We have all heard the “just eat healthy”, “eat a balanced diet”, “eat this”, “don’t eat that” phrases from just about everyone. Most people do not understand the most important philosophies regarding nutrition and just like in training some people do see results not because of their nutritional “rules” but because their following nutritional science without even knowing it. Here are the most important factors listed most to least important.
Calories in versus calories out. Nothing is more important than this (regarding your bodyweight). Depending on your goals (losing or gaining) you must have you calories above or below output. Eating more, no matter what the food source will make you gain weight and vice versa. A very important thing to remember about this factor (when losing weight is the goal) is that there is no need to drastically drop calories immediately. Always manipulate calories slowly to keep a healthy metabolic rate.
This is a close second. It is important to consume the correct amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in order to achieve optimal performance, recovery, and body composition (fat loss). There are essential nutrients the body requires in the form of fats and protein. Your carbohydrate intake will largely depend on your goals and energy output.
Not meeting a balanced macronutreint plan will not produce the same results even if calories are equal. Bodyweight will still be affected but performance, recovery, and body comp can all suffer.
Everyone is different when macros are concerned. Goals, gender, carbohydrate tolerance, and phenotype usually all come into play
This is not nearly as important as the first two factors. This is usually always a question of personal preference. I recommend utilizing carbohydrates around workout times for better performance in the gym. Not because they are less like to be stored as fat. However, there are people who perform better with less carbohydrates around workout time. This is the factor that most people get too caught up in. When do I eat carbs? Fat? Protein? Yes, nutrient timing is a factor but the two most important factors far out weigh the third.
The fitness industry is rampant with articles and diets that specialize in food avoidance. This, in my opinion, is also personal preference. Do we some people have food intolerances? Absolutely. Does that mean we should all avoid that food? Absolutely not. There is no scientific reason that someone with a healthy digestive system should avoid a particular food, and that food is not making them fat. Find out which foods you enjoy that work well with you and eat the appropriate amount to satisfy the first two factors.
Remember that micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals are also essential to the body. This should be a determining factor when thinking about food sources.