How to feel better, look better, and/or function better for life!
When it comes to nutrition which is more important quality or quantity? That is one of the most common questions that we get as fitness professionals. During this blog, we dive more in-depth with both sides of the equation and provide some key tactics to help you reach your goal.
Have you ever heard of flexible dieting? This is a nutrition strategy that has been around for a while now. First off, we want to go on record for advocating in favor of flexible dieting. We do it and we structure protocols around this concept. We know how effective it is in the right context. However, there is a trap that a lot of people fall into when they engage in flexible dieting. Flexible dieting is designed for you to hit your protein, fat, and carb targets for that day while still enjoying the foods you love. Essentially you get enjoy the foods you love as long as you fit it into your calories/macros for that day. Right off the bat there is nothing wrong with this logic. You can still eat some of the foods you love and reach your goals. The problem comes when people think that quality doesn't have an effect. They believe they can eat WHATEVER they want as long as they stay in a caloric deficit. To a certain degree that is true. Weight loss is predicted on calories in versus calories out. So yes, you will lose weight if you eat in a caloric deficit consistently.
However, when most people say they want to lose weight, what they really mean is that they want to look better, feel better, and/or function better. They are really after fat loss not weight loss. It is extremely important to realize that fat loss and weight loss are two completely different things.
As previously mentioned, weight loss is predicted off of a caloric deficit (quantity). Fat loss is predicted off of both quantity and quality.
Have you ever heard of the McDonalds study? The study was about a guy who ate McDonalds for all three meals for a prolonged period of time. He ate in a caloric deficit and ended up losing weight. However, he lost lean muscle mass during the transformation and ended up with a higher body fat percentage after the fact. So essentially, he looked worse at a lower weight.
If your goal is to look better (fat loss), you need to take quality into account. Eat in a caloric deficit and use the 80/20 outline, that is, 80% of your calories coming from natural, whole food sources (usually foods with 5 ingredients or less). This still allows you to use the remaining 20% on foods you enjoy (ice cream pizza etc) as long as you are hitting your protein and caloric ranges. This method is extremely effective for multiple reasons.
One of the reasons why you want to utilize food quality is because it helps drive long-term sustainable results. I like to think of a car analogy when I talk about the fat loss process. Quantity (the caloric deficit) would be the engine and steering wheel. Quantity is the prime mover of results because it creates the direction and power. Quality would be the oil in this scenario. It keeps everything underneath the hood running smoothly and gives sustainability to the engine. If you don't have oil you might 'put on some miles' but eventually your engine will break down.
The best way to account for quality is to intentionally place micronutrients (fruits and vegetables) into your diet and create variety within your meals. Variety is a huge win-win when it comes to fat loss. First, it provides a wide range of micronutrients which helps decrease deficiencies within your body. Secondly, it creates variation within your nutrition which drives adherence. You won't get as bored with the same foods and structure. It will inherently keep you more consistent because you will enjoy your meals and snacks.
In closing, I want to encourage you to take both factors into account (quality and quantity). Don't view nutrition as 'how much junk food can I get away with while still reaching my goal'. Instead, view it through the lens of long-term health, sustainability, and enjoyment. Food is more much than just fuel. It is also culture, experiences, and community. When you understand this you can begin to frame a sustainable nutritional lifestyle. If you are looking for individual help, please feel free to reach out. We would love to help set up some lifestyle friendly systems for you. We also have several membership options and 1-on-1 coaching spots that are designed to teach you nutritional tactics that you can utilize throughout your life. Your best is yet to come!