✔ You must be eating fewer calories than you're burning.
So while calories aren't the only thing that matter... if you're eating more calories than you burn in a day, you won't be able to lose fat.
The biggest mistake most people who can't achieve a great body composition are making?
Focusing on eating all of "the right foods" associated with a specific diet, supplements, etc... but forgetting to account for how many calories they're eating.
Am saying that calories are all that matter?
Consume adequate protein, fats, and carbs (the macros) is also a vital part of building a great body.
And food quality is important for obtaining the nutrients that you need for health + appetite control.
That said, if you're only focusing on eating "healthy foods", but forgetting to account for your calories & macros, you'll struggle to achieve the body you want.
#5: You're Not Leaving Room For Flexibility In Your Diet
On the initial strategy call with new online clients, I have a conversation weekly that goes something like this...
Prospective client: "Yeah, I've been trying to follow ____ diet. It works great for me. Every time I follow it I lose 20lbs."
Me: "So why do you stop following it?"
Prospective client: "Oh it's hard to sustain. I normally start to miss ___(food the diet doesn't allow), so I fall off the wagon, before eventually restarting after gaining back the weight."
Me: "So is ____ diet it really 'working for you', or is it just failing you over and over?"
Look, I'm definitely not part of the crowd that thinks that any form of pushing yourself, being disciplined, or creating restrictions for yourself is "bad".
But the reality is, diets that put too many foods "off limits" are impossible for most of us to stick to long-term.
Now, don't get it twisted - the reality of the society we live in is, it’s way too easy to overeat.
There's a reason you don't see thousands of people walking around with lean, strong bodies every day. Most of the highly-processed food we eat is designed to be hyper-palatable. It's engineered in a lab to make us crave more.
Pair this with the fact that most highly-processed foods are also very calorie-dense and low on nutrients, and you have a combination that makes stay lean quite a challenge.
This is why I suggest that my online clients make 80-90% of their food whole foods.
In the simplest terms, 80-90% of your food should have either:
a.) Grown from the earth
b.) Had a face at one point
These are packed with nutrients that will make your body feel amazing, and aid your training performance and recovery. They'll also keep you full much longer than their highly-processed counterparts.
Essentially, eating 80-90% whole foods makes building and maintaining a lean, strong body MUCH easier.
People make dieting A LOT harder by choosing foods that do very little to fight hunger. My online clients focus on chasing more satiating, higher volume foods, and it makes a big difference for getting and staying lean.
But with the other 10-20% of your food intake, it's SMART to enjoy some "flexible foods".
As long as you're eating mostly whole-foods, you won't have a problem with insane cravings or constant overeating. Your fat loss will come much easier, and you'll feel great.
This means you can use an if it fits your macros (IIFYM) approach the other 10-20% of your diet, without hurting your results, or your health.
10-20% IIFYM means that you can use these calories and macros to eat and drink whatever you want. Beer, ice cream, chips and queso... seriously, whatever.
As long as you still make these foods work in your calorie and macro goals, your results and health won't be affected.
This is a big part of what I do within nutrition coaching to help online clients create a sustainable lifestyle for the first time ever, instead of temporary results. One of the coolest things ever is helping clients realize they can still enjoy the foods they want, and maintain a great body composition.
If you want to learn more about a lifestyle-focused approach to nutrition, I highly recommend you check out my ebook The Lifestyle Diet.
#6: You Don't Have Anyone Holding You Accountable To Your Nutrition
A few years ago, I was the fat personal trainer.
Despite countless hours in the gym, I still didn't even look like I worked out.
I was already a personal trainer at this point, and I felt like a fraud. How could I expect my programs to get my clients good results? I couldn't even get myself in shape...
Now, the reasons behind me not looking the part were multifaceted. But the main cause...?
I was inconsistent with my nutrition.
My macros would be on point Sunday - Thursday.
But Friday and Saturday, I would cut loose a bit (a lot).
I wouldn't track my drinks, or most of the food I ate on Friday & Saturday evenings.
This had me in a very frustrating place... I felt like I was dieting all week, but was never able to get as lean as I wanted.
This frustration was actually what led me to hiring my first nutrition coach.
I was ready to learn "the secret" to getting lean.
To my surprise, he prescribed me nearly the EXACT macro targets that I had set before we started working together.
I was skeptical... but actually started losing fat rapidly over the next few weeks.
The difference here?
He held me accountable to planning ahead + tracking all of my food daily. Plus, I'm the type of person that HATES letting my coach down. So knowing that I would have to drop my macros into an accountability tracker daily made me 100x more adherent to the plan.
Look, in the picture on the left, I had already been training for years, and had a solid understanding of nutrition.
But, like most of you reading this... I love wine, street tacos, and pizza.
And don't get it twisted, I still consume all of the above. But having a coach forced me to take responsibility for planning ahead, and making these things work with my nutrition.
Having a coach forced me to consistently take action on the things I already knew I should be doing, and I completely transformed my body as a result.
Since then, I always have a coach to structure my training and nutrition, because I know I thrive with the constant accountability.
I've coached a long list of other coaches online since (swipe through to see a few of their results)...
...and every time the same lesson rings true, whether you're a coach, or someone that just loves training:
Most of us know what we SHOULD be doing to get the results we want, but we're missing the accountability & structure needed to make it happen.
It's time to get more structured, more consistent, and finally achieve your best body composition ever.
Click here now to apply for online coaching with me.