why a nutrition plan isn't one size fits all
For the most part, people love simplicity. The ease of having a meal plan or nutrition guide makes people feel safe; like you can’t go wrong. Having “instructions” gives peace of mind and tells you exactly what to eat and when. There’s no guesswork! This is what most of us think, right? If it were only that easy, we would all have amazing results! Unfortunately, this is not the case. Here we will discuss why a nutrition plan, meal plan or diet can’t be one size fits all.
we don't believe in blanket diets for all people
To start our discussion, let’s look at statistics (gender, weight and age) for two individuals and their goals. First, meet Jerry, a 61-year old male that weighs 260 pounds. He has a goal of losing 100 pounds. Now, meet Jessica, a 24-year old female that weighs 120 pounds. She has a goal to build lean muscle mass. Given their starting weights, age and their goals, it is impossible for them to have results if they follow the same plan. The nutrition plans and hydration protocols without a doubt must be entirely different for these two people if they want to reach their goals. A plan created for Jessica to reach her goal of gaining muscle mass would not work for Jerry to lose 100 pounds and vice versa. Even two people with similar goals can struggle with trying to follow the same plans because the body can respond differently. Therefore, each meal plan must be tailored to the specific person, their body and their goals.
Someone looking to lose weight will have a different caloric count, macro nutrient content (fat, protein and carbohydrates) and water needs than someone looking to build muscle. Males need a different number of calories per day than females. To maintain weight, females need to consume 2,000 calories. To lose one pound per week, caloric intake should be reduced to 1,500 calories. For males this is 2,500 calories and 2,000 respectively. How active they are will have a huge bearing on these numbers, as well as how much water they should consume per day. Are they mostly sedentary in their spare time? Do they run 5 miles every morning? They could be an avid bicycle rider or swimmer! Do they do manual labor or sit at a desk for work? All these things play a role in what they should have in their meal plan or diet. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why we don’t believe in blanket diets for all people.
hormones play a huge role
Hormones influence every aspect of the body. Physical, mental, emotional, you name it and your hormones play a huge role. For this discussion it is important to understand what hormones are and what they do in the body. Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced by the endocrine glands. The circulatory system moves them throughout the body which allows them to initiate specific functions including hunger, reproduction, mood, sleep, etc. Our body chemistry is greatly controlled by hormones. Why is this? Well, they are the carriers of signals between the organs and cells in the body. Here are some hormones in the body: cortisol, leptin, insulin, oestrogen, testosterone, ghrelin, growth hormone, progesterone, melatonin, adrenaline, renin, oxytocin, and so many more. Every hormone has a different job to do in the body. Therefore, it is crucial to be conscious of how lifestyle choices impact hormone production.
Imbalances in hormones can have an impression on nearly every part of your daily routine. The body needs a pretty specific amount of each hormone to function at its best! Hormones also fluctuate based on our age, some decrease as you get older. This decrease can happen more suddenly for some and slower for others. Imbalances can cause issues with weight gain or unexplained weight loss, sleep quality, skin health, digestive discomfort, sex drive, mood and depression, pain and/or swelling of muscles and joints, etc. This list could go on and on… hormones are so important!
What does all of this have to do with why a nutrition plan, meal plan, or diet can’t be one size fits all? To put it frankly, your hormones set the tone for how your body responds to what you eat! This can be thought of in reverse also, what you eat can affect your hormones! It is a two way street. There are a few things that you can do to make sure your hormones are balanced including: regular exercise, protein at every meal, manage stress, lower sugar and carb consumption, consume health fats, just to name a handful!
You likely know how important hydration is. Being dehydrated can cause many issues for your health. Most causes of dehydration are associated to sweating or illness. It is easy to forget to drink enough water so remember that you can dehydrate yourself just by not paying attention! Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, constipation, etc. We believe that a lot of people overlook monitoring their water consumption. When it comes to your nutrition plan or diet make sure that you are taking water into consideration. It is so very important but doesn’t always get much attention.
When we met Jerry and Jessica, we noted that hydration protocol varied based on their statistics and goals. The recommended amount of water is based on your body weight. For Jerry, at 260 pounds, he would want to consume approximately 130 ounces of water each day. For Jessica, she would be looking to drink at least 60 ounces. So, just based on their weight, the water intake is over double for Jerry. Now, let’s go one step further. The amount of water you drink goes up for every hour of activity that you do. You will want to add 15 oz for each hour.Let’s look at their hydration in connection to their goals. Most likely Jerry will need to have more intense physical activity to lose 100 pounds than Jessica who is looking at gaining lean muscle mass. This means he will probably need to add even more to his 130 ounces of water each day.
