In today’s world, diet and nutrition is a relatively confusing arena. There are a countless number of diets out there that are all advertised by various ‘experts’ for reasons that sometimes make sense—and sometimes do not. Furthermore, every finger-scroll on social media leads us to another quick-fix gimmick that preys upon people’s shortcomings by showcasing ‘success stories’ that are based on temporary, unsustainable, and unhealthy weight loss. Not only that, but the supplement industry is just another avenue of approach that allows companies to capitalize on poor nutrition by selling practically useless products for much more than they are worth.

Even worse, the social and political atmosphere of the nutrition industry has grown increasingly dogmatic and less scientific. It is common for a proponent of a particular diet to devotedly defend baseless dietary claims in the face of concrete evidence. The search for nutritional truth seems over because it has been overridden by dietary orthodoxy that is religious in nature. 

This is why the nutritional arena is confusing, but it does not have to be. There are many simple nutritional principles that were once transparent aspects of human nature. However, the advent of industrialization and technology has unjustifiably concealed the basis of human nutrition. In the following posts, I will lay the foundation of nutrition to showcase the role that nourishing, wholesome foods play in human performance. The information we will be covering will be simplified to ensure fluid understanding, but is still based on evolutionary science, the history of the U.S. nutrition industry, and an understanding of human physiology. The explanation of these three components is essential to understanding how we got to this point, where we are going, and where we should be going in regards to public health. For now, let us dive into a quick overview of what a nourishing, performance-enhancing diet looks like. Below are the basic nutritional principles that will improve overall health, longevity, and performance. 

Principle #1: Nourishing foods are the bedrock of optimal human performance

A diet should not focus so much on calories and macronutrient contents, but should focus on including the most nourishing foods in the diet in order to maximize recovery and overall performance.

Principle #2: Eliminate processed foods

Processed foods include an abundance of toxic substances and a shortage of essential nutrients that will inevitably derail human performance. These foods should not be included in the diet, including refined grains, refined sugar, high fructose corn syrups, refined/hydrogenated vegetable oils, protein supplements, synthetic/artificial ingredients, and anything other than raw dairy products. A good rule of thumb is to only consume products that come from the ground or from an animal with minimal processing. This includes pre-workout and other supplements. A proper diet and adequate sleep will provide ample amounts of energy. If desired, coffee is an excellent replacement for pre-workout supplements, as it provides an efficient pick-me-up without the harmful effects of artificial toxins and unnaturally high amounts of caffeine.

Principle #3: Animal foods should be abundant in the diet

Animal foods have an abundance of nutrients that are highly bioavailable, meaning they are easily processed and absorbed by the body when compared to plant foods. The properties of these nutrients are essential for optimal human performance and good health, and should make up the majority of the diet.

Principle #4: Fat and cholesterol are not the enemy

The consumption of dietary fat and cholesterol does not correlate with bodily fat and cholesterol, though this has been unjustifiably advertised by modern medicine. Fat and cholesterol play key roles in human physiology, and are both necessary for optimal human performance. The true causes of ill health fall in line with Principle #2 and Principle #3, in which the diet is high in processed foods and lacking in animal foods.

Principle #5: Vitamins and minerals play an important role in human performance

Each essential vitamin and mineral plays a key role in maximizing human health and performance. These key roles include—but are not limited to—balancing hormones, maintaining gut health, and maintaining musculoskeletal health. A deficiency in the key vitamins and minerals can significantly impair performance, day-to-day wellbeing, and long-term health. The vast majority of these vitamins and minerals are found in a diet high in animal foods and high-quality salt. It is important that vitamins and minerals are synergistically entangled, so they sometimes rely on each other for absorption. Animal foods provide the most bioavailable sources of vitamins and minerals, so they are preferred over synthetic sources such as supplements.

Principle #6: Grains, seeds, and nuts should be properly prepared when consumed

Grains, seeds, and nuts contain naturally occurring anti-nutrients that interfere with the functioning of the body. In order to neutralize these anti-nutrients, they should be consumed only after being soaked, sprouted, or fermented. Additionally, these foods should be generally limited in the diet if possible.

Principle #7: A nourishing diet does not need to be boring

A common misconception regarding a diet based on the above principles is that the foods are generally dull and uninteresting. However, there is a vast selection of animal products on the market, including eggs, milk, butter, specialty cheeses, prepared grains (such as sourdough bread or soaked oats), various cuts and breeds of fish, pork, chicken, beef, broths, fermented beverages, and specialty salt. An enormous array of meals can be made with the selection at hand, and these foods are much more nourishing than the foods of the standard diet. Over time, one will usually find that the body craves these foods much more than the processed foods, and this diet is generally more enjoyable than others when implemented properly.

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We will continue to dive into the nuts and bolts of each of the above principles in future posts. Before we wrap things up, I want to leave you with one last message.  I commonly witness individuals who choose not to follow a nourishing diet because they feel they are healthy in their current state, and that may very well be so. If this is you, there are two important concepts that may be helpful to you. 

  1. Many of us do not know what it feels like to be in a properly healthy state because we have been consuming modern foods for an extended period of time. After a few months on a nourishing diet, previous ailments that were once unbeknownst become recognized because the body is healing and those ailments aren’t ‘normal’ anymore. If you choose to try this out, you will almost certainly notice the difference in a very short period of time. 
  2.  It often takes time for ailments to physically manifest in the body. In other words, an ailment caused by malnutrition may be ‘brewing’ for years on end, but will only manifest itself later on in life. By that time, it could be too late to fully recover. This is why I recommend getting started now in order to avoid the potential repercussions down the road.  
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the common ailments we witness in our society today are due to malnourishment and undernourishment, but these ailments are commonly blamed on genetics. Yes, genetics plays a role, but we must also consider how our environment and nutrition affects our genes. The fields of study that encompass this concept are epigenetics, nutrigenetics, and nutrigenomics. These fields show us that not everything is simply hereditary, and our environment/nutrition affect our bodies much more than we are led to believe. With the above principles, you will be armed with the information necessary to prevent and even cure chronic disease, ranging from obesity to autoimmune disorders, regardless of the specific disease being labeled as hereditary or not. 

These principles lay the foundation for you to optimize not just your health, but your life. Health is the foundation of all life, so we should all dedicate some time and energy to it. Take the time to build these healthy and nourishing habits now, and you will find that it will become second nature very quickly. Let us all leave the days of tirelessly tracking food intake while not making progress in the past, and welcome a bright future filled with health, vitality, and strength.

Torianne McRae

Tori is the founder and CEO of Gym Rats Only LLC. She is an expert in holistic nutrition and has a passion for helping others achieve their physical fitness and nutrition goals

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