The most important part of a diet plan is you. There you go—conversation over. I am kidding. The most important part of a diet plan is you. The reason for that is you are the person that has to follow it. If the plan does not work for you, then it is not for you.
What a diet plan is not
A diet plan, nutrition strategy, approach to eating, or whatever wording may be used is and is not certain things. Or perhaps it is better to say there are certain things it should not be if it is going to work for you. It should not be:
- Overly restrictive
- Too complicated
- Something you cannot stick to
Any nutrition strategy will have you restrict something. Veganism removes animal products, Paleo cuts out a variety of food classes such as legumes, Keto significantly reduces carbs, and other nutrition approaches restrict in other ways.
These approaches work for the right people, meaning Veganism, Paleo, Keto, and most other nutrition strategies are not too restrictive in and of themselves. However, the plans are too restrictive if a person cannot stick to them.
Some people are fans of animal products and cutting these out of a nutrition plan will lead to lack of compliance, making the plan too restrictive for them. Some people like legumes and cutting these out of a nutrition plan will lead to lack of compliance, making the plan too restrictive for them. Some people do not function well on low carb, and cutting almost all carbs out of a nutrition plan will lead to lack of compliance, making the plan too restrictive for them.
The idea here is the plans are not too restrictive per se, but rather that people will not follow such restriction, which makes the plan too restrictive. Regardless, a plan cannot be overly restrictive if a person is to be successful using it.
One of the biggest issues our clients face with nutrition is simplicity, or rather a lack thereof. Often, people are not good cooks, cannot or will not make time for cooking, and prefer a plan of convenience.
A plan becomes too complicated if a person cannot understand it or cannot fit it into their lifestyle. For example, some clients we work with have children with allergies as well as spouses with health conditions, while the client has neither. While we could suggest using three different meal plans—one for the spouse, one for the child, and one for the client—this will likely make the plan too complicated in terms of trying to follow three different plans, but also difficult in terms of prep. Instead we create one plan that takes into account all issues and preferences, and provide ongoing feedback for implementation and modification of the plan over time.
A plan must be simple enough for a person to understand and fit into their life.
Something you cannot stick to
Simply put, if a plan is too restrictive or too complicated, you are not going to stick to it. While a restrictive or complicated plan might work temporarily, the overall plan should be something you can stick too. If you want to be hardcore for eight weeks at a time to get that summer body, prepare for a sport competition, or some other goal such as trying a different nutrition strategy just to see how it works, that is fine, but you must circle back around to something you can stick to before you lose compliance.
What a diet plan is
Your eating strategy should provide you the fuel to reach your goals, a sustainable method of eating, and should be as simple as reasonably possible. Think about that for a moment. The plan should
- Fuel you
- Be sustainable
- Be simple
These are easy steps that are all too often made complicated.
To fuel you, a diet simply needs to provide energy. Calories equal energy regardless of the macronutrient source. By nature, the body prefers carbohydrates as the body has an easier time converting this into muscle glycogen. That said, fat can be burned for fuel as can protein.
In reality, fat or carbohydrates can be used as the primary fuel source, while protein is needed for tissue building and repair, DNA formation, nervous system function, and other purposes, such as brain function. Whether high protein, low fat, Keto, Paleo, vegan, or any other nutritional method, as long as you receive enough calories, you will be fueled. It is that simple
Not everyone can follow Keto. Not everyone wants to go Vegan. Not everyone likes meat. Not everyone likes low carb. This is okay. As long as you find a nutrition plan that allows you to meet your goals and sustain the approach long term, you will be successful.
You cannot follow a nutrition strategy because a friend does, because a coach says so, or because a popular social media person says it is the best. You have to follow a plan that works for you in the long run, meaning it has to be sustainable. While you can vary to something more intense, and therefore unsustainable, periodically, the overall nutrition plan you use should be one you can sustain for years.
You do not need fancy meals. You do not need to overly focus on calories or macros. You do not have to follow a specific diet strategy such as Paleo, Atkins, or the others mentioned above. What you have to do is the thing that works to help you reach your goals.
With that in mind, stop worrying about what everyone else says. Stop thinking about or researching the best meal timing, anabolic windows, and other crap that is not relevant to your goals. At the base, a nutrition plan only needs to help you reach your goals. Want to lose weight? Focus on a calorie deficit. Want to gain wait? Focus on a caloric surplice. Want to maintain weight? Focus on calorie balance.
The more complicated your goals, if you have special circumstance such as a medical condition that calls for a modified nutrition, or if you are an athlete, then the more complicated your nutrition might need to be. But regardless, the nutrition plan should never be more complicated that the minimum needed to reach your goals. Keep it simple and save yourself time, money, and stress.
What diet plan is for you
The diet plan for you is the one you can follow and reach your goals. Both elements need to exist. It is easy to note a diet has helped someone else reach their goals, but if you cannot follow it, then you will never reach those same goals. It is also easy to say a diet plan is one you can follow, but if it does not allow you to reach you goals, it is not a good plan.
The plan must:
- Be one you can follow
- Allow you to reach your goals
Be one you can follow
A diet plan must fit your life. For example, if you are a busy executive, visiting the local farmers market to source fresh meats and vegetables, taking those home, preparing them, cooking them, and finally eating them for each meal does not make sense. By that logic, if you have a tight budget, purchasing meat at $20 per pound may not be an option and if you are not well skilled in the kitchen, making five course meals may not be an option. The meal plan you follow must fit your budget, must be convenient to work into your schedule, and must be something you can prepare. There is no right or wrong here; there is only what works.
A plan must meet your nutritional needs for you to follow it. If you have celiac disease, someone cannot expect you to eat a diet with gluten. If you are diabetic, a high carb diet is not ideal. If you a 200-pound athlete, someone cannot expect you to only consume 50 grams of protein per day. Your nutritional needs must be met.
To a large degree, your food preferences must be considered as well. If you like cake, someone cannot expect you to never eat cake again. If you are a meat eater, someone cannot expect you to become vegan. If you like carbs, someone cannot expect you to go Keto. While any of these options are fine in general, the approach must fit your food preferences. If it does not, you will not follow it long term. Now, there must be balance. You cannot just eat cake and ice cream all the time and expect to be lean and healthy. Nutritional value is important. But at the same time, you should be able to eat things you enjoy.
Allow you to reach your goals
This is really simple—the plan must move you toward your goals. If performance is your goal, and the nutrition plan does not provide enough fuel, it is wrong for you. If your goal is weight loss and the plan causes you to gain weight, it is wrong for you. It does not get much simpler than that. You must adhere to the plan to reach your goals; if you do not then you are the problem, not the plan. At the same time, while some trial and error will occur, if you plan continuously fails to create results, it needs changed.
The most important part of a diet plan
You are the most important part of a diet plan. The plan you follow must be followable and help you reach your goals. It does not matter if a celebrity trainer, nutritionist, doctor, popular author, or some other high name individual made the plan— if these needs are not meant, then the plan is not for you.
Find out more about our training and nutrition services by visiting our site here.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!