Reducing nutritional deficiencies is a huge step that people forget to think about. When trying to lose fat and build muscle, most of us want to know what to cut out and what we should be eating. We want to cut carbs and sugar, eat more veggies, a lot more protein, only eat raw, or whatever. I don’t know. You have heard it all before.
- Should I go high-carb or low-carb?
- High protein or moderate protein?
- Protein shakes, or only whole food?
- Should I eat every 2-3 hours, or just 3-meals a day?
- Does Paleo or going Vegan work for bodybuilders?
While all of these may sound like good ideas, and have some redeeming value, they don’t attack the problem with most people, from bodybuilders to weekend warriors. There is no perfect diet, but all of the example diets above do hold a tremendous amount of educational value. Dr. John Berardi has researched and found studies that show the majority of people, even the so-called “perfect” eaters and athletes, can be deficient in many nutritional areas.
There was a study in the British Journal of Medicine that showed a 5% decrease in aggression and a 26% decrease in antisocial behavior in prison inmates just by taking a fish oil supplement, multi-vitamin, and mineral supplement. Also, a paper published in Nutrition Reviews showed that giving kids fish oil and a multi-vitamin improved behavior and intelligence scores. Imagine what reducing deficiencies can do for gaining muscle and losing fat?
No matter how well we eat, chances are we have some type of nutritional deficiency. This is why many physique athletes who go on a diet feel lousy. They have low energy, lack focus, are in a bad mood, and are short of endurance. I have been guilty of noticing these signs as well and not doing anything about them.
Here are some common deficiencies you need to look for:
- Water (low-level hydration): Dry skin, low energy, bloating and constipation are all signs to look for.
- Vitamins and minerals: Low energy, poor immune function, and a low intake of vegetables are some signs to look for.
- Protein (particularly in women and men with low appetites): This can happen when you are not eating enough protein-rich foods. Low amounts of lean muscle tissue, low energy, reduced strength, and not recovering from your workouts are some signs to look for.
- Essential fatty acids (95% of the population is deficient here): Poor immunity, inflammation, up and down blood sugar, and reduced satiety are all signs to look for.
How do I know I am deficient?
If you are having one of the side effects I mentioned above, most likely you have a deficiency. Keep in mind that you may never be without deficiencies, but you can drastically improve them to where you will not notice signs or symptoms.
I am not big on counting calories, macros, etc., but if you want to get some raw data, you can visit Fitday or livestrong.com and use their calculators. An easier way to start reducing deficiencies is to follow this quick guide.
- Eat more of the protein-rich foods that you prefer, such as organic eggs and chicken, grass-fed beef and whey protein, and even plant sources like legumes and nuts. Strive for at least 2 palm-sized servings for 3 meals.
- Drink more hydrating fluids; Drink at least 64oz-100oz of water each day, depending on your muscle mass and activity level. If you have a tough time drinking enough water, start by limiting other beverages, such as coffee, tea, and soda.
- Take in more essential fats (through fish, oil, krill or sea algae oils); Those fats I mentioned will provide the omega-3 fatty acids and EPA/DHA that you need, but not all of them. Also include 2-4 more servings of healthy each day coming from avocados, almonds, coconut oil, and fatty fish.
- Eat more foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients; Consume at least 1 fist full of vegetables at 3 of your meals. Using a whole food green supplement such as wheat grass and green food powders can help fill in the gaps.
The bottom line is if you are deficient in nutrients, you will constantly battle to achieve your health and fitness goals. Getting in all of the nutrients that you need through food will be a tough task, especially since most people are way too busy to prepare and eat the food we need.