More often than not people's nutritional problems can be fixed by a couple of very simple changes and/or additions. I've outlined below the top 3 mistakes that I see with people and how to go about fixing them.
I'm a big believer that the type of calories (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) you eat does matter, but people can overlook the importance of total calories. Yes, it's possible to manipulate macronutrients percentages so that you can eat more or less food with favorable advances toward your body composition goals, BUT total calories matter. I liken the total vs. type of calorie debate to the diet vs. exercise debate. They're not exclusive and both matter!
If you're not reaching your goals, then look at your total calories. Compare your total intake to your theoretical needs (using an equation such as Harris-Benedict Equation). Are you undereating? Overeating? Know these equations give estimates but pay attention to how your caloric intake fits in.
Regardless of your macronutrient breakdown, if you're trying to lose fat then you need to be in a caloric deficient. If your fat loss has stalled and your calories are already low, maybe you need to consider temporally bumping up your calories (250-300 calories) to give your metabolism a jumpstart, instead of re-arranging your macronutrients.
Marketing Guru Dan Kennedy often says he can stump most clients with three questions. I only need one. How compliant are you to your meal plan?
Not getting the results you want is one thing, but to not know how well you're following your plan means you're blindly stumbling around the land of mediocrity with no chance of success.
Lack of proper compliance (justifiably defined by Dr. Berardi as following your dietary plans 90% of the time) is the number 1 reason people don't reach their physique goals. If you aren't reaching your goals, yet haven't filled out a compliance sheet like the one below, I don't want to hear about how the diet you're on doesn't work or that you need a personalized nutrition plan.
If you have no idea how well you're sticking to your current plan, then how can you attribute body composition successes and/or failures to it? You can't. Before you make any nutritional changes check your compliance. Apply a little discipline to monitoring your compliance and it'll save you tons of time in the long run as you'll be able to accurately and objectively determine whether or not changes in your physique can be attributed to your diet.
The internet is great. T-Nation is even better. Ten years ago it was hard to get a training program from any place other than Muscle & Fitness or Flex unless you knew a great trainer.
Fast forward to today and there's an overabundance of training programs accessible at your finger tips. In fact, there are so many programs there is a growing population of people who have become training whores, switching to whatever new program has been published that week.
Unfortunately, the same trend has been emerging with diets and nutrition. Internet forums are overwhelmed with people who are "cutting" one week, "bulking" the next, and "cutting" again the following week. If you've done the Velocity Diet, Massive Eating, Get Shredded Diet, and the Anabolic Diet in the span of 8 weeks then I'm talking to YOU.
Building a great body takes time, consistent application, and methodical modification of a solid training and nutrition plan. One of the best parts of Coach Thib's The Truth About Bulking article was that he stressed how putting on muscle is a long term process (unlike what many companies would like you to believe).
Because it's a long term process, you need to give your nutritional plan a chance to work. I recommend making 1-2 nutritional changes every 2-3 weeks, not changing your whole nutritional strategy every month!
Determine what you want from your physique, create a long term plan, and execute.
Take an honest look at your nutritional program.
- Are you tracking your compliance?
- Do you habitually switch diet plans without giving one a chance to work?
- Do you need to increase or decrease your calories?
Answer these questions and you'll be well on your way to knocking down nutritional road blocks and achieving the physique that others will envy.