How to Diet: Understanding the Science of Weight Loss - Exceed Nutrition

How to Diet: Understanding the Science of Weight Loss

I often get asked “Ru, are you the Paleo, intermittent fasting, or the ‘insert any other well known diet’ coach?” My response: All wrong.

I am focused on personalization and you should do this too; this is one of the fundamental components to becoming a great nutrition coach.


Is there really one ‘right way’ to eat for all people, considering our diverse ethnic heritages, modified DNA and changing environmental factors? 

Surely not, which is why people are still struggling with their body composition and poor health markers – they have yet to make nutrition personal – they are following the crowds. 

Making our clients’ nutrition ‘personal’ to them is the only way forward, and is the ‘secret’ to achieving great results with everyone. 

Personal nutrition is not just about suggesting a particular diet protocol you have read about, or the current trend, but needs the consideration of: 

  • Your client’s past present diets
  • Ethnic origin
  • DNA
  • Current environment
  • Time of year
  • Location
  • Stress levels
  • Toxicity status
  • Lifestyle
  • Likes/dislikes
  • Personal preferences 
Fitness women who is on a diet

Current Philosophy

Here is a test you can try on just about anyone. Ask them to identify themselves as an ‘eating type’.

The typical answers you will get are Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, intermittent faster, carnivore, omnivore or even the ‘eat everything’ type.

Eating is a tribal activity, and we are always seeking to belong to something. When we belong to a type or a group, we become defensive about it and feel that it is the best system, therefore failing to see the bigger picture.

With regards to nutrition, that bigger picture is personalisation. This is my problem with many of the current ‘popular diets’ - many of them do not account for the individual needs of the user. 

So why do they work? 

To answer this question, we must turn to the science. 

Understanding the Science of Weight Loss

They account for food quantity (calorie surplus/calorie deficit)

Firstly, most of these diets only work on the basis of manipulating your overall calorie intake, sometimes on a drastic scale. This will usually bring understanding the science of weight loss (or gain) but only in the short term.

This ‘calorie in, calorie out’ equation is generally regarded as the main principle at play in whether you gain weight or lose it. 

Eat more than you need, gain weight (this does not mean just muscle mass), or eat less then you will lose weight (this does not just mean body fat).

It’s impossible to override this fundamental fact, so we have to always consider this. When we want to gain weight we must eat more than we need to supply the body with sufficient energy and nutrients in order for it to be able to lay down new muscle tissue. 

The same can be applied for fat loss. We must eat less then we need to ensure the right signals are being sent in order to breakdown body fat and use it for energy. 

They improve the client’s food types (Macronutrient balance)

Many of the modern nutrition protocols also focus on improving the person’s daily food choices, getting them to swap the typical high calorie, low nutrient foods for low calorie, high nutrient foods. 

This ensures the person is then eating a high nutrient diet which in turn makes them not only see visual changes but also their health markers improve and their performance increases too. This usually means the person has more energy to exercise and will conduct it more often. 

In addition, this also: 

  • Helps them control their calorie intake (without counting calories)
  • Provides longer periods of satiation (fullness) between meals
  • Reduces overeating
  • Provides higher total essential nutrients in diet

They improve the micronutrient intake (vitamins and minerals)

A good diet highlights the importance of in taking adequate ​micronutrients  functions daily, including fibre and water. Many of the modern protocols do just this, placing emphasis on whole, single ingredient foods.

This ensures sufficient amounts of fruit and vegetables in the diet, which are also the cornerstones to keeping ample amounts of micronutrients in the diet. 

They improve food timing and frequency

Many of the modern nutrition protocols educate their users on the importance of nutrient timing, that is, on when certain nutrients can be consumed to enhance nutrient partitioning and sensitivity. 

For example, everybody knows of the ‘anabolic window’. It’s that important time post training when our body becomes more sensitive to nutrients, increasing its ability to better partition them. 

