Forget dieting and learn how to eat.
Lifestyle behavior skill: Hydration
Did you learn how to squat snatch on the first day you walked into the gym? Fuck no. You learned how to properly air squat with a medicine ball under your ass, then with an empty bar bell, then 10 lb. plates, your body weight, and so forth, until you had the foundational strength and mechanics to start adding pounds of muscle onto your bones. As you learned proper technique, you quietly gained value from exercising motor control and utilizing muscles which haven’t been activated from sitting at a desk.
Now, apply this principle to nutrition. You want results from nutrition in the same way as you do from fitness. Should you jump into an extreme diet, such as the ketogenic diet or strict macros, right away, and plan to adhere to it perfectly and consistently over time? Fuck no. You should set a foundation of healthy eating behavior, starting with the first thing you do in the morning to the last bite of food you take that day. Systematically build new healthy eating behaviors into your life, one bite, one meal at a time, until they become habitual and you can intuitively eat to properly fuel your body. In the same way, quietly gain the benefits of learning internalized portion control and gain an understanding for the foods that work well for you. Foundational nutrition habits such as these will support your eating and the corresponding health outcomes over the long-term, just as proper movement will support your body physically as you age.
We often jump into exciting new diet plans, hoping to achieve awesome results without first asking ourselves the most fundamental questions which are often most reflective of our preparedness for the daunting new undertaking. Ask yourself – do you consistently adhere to fundamentally healthy eating behavior? Do you know exactly what fundamental healthy eating even is? In the confusing nutrition information environment we live in, it can be difficult to delineate healthy eating from trending, unsubstantiated fads that only work well for the few.
There is no sexy secret to nutrition. Truthfully, what you need to do in order to dial in your nutrition and achieve real results is to slow down.
Slowly. Systematically. Deliberately, and with the best of intentions, build healthy eating behavior into your life, then grow and improve from there.
An example of how to narrow the scope of your nutrition goals down to something simpler and more fundamental is to first focus in on your hydration. Hydration is a critical component of health and athletic performance and is often overlooked to make room for much grander proposals, such as, “intermittent fasting results in weight loss”. While this may be true for some people, it is difficult to attain for many, harder to sustain, and may not be the appropriate approach for you if the diet ignores your unique biological, physiological, and psychological needs.
Consider well supported nutrition evidence rather than dive head first into extreme protocols. Did you know that a 1% drop in fluid levels results in cognitive decline, and a 2% drop in fluid levels results in difficulty regulating body temperature, which negatively impacts your health and physical performance? [1,2]
Implementing a new, specific diet regimen usually requires a complete overhaul of your current lifestyle. By nature, generic diet plans result in short-term adherence then long-term failure to meet your desired results. Instead, start with hydration. Ask yourself: what’s the first thing I do in the morning? Then, consider following these suggestions:
• Drink 10 oz. of water structured with pink salt first thing in the morning (for extra credit add a squeeze of lemon and a cap of apple cider vinegar). I mean first thing. Get out of bed. Go pee. Drink water. You will experience a tremendous increase in your metabolism to set yourself up for a productive day which gets you closer to your health, performance, and body composition goals.
• Drink 16 oz. of water before and after fitness to achieve safe hydration levels that optimize training performance.
• Drink 40 oz. of water by noon. Aim for 50% of your body weight in oz. of water each day.
• Try not to exceed, roughly, 32 oz. of water per hour, unless you are on a personalized hydration protocol or are severely dehydrated. 32 oz. per hour is the approximate rate of absorption by the cells in your body.
How well are you doing the things on the list of suggestions above? Don’t think about making drastic changes to your lifestyle until you are properly hydrated. Learn how to nutritionally air squat first, then move on to the bar bell and start loading on the food.
When it comes to nutrition and fitness, the most proven and successful plans are often the least sexy ones. Results dictate that discipline and consistency are the engine of the self-improvement train, and it’s followed by objective self-assessment and practical decision making. So, next time a sexy headline urges you to try the newest fad diet, STOP. Ask yourself – “is this really worth another failure?”
1. Lieberman HR. Hydration and cognition: a critical review and recommendations for future research. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Oct;26(5 Suppl):555S-561S. Review. PubMed PMID: 17921465.
2. Benton D, Braun H, Cobo JC, Edmonds C, Elmadfa I, El-Sharkawy A, Feehally J, Gellert R, Holdsworth J, Kapsokefalou M, Kenney WL, Leiper JB, Macdonald IA, Maffeis C, Maughan RJ, Shirreffs SM, Toth-Heyn P, Watson P. Executive summary and conclusions from the European Hydration Institute Expert Conference on human hydration, health, and performance. Nutr Rev. 2015 Sep;73 Suppl 2:148-50. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv056. PubMed PMID: 26290300.