What is biofeedback and why is it so important? It measures different functions of the body. We always stress the idea of “listening to your body” which is just being aware of your body’s biofeedback! Nutrition will never be one size fits all because everyone will respond to stress differently. There are a few different measurements that can be done from a medical perspective: measuring muscle tension (EMG), body temperature changes, measuring heart and pulse rate, evaluating brain activity, etc. While these are certainly important, there are some functions that you can evaluate on your own. Let’s see how you can use them to see why a nutrition plan, meal plan, or diet can’t be one size fits all.
Some biofeedback indicators:
- Hunger – are you hungry or are you eating out of habit, emotion or boredom? Are you paying close attention to cues that your body needs to eat? Some people eat just because it’s time (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Dehydration can make the body feel hungry. You may just be thirsty!Let’s talk hormones and hunger for a second. Leptin and ghrelin are hormones that are related to managing weight and appetite. As mentioned, hormones can wreak havoc in the body if not balanced and these hormones are no different. We will go into this a little more when we talk about sleep quality.
- Energy – do you feel tired or fatigued? Is it time to get that workout in and you really don’t feel like it? Feeling low on energy is a sign that your body doesn’t have everything it needs… and this is often connected to nutrition. On the flip side if you are feeling energetic, you are likely providing the body with what it needs to perform optimally. This is one biofeedback measurement that a good percentage of the population usually ignores… or attributes to other lifestyle characteristics (working long hours, running around with kids, etc.) We would venture to guess that few people do not make the connection between their energy and what they eat.
- Sleep Quality – getting enough sleep is important, but getting quality sleep is even more crucial. We mentioned leptin and ghrelin above, so you know they are hormones that have to do with hunger. Well, without proper sleep the body makes less leptin and more ghrelin… leptin is responsible for signaling the brain that you are full, ghrelin is responsible for signaling hunger. You can see why an imbalance in these hormones can cause one to believe they are hungry or not “feel” full (because the signals are crossed)!
- Mood and Focus – similarly to our discussion on energy this mood and focus are very seldom attributed to diet and nutrition. Well, mood and focus are both linked to hormones and we’ve already talked about that at great length. Did you know they are also both connected to hunger? You might find if you don’t eat when your body needs it you become “hangry” … or in a bad mood because you’re hungry! You might find that you lose focus and your mind wanders when you get hungry. These situations don’t necessarily occur just when you’re hungry… they can happen when your body isn’t getting fed the right things. The vitamins and nutrients (or lack thereof) can set the tone for both your mood and ability to focus.
- Sex Drive – this biofeedback measurement is most connected to hormones. Again, we’ve discussed at great length how they work for (or against) your body. Improper nutrition can strongly manipulate hormone levels. Less estrogen, progesterone and testosterone will result in a decreased sex drive.
other factors that play a role
Here are some other factors that play a role into why a nutrition plan, meal plan or diet can’t be one size fits all:
- Taste Buds– everyone has different taste buds so a specific meal plan will not fit all individuals. For example, Jerry might love broccoli and Jessica might hate the taste of it. Jerry might hate salmon and Jessica could have it for every meal.
- Food Allergies– there are so many food allergies and sensitivities that one plan cannot fit all. Jerry may do fine with dairy while Jessica can’t have anything with dairy in it. Jessica might be fine with gluten and Jerry has celiac. If they both tried to eat the same meal, it is unlikely one of them wouldn’t have problems.
- Digestion– some people can’t have raw vegetables; others can’t have cooked. The body… more specifically the digestive system is highly unique. Therefore, Jerry might be able to go out to eat with not issues at all and Jessica doesn’t dare because she has troubles finding things that don’t bother her digestion.
- Leaky Gut – this condition is a sign of poor gut health. The health of the gut plays a huge factor in creating a meal plan. For someone with poor gut health, they will want to focus on specific foods to feed healthy (good) gut bacteria growth.
- Your Past– simply put, what have you been doing the last 5 years affects your diet today. Think of the items described above, digestion and leaky gut especially, can be symptoms of how your body is responding to damage done over time. Most digestive issues are not an “instant” problem but rather something that builds over time. Unfortunately, this is generally a result of past choices and how you’ve treated your body.
You can see from this plethora of information; just how difficult it is to find a plan that will suit the masses. These points just touch the surface of why a nutrition plan, meal plan, or diet can’t be one size fits all. Every single body has a unique set of circumstances that will determine how it responds to nutrition and diet.