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With all of the chatter happening around optimal diet and nutrition, it can be overwhelming to find an effective eating strategy and stick to it – from Keto to Whole30, Paleo to Fasting, and everything in between. But oftentimes, the secret to success is not as sweeping as we like to think. Individuals are just that—individuals–and what works for you may not work for your sister, coworker, or next-door neighbor. Nutrition expert Bob Seebohar offers up some answers to those of you looking to optimize performance and properly fuel your body without being subject to an extremely restrictive dietary regimen. Bob carries many titles – amongst them Sport Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and High Performance Endurance Coach – but more than anything, he is committed to helping his clients find what works best for them. Here’s his take:
Author: Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II
Keto diets are all the rage these days. Many people hop on the keto wagon in hopes of losing weight and altering body composition, but it can be a fairly challenging diet to follow, and can pose substantial risks if not followed properly. As a Registered/Sport Dietitian, I like to promote lifestyle nutrition changes – ones that can be easily adopted and (more importantly) sustained over a long period of time. While keto diets do have their place in the nutrition landscape (specifically in certain disease states), I typically encourage more of a periodized approach to nutrition.
Periodizing means to alter or adjust quantities. Chances are that you’re probably already relying on this strategy for your weekly workout regimen – most people periodize the quantity and intensity of their exercises to avoid boredom or injury. In terms of nutrition, a periodized approach means altering the amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat to support your evolving health and exercise goals. This strategy is ideal in that it is not as restrictive as some diets, and can be adjusted person-to-person, body type-to-body type, and day-to-day depending on your needs.
Say, for example, you go out for a quick, aerobic run over your lunch hour. That’s a short-duration exercise session that won’t require a huge dose of energy. To fuel that particular workout, you could get away with eating fewer carbs earlier in the day. If, on the other hand, you are training for a marathon or longer distance triathlon, your workouts will likely be longer and more intense, and your body will need an extra boost to support the amount of energy you’re burning. Some days you may need more carbohydrates, and some days you may not. Rather than adhering to a one-size-fits-all diet (like the Keto diet), a periodized approach allows you to align your nutrition to support your performance and health goals.
If you’re pursuing a specific fitness goal (or if you have simply had a rough go at following the keto diet), try allowing a bit more flexibility in your daily nutrition plan. Focus on determining daily ratios of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats with the main goal of optimizing your blood sugar. This concept is called Metabolic Efficiency Training in the world of sports nutrition, and is meant to train your body to use fat as energy (instead of storing it). If you have a body weight or body composition goal, following a periodized nutrition plan will allow your body to burn more fat, improve energy levels, develop a healthy relationship with food (non-restrictive), improve certain health markers, and provide the right amount of energy needed to fuel all of your exercise endeavors.
The takeaway? A keto diet can be difficult to sustain, and oftentimes is only a short-term solution to losing weight or fat. Optimizing blood sugar by allowing your exercise routine to inform your diet will improve your metabolic efficiency and lead you on the path to achieving your health and fitness goals without excessive restriction.
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II is the co-founder of Birota Foods, which makes metabolically efficient cocoa and creamer products. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Birota Foods website, www.birotafoods.com