By: Brad Dieter, PhD
TL;DR: Having foundation knowledge, a diverse toolbox, empathy, and a really good ability to understand context is critical
I have been at this whole nutrition thing for over a decade. I’ve gotten two advanced degrees, coached probably over a 1,000 people, experimented on myself, read close to 300 books, and written more articles than I care to admit. Despite all that there is still a whole lot I don’t know. In fact, the more I read and learn the more I realize I don’t know.
In an age and medium (the internet) where being right is equal to your status we don’t spend a lot of time telling people about our shortcomings and lack of knowledge. Well I wanted to be brutally honest and tell you things that even with a PhD I honestly don’t know.
THE PERFECT MACROS
I’m going to shoot it to you straight. I honestly have no freaking clue what the perfect macro ratio is. I honestly don’t think there is one. I think it varies a lot from person to person and I think it takes A LOT of experimenting with clients. There are really good solid fundamental principles I do know and use as starting points but 98% of the time the first “macros” I give a client aren’t right. They are usually close but they always need adjusting.
The bravado people have on the internet espousing their specific macro ratios kind of baffles me. Those people are either lying and trying to sell books or delusional. I mean seriously, saying you have unlocked the perfect macro ratio is pretty ridiculous.
Now saying, “I have some really good principles I can share with you and I have learned a lot about context and how to problem solve” is 100% legit. But honesty is pretty key. I probably won’t ever write an article or a book saying, “everyone should follow X diet plan”. If I do. Call me out on it and I will retract the whole thing and pay me penance.
WHAT YOUR EXACT CALORIE INTAKE SHOULD BE
Look, the calories out equation (or energy utilized equation : hat tip to our reader David for the discussion the other day) is pretty nuanced an complicated.
We have good formulas that give us an excellent starting point for most people (i.e. the Harris-Benedict Equation).
Unfortunately contrary to Tyler Durden’s belief we are actually unique snowflakes and we need to do some guess and check with ourselves/ our clients. I even have a pretty slick tool you can use to get a starting base for your nutrition but it does take some tinkering and experimenting with yourself to kind your sweet spot.
It isn’t horribly complicated and it usually takes about 3-4 weeks to find out where your baseline is but you can’t just assume you know exactly what your needs are from day 1 when working with a client.
THE PERFECT DIET FOR EVERYONE
Paleo, Keto, Zone, IIFYM, Intermittent Fasting. There are probably more diet systems than dollars in my wallet right now (I need to sell you guys some products or something soon to fix that). Let me share my own bias; I think there is no perfect diet for everyone. I think they are all tools, some more useful than others and we need to use them appropriately.
What determines which one you should use? Well pretty much everything. Lifestyle matters a lot. Training style matters a lot. Budget matters a lot. Food access matters a lot. Your goals matter a lot. These are all things you have to consider when trying to find the right “diet”.
HOW CAN I GET RESULTS
Right now you are probably thinking to yourself, “How the heck can this guy get results?”. Fair question. Let me tell you the truth. I have built a solid knowledge base over the past decade that is rooted in the science and in real world application. I have a serious toolbox I can use and a really good understanding of context and human behavior.
Honestly, I don’t think knowing the magical macro ratio, the perfect calorie equation, or what the single best diet is would make me any better. In fact, it would probably hinder my work as a practitioner.
Having foundation knowledge, a diverse toolbox, empathy, and a really good ability to understand context is critical. The deep understanding of the science is valuable in that it is a critical tool for problem solving and “unsticking” people.