Diets and Nutrition. Breaking it down.

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There is no shortage of diets, eating plans, eating patterns and body hacks available.  Some more healthy than others, some easier to stick to than others.  From Atkins to Weight Watchers, six meals a day to one meal a day, they all have benefits and weaknesses, pros and cons.

Over the last few years, I think I’ve tried most of them, some are really similar to others, some very different.  For the most part, they just line someone else’s pockets.  Ever seen the price of an Atkins bar or looked at the price on Vegan supplements?  It’s enough to make your bank account scream for mercy.

I’ve distilled everything down to some simple rules that are working for me.  They may not work for you, or fit your lifestyle.  Play with them, see what works for you and make adjustments.  Our biology is extremely complex, there is no one size fits all.

The first thing you need to know, and this is the part that sucks the most, is how many calories you need in a day and to track them.  The average adult male requires around 2000 calories a day, this varies by how much muscle mass you have, height, overall weight, etc.

” Fun Fact: While you may need 2000 calories a day a McDonalds Double Big Mac Meal is 1580 calories. Leaving you little room for anything else to eat that day!

The good news is the internet has no shortage of TDEE calculators.

TDEE stands for Total Daily Energy Expenditure.  Google one and enter your data.  If losing weight is your goal make sure to check ‘sedentary’ for activity level, even if you are working out.  Otherwise, it will add too many extra calories and you will never drop the body fat.

Once you know what your caloric max is for the day, you can start figuring out you can eat.  Our diet is basically broken down into three “Macros”  Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates.  The most important of which is Protein.  Fat and Carbohydrates(sugar) are energy sources.  You are going to need to use a tracking app to make sure you keep these right.  MyFitnesspal or Chronometer are good ones.

Prioritize your Protein intake.  Recommendations for how much protein you need very, generally from 0.8 grams to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight(or lean body mass, just go by body weight and keep it simple)  Remember.  Protein is a goal, fat and carbs are limits.

Fats are essential to our diet, they are used for proper brain function and hormone production.  The sugar industry spent billions during the eighties to vilify fat so they could make money.  Every time you look at something that has “low fat” written on it, it has a correspondingly high sugar content.  It’s the only way to make it taste good.  It’s really not surprising that since the eighties, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity have skyrocketed.  If you choose to eat lots of carbs, make sure to get a minimum 50g of healthy fats in your diet.

” There are essential amino-acids (proteins) and essential fatty-acids (fats) that we can only get through our diet.  There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate (sugar).

Carbohydrates are a super easy quick energy source.  In natural doses, such as fruit and vegetables they are perfectly fine. However, in refined and processed forms such as white sugar, bread and pasta, evil lurks.

Let’s take a moment and break down a basic overview of how our metabolism works.  Our body has two sources of energy. Fats and Carbs.  Carbs are quick and easy, priority processing.  That may make you think its a great source of fuel.  Anyone who tells you that is a liar.

The reason carbs get priority processing is because they are TOXIC.  For most people it’s not to worry about, we have an excellent defence mechanism.  For people with metabolic disease & diabetes, it can be deadly.  That defence mechanism is insulin.

When we eat carbs, especially high doses of carbs, our blood sugar level spikes.  This can, in the long run, cause all manner of serious health issues, i.e. diabetic coma.  Insulin to the rescue.  Insulin grabs hold of the sugar molecules in our blood and shuttle them off to our fat cells for storage, energy to be used at a later date.  Our typical Western diet, however, rarely allows us to dip into that energy storage leading to obesity, heart, and metabolic disease.  It’s best to keep the sugar levels to a minimum.

Overall, for me, keeping the refined carbs out of the diet has been very effective.  That’s not to say that I never eat bread, pasta, pizza or drink beer.  I most certainly do but in moderation and certainly not on a daily bases.

So where are the simple rules I said I was going to put here before blasting you with knowledge overload?  Don’t worry, here it is.  Simple rules.

  1. Look at your food from an evolutionary perspective.  If our pre-agriculture ancestors wouldn’t recognize it as a food you probably shouldn’t eat it.  Stick to meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and berries.  Don’t drive yourself nuts with it though, have that slice of pizza or wings.  Just be reasonable and track what you eat.
  2. Prioritize Protein.  That protein macro can be hard to hit, especially if you go up to the 1.2g target.  But it’s worth it.  Getting all your protein while otherwise in a caloric deficit will prevent muscle loss while losing weight and even help you build it.  It’s also filling and slow digesting.  Keeping you fuller, longer.
  3. Eat a minimum of 50g of healthy fat.  You need it for proper hormone production and brain function.  Dietary fat is also a great energy source if you’re severely restricting carbs (ketogenic diet)
  4. Keep your Carbs clean.  Fresh fruit and vegetables, especially green veggies.  They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre.  Refined, processed sugars are okay occasionally but try to keep within your caloric goals and hit your protein goal first.
  5. I didn’t go into it above, but Intermittent fasting works great for caloric restriction.  I recommend 16/8 because it’s not too intense.  You’re basically just skipping breakfast. 16 hours no food, eat everything the remaining 8.  This isn’t mandatory, just a helpful hack to keep out the over snacking.

That’s really all there is.  4 simple rules, 1 helpful hack.  Track everything you eat and read all the labels on packaged foods.  Keep it clean.

Note: This post was recovered from an old, now defunct, blog


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Jack of all trades. I.T. edition. Programmer, Systems Administrator, DevOps and whatever else comes up.