When it comes to nutrition, think KISS. And once you get these guys out of your head, you can remember what the acronym stands for: Keep it Simple, Stupid! For long-term success with nutrition, simplicity is key.
Nutrition strategies that are not simple: nutrient timing. carb cycling, intermittent fasting, macro/calorie tracking, and restrictive diets like paleo, keto, or carnivore. We’re not a fan of restrictive diets in the first place, because they tend to lead to cravings. Oscar Wilde said it best:
“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.”
As for nutrient timing, carb cycling, fasting, and tracking – these are advanced strategies that aren’t sustainable for most people, especially long-term. And they should only be used as tools for those who have already mastered the basics.
What are the basics? That’s where simplicity lies. Here are the Viking Athletics 4 Pillars of Optimal Nutrition.
Pillar 1: Eat multiple meals per day.
Meal frequency can be adjusted based on hunger cues, and whether you’re trying to gain muscle, lose fat, or simply maintain where you are. Spreading meals through the day can help you feel sated, so you don’t binge on snacks, or go to bed hungry.
Pillar 2: Eat protein at each meal.
Most people recommend 30g of protein at each meal. But, if we’re not measuring our food, what does that even look like? Rather than worrying about specific grams, we have other ways to estimate your servings. If you’re interested in nutrition for general health, try to fill up ¼ of your plate with a protein source each meal. If you’re interested in nutrition for performance, your palm is a good equivalent of a protein serving. Women get 1 palm per meal, men get 2. That should get you to a good starting point.
Pillar 3: Eat vegetables at each meal.
Vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals that assist with digestion and general health. They also fill you up without contributing a lot of calories to your daily intake. Half your plate should be filled with veggies – this goes for athletes and the general population alike. If you’re not a huge veggie fan, sub out your breakfast veggie with fruit. But try to keep a mix through the day.
Pillar 4: Drink more water.
Water is essential for hydration. It also fills our stomachs, helping with hunger pangs. Sometimes we feel hungry when we’re actually thirsty. The typical guideline for water consumption is “one half your bodyweight in ounces.” So, a 200 lbs person would need 100 oz of water. Again, if we’re not measuring, (and also accounting for the fact that everyone is different, sweats at different rates, etc.), how do we simplify this? Well, one way to check for needed input is to monitor the output. In other words, check your urine. At least twice a day, it should be completely clear.
When you’ve CONSISTENTLY mastered these pillars, if you have more specific goals, you can dive into more advanced strategies. Until then, Keep it Simple, Stupid!