Let’s not mess around… looking your best and performing at a high level are important. Very important. In fact, there is a good chance you’ve come around to learning about RP and our products through your passion for high-level performance, fat loss, and muscle gain goals. And as you’re no doubt aware, a big part of achieving body composition and performance goals is through the manipulation of your diet. If you’d like to look and perform in a special way, you’re going to have to eat in a special way.
And just like the goals of body composition and sport performance require attention to eating patterns, so does the goal of eating for health. Yes, appearance and sport (generally, “fitness”) are/is important, but nothing trumps your health. In fact, the very act of working on your fitness is founded on being healthy enough to do so.
As far as dieting specifically for health goes, doesn’t the diet to enhance fitness boost your health, specifically the fat loss dieting style? Yes. Absolutely. But there are a couple of major differences between a diet optimized for health outcomes and one optimized for fitness.
First of all, the health improvements that result from a diet tailored towards fitness are just side effects. To be more specific, there is a lot about a fitness diet that doesn’t improve health (though some of these features make the diet more work to implement), and there are some features of a truly focused health diet that are not included.
Interested in the Healthy Diet Templates?
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Here is a brief list of the major differences:
a.) A diet designed for fitness clusters carbohydrates around the workout and clusters fats away from it. A health-focused diet doesn’t.
b.) A diet designed for fitness has a relatively high carbohydrate intake to power performance and muscle anabolism. A health-focused diet can have high or low carbs and be equally effective.
b.) A diet designed for fitness pushes the pace rapidly for fat loss goals, while a health-focused diet helps you drop fat more slowly and more sustainably.
c.) A fitness diet doesn’t have programmed “cheat meals” (at least the ones we write at RP don’t), while a health-focused diet allows for a comfortable margin of discretionary intake per day and per week so that balance is struck between precision and relaxation and sustainability is enhanced.
d.) While calorie balance is the most important variable for both kinds of diets, fitness diets value macronutrient goals (amounts of proteins, carbs, and fats eaten per day) in second priority, while health diets value food composition in second place (the sources of proteins, carbs, and fats in the daily diet).
e.) Nutrient timing (what and when goes into each specific meal) is not overly important in either dieting focus, but fitness diets nonetheless value timing more than health diets do.
In essence, healthy dieting comes down to eating at required calorie levels, choosing mostly healthy sources of food when doing this, and being sensible about eating in a relatively regular fashion through the day. On the other hand, fitness dieting requires just as serious a dedication to calorie intakes, and a closer precision of macronutrient intake and timing, while not being as overly concerned with food composition.
For these and other reasons, as you can see, healthy eating and fitness eating are not identical. And because they are not identical, some of you might, at times, find one or the other to be your primary goal in structuring your eating.
Who and in what circumstances might find an approach the prioritizes health first to be the top choice? Here’s a brief list. It’s not inclusive but covers a large proportion of the most popular reasons to choose a health-first diet approach.
- People new to programmed dieting that might find themselves a bit overwhelmed with the complexity and precision of fitness dieting and would like to start with something simpler.
- People with busy schedules might prefer a health-focused diet. While this kind of diet does, in fact, get you leaner and improve your sport performance as well as improve your health, it is often much simpler to apply than a fitness diet. Health diets are usually more flexible in their timing guidelines and give a wider range of food choices for the average meal.
- People not involved (or currently not involved) in competitive sport. Yeah, we mostly all feel like we can be leaner and have more energy, but that might not be enough for us to commit to the complexities of a fitness diet. Why not have a good measure of both with a simpler health diet? If placings and trophies are not on the line, perhaps the simpler approach makes more sense.
- People who view their health as their preeminent highest priority are very likely to prefer a health-focused diet. Yeah, fitness is nice and all, but if your doctor says your health has to change and ASAP, all of a sudden, gaining 10lbs of muscle sounds like some pointless and vain goal.
- People who have been dedicated to fitness dieting for some time, but are taking a break to re-charge. Fitness dieting requires quite a bit more precision than healthy dieting, and that dedication can be mentally taxing over long periods. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break for some weeks or months every now and again (one to several times a year on average) to recharge and regroup, but this break doesn’t have to mean you fall off the wagon completely and are discovered by concerned family members with empty pizza and donut boