by Tony Gjokaj April 16, 2020 8 min read

"What is the best diet?" is one of the most common questions I typically get asked being that I am a Precision Nutrition certified coach.

My answer is that "there is no best diet... there's only the diet that works best for YOU".

Here's the thing: nutrition is not black or white - it's gray.

There are so many factors that go into building and managing a healthier lifestyle.

Most of the time, we tend to focus more on "miracle" supplements than understanding the diet... to me, this means our priorities are off!

This is why I developed our systematic approach to nutrition, with the Nutritional Priorities Pyramid. With this pyramid, we have the ability to build a proper foundation to fulfill our nutritional goals.

In this post, we will discuss each stage of our Nutritional Priorities Pyramid.

Without further ado, let's dive in!

The Nutritional Priorities Pyramid

 

The Nutritional Priorities Pyramid is our systematic approach to nutrition, leveled based on the priority of importance. If you can optimize one level, you can move on up and optimize the next.

As you continue up the pyramid, you can optimize the lifestyle you choose to have: feeling better physically and mentally! 

Let's breakdown each stage.

I. Adherence

Adherence is the most important of all priorities when it comes to nutrition. If you can’t stick to your diet, you’ll always fail.

When people fail their diets, it's typically because they take on too much, follow a style of dieting they can't commit to, severely restrict calories, and more.

Adherence to a specific diet can come from a variety of factors: preferences, genetics, culture, and even habits we’ve acquired over the course of years.

While we can't control all of these, we have the ability to drive our habits in a more positive direction.

Habits are formed through various repetitions and consistency.

This applies to both good and bad habits.

Things that can influence your habits are your environment, taking small incremental changes, and having an "epiphany".

A. Environment

Lifestyle choices and our surroundings can have an impact on the foods we eat, the foods we prefer, and the diet we choose.

For example, the foods you grew up with and the culture you surround yourself around can vastly influence the foods that we eat. Trying to completely eliminate high-calorie cultural foods can be very difficult. However, restricting them into smaller portions or even minimizing the number of times you eat can actually make your diet or lifestyle change more manageable.

B. Incremental Steps

When it comes to losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle, making small changes in your lifestyle will make BIG successful changes. When process you create is easier to achieve, it's easier adhere to.

Now if we attempt a new diet that severely restricts calories quickly, you’re going to have difficulty sticking with the diet. Again, this is why most people fail their diets.

When engaging in new lifestyle changes, start slowly. Don't overwhelm yourself with different dieting strategies or philosophies just yet. Focus on making better decisions. Then and only then, you can slowly change your diet and implement new dieting strategies like Ketogenic Dieting or Intermittent Fasting if you REALLY want to.

When it comes to adherence, the goal is a commitment to a lifestyle change. Losing 20lbs is a lifestyle change: you can't just do a diet, eat like you used to, and stop exercising afterward!

C. Epiphany

An Epiphany phase is a realization that you need to make a lifestyle change based on your circumstances. This can be something like a health scare or a personal choice.

We won’t focus on this as much, as these typically are less controllable.

II. Calories and Macronutrients

Level two of the Nutritional Priorities Pyramid is made up of Calories and Macronutrients.

 

Calories are defined as units of energy that are acquired from the foods that we eat. 

Macronutrients are nutrients that contain calories: Fats, Carbohydrates, and Protein.

Before we discuss each macronutrient, consider the following:

  • Calories determine weight gain or loss: If you eat more than you burn, you’ll gain weight. If you eat less than you burn, you'll lose weight.

  • Macronutrients help with satiety, fullness, performance, and overall health. These are nutrients that contain calories.

While our main goal might be overall weight loss, understanding macronutrients will introduce you to providing a variety of healthy options to your diet. Now let's discuss each macronutrient.

Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps repair and develop new cells in our bodies. These cells consist of our skin, muscles, nails, our physique, and more.

Protein also helps repair broken down muscles as a result of intense exercise and helps fight fatigue. This is especially important when it comes to dieting for fat loss, in which your calories are restricted.

The recommended daily amount for protein for someone who regularly exercises is around 0.8-1.2 grams per pound of body weight. 

You can read more about protein in the article below:

Fats

Fats help regulate our hormones, health, and overall skin. Fats will provide you new cells and aid in nutrient absorption, making it an essential macronutrient.

There are four types of fats: saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated and trans fats are typically deemed as "bad" fats, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the "good" fats.

Here are a few recommendations when it comes to fats:

  • 20-30% of your total calories come from fats to optimize your fat intake. 
  • Saturated Fats: Eat in moderation.
  • Trans Fats: Try to avoid at all times.
  • Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated Fats: Should be more of a focus in your diet as they have a high correlation to overall health.

    Carbohydrates

    Carbs are our body's main source of energy. Our body typically turns all of the food we consume into glucose, making it a "nonessential" macronutrient. This is why Ketogenic diets can potentially work, as our body turns all of our foods into energy.

    Carbohydrates are typically the last source of focus, so people typically put the remainder of their calories into carbohydrates after handling proteins and fats.

    III. Micronutrients and Fiber

    As we continue to stage three, this is where we can dive even further towards accomplishing our vitamin, mineral, and fiber intake.

    Micronutrients

    Micronutrients are Vitamins and Minerals that are found within our nutrient-dense macronutrients. Nutrient-Dense foods are typically lower-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables, starches, and grains.

    There are plenty of vitamins and minerals that aid our body with various things, making regular consumption of nutrient-dense foods essential.

    Here are just a few examples of micronutrients:

    • Vitamin A: Helps with skin health, vision, and immune health.

    • Vitamin C: An antioxidant that aids in blood flow and immune health.

    • Vitamin D: Aids in immune health, bone health, mood, and more.

    • Calcium: Assists in both health and cardiovascular health.

    • Magnesium: Improves bone mineral density, reduces blood pressure, and more!

    There are plenty of vitamins and minerals that aid our body with various things, making regular consumption of nutrient-dense foods essential.

    Fiber

    Fiber aids in providing us with the feeling of fullness, while regularly aiding in bowel movements. 

    The main types of fiber are as follows:

    • Soluble Fiber: Dissolves into water-like substance to aid in lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Foods like oats, peas, beans, and apples contain soluble fiber.

    • Insoluble Fiber: Aids in moving foods through the digestive system, allowing us to use the bathroom more effectively. Foods like beans, vegetables, green beans, and potatoes contain insoluble fibers.

    With that, we recommend having about 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily to accomplish our goal with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

    IV. Nutrient Timing and Meals

    On to stage four, where nutrient timing and number of meals play is the next level of importance.

    Nutrient Timing

    When it comes to protein, protein timing is important because there's only so much protein your body can absorb FOR muscle protein synthesisThis is why it is essential to disperse your protein throughout the day. You don't need to divide it up evenly, just make sure that you have your bases covered. You can achieve this in 4-6 meals with protein sources.

    Nutrient timing is also important when it comes to pre and post-workout nutrition. Having our higher carb meals before and after our workout help optimize energy levels. This will allow us to perform our best during intense exercise. In addition, several studies have shown protein & carbs post-workout improves muscle protein synthesis significantly more than just protein alone.

    Number of Meals

    For the number of meals, we should have daily, we should take the following factors into account:

    • Protein Timing: Protein timing matters in regards to protein synthesis and amino acid utilization.

    • Pre-Workout & Post-Workout Nutrition: Most of our carbs and protein intake should be optimized here for muscle protein synthesis as well.

    • Adherence: Do you prefer six small meals or four moderately bigger ones? From an anecdotal standpoint, cooking myself 6 meals a day used to stress me out. 

    Typically 4-6 meals daily would be a great spot to getting proper nutrients in and taking protein timing to account.

    V. Supplementation

    The last level of the Nutritional Priorities Pyramid is supplements.

    We believe that supplements augment your lifestyle: if you have strong habits, exercise, and eat proper nutrition consistently, supplements can improve that.

    You need to optimize every other step of the Nutritional Priorities Pyramid before you dive into supplements!

    Now, we wanted to introduce you to how we divide our supplement categories.

    Foundational Supplements

    Foundational supplements are focused on covering any gaps as a result of a specific diet, training, or lifestyle.

    Foundational Supplements are as follows:

    • Multivitamins or Vitamin Supplements: Multivitamins consist of various micronutrients that some may need more of as a result of their lifestyle.

      • Some specific diets might be missing things like magnesium or vitamin D, which is why we supplement to fill those gaps.

    • Omega-3's: We can't always eat salmon and almonds! Omega-3's like fish oil help us get adequate omega-3's in our diet.

    • Greens/Reds Superfoods: Green and red superfoods fill in the gaps if you don't eat diverse fruits and vegetables in your diet. 

    Performance Supplements

    Performance supplements are focused on improving performance on various tasks, whether it is physical or mental exercise. These supplements may not provide direct nutrients, but they may help you perform specific tasks you desire.

    Performance Supplements are as follows:

    • Pre-workouts: Typically contains products like L-Citrulline and Beta-Alanine, pre-workouts help improve energy, manage fatigue, and provide focus in your workouts.

    • Caffeine: Sometimes we need an extra kick. Coffee and Energy Drinks provide us with the energy and focus needed during an intense day at work.

    • Nootropics: We may need to improve our focus, or to study better. Nootropics are brain & mood boosters that help you handle these tasks.

    Lifestyle Supplements (Miscellaneous)

    Lifestyle supplements consist of things that we may use to cover any other deficiencies or improve our lifestyles. While some supplements in other categories can be in this category (like caffeine and nootropics), these supplements were not covered above.

    Some examples of Lifestyle Supplements are as follows:

    • Sleep Supplements

    • Adaptogens

    • Hair, Skin, and Nails Supplements

    • Other supplements that may fill in any deficiencies in your lifestyle.

    Prioritize Your Nutrition, Change Your Lifestyle

    To conclude, lack of Nutritional Priorities is the reason why most of us screw up our diets. We need to start with the basics, understand these priorities, and then work our way up.

    Think about this similarly to the Hierarchy of Needs: these must be reinforced constantly to optimize our lifestyle - to perform our best to reach our greatest potential.

    If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at support@reforgedperformance.com. We are here for you if you need it!

    Thanks for reading, Reforged Legion!

    Tony Gjokaj
    Tony Gjokaj

    Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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