A typical 1-4 hour ‘window’ of eating opportunity is considered the norm, and it has always been suggested to include carbohydrates at this time to enhance and increase glucose replenishment post training.

Many modern protocols will also set guidelines on eating frequency to match their other recommendations, thus further enhancing user compliance. 

Supplements

Many modern protocols will also introduce some supplementation in the process of changing someone’s nutritional habits and routine. 

We do know there are a number of supplements that have been field tested and research proven to show they work, but we must always consider the following two things:

  • Quality and Quantity – does the quality of the recommended supplement meet recommended manufactory standards and compliances? Have the key ingredients been significantly researched to prove results - and at the same dosages - prescribed in the supplement? If any of these factors are not met, you should avoid the supplement and find a better available alternative.
  • Is it safe – are all the ingredients in the supplement approved by the World Anti Doping Association (WADA)? If not, you should avoid the supplement and look for an alternative that is. They are not worth the risk.

These two factors must always be considered when suggesting supplements to clients, and even more so when understanding some of the supplements attached to modern nutrition protocols. 

The previous information can be summarised into the following pyramid, with the base being the foundation- the most important- and working upward to the top level. 

Many modern nutrition protocols achieve level 1, thus being able to manipulate the user’s body composition. Others will incorporate levels 2-5, while adhering to all 5 levels always brings the best results. 

These are the fundamental components to any plan. When we read the success stories and testimonials from those following a modern nutrition protocol such as Paleo, intermittent fasting etc, we must understand that this is a result of the manipulation of 1 or more of these categories.

Many of the modern nutrition protocols or ‘diets’ use a variety of guidelines, restrictions or techniques to achieve this. As a result, although they are all doing the same thing (or have a very similar objective) they will feel very different when following them. 

Redefining Nutrition

When seeking to match the right nutrition protocol to someone, it has to be based upon your initial assessment with the client and of course the results they are seeing from following the programme.

Many clients are caught up with just seeing progress as a change in the scales or their clothes, but this is what is also holding them back the most. 

This is why I set myself criteria to always work from when improving someone’s nutrition that I not only focus on how the client is looking, but how they are performing and feeling during the process too. 

From my experience this brings much better results and helps create a successful long-term environment for good nutrition. 

This is because we are moving away from a sole focus on how the person is looking to also considering their health and well-being. 

Therefore, when we are designing nutrition programmes that may or may not include some of the modern nutrition protocols, we must ensure that we also take into consideration and respect how each client looks, feels and performs whilst following our advice. 

Creating a nutrition plan that successfully ticks these boxes for your client will not only bring the best results but will also ensure it has the potential to become a long term change for them in the process. 

How to Diet

Improved body composition

This is what most of our clients instantly want, be it fat loss or to generally look good naked. If body composition is improving without the expense of the other two components and it is maintainable, you are successful controlling energy balance. 

Improved health

Many clients don’t realise their health is a key driving factor to how their body looks. As nutrition coaches it’s important for us to highlight the benefits of following good nutrition that will not only improve body composition but health too.

We should see better energy, sleep, mood, confidence and a general clean bill of health in our clients. 

Improved performance

We should also be aiming for improved performance markers from our nutritional coaching. Whether in our clients’ sports, hobbies or general day time activities, they should be able to perform these to their maximum ability. 

It’s important to always consider and monitor (based on feedback) these three factors, especially when it comes to programme design and when considering the possible introduction of various protocols and techniques. 

This process will also help you assess any new protocols that you may hear or learn about. Before suggesting them to clients, always think: how will this make them feel, look and perform? 

A drop or reduction in any of these three factors is a tell tale sign that the current nutrition recommendations are not quite right for the person. 

Summary

You will know you have found the perfect diet for someone when you can tick off all three of these factors. Achieve this with the majority of your clients and you will find yourself with a very busy schedule and possibly a waiting list. 

In order to find the perfect diet we must match the right nutritional protocols and guidelines that also respect the body’s composition and health pyramid. 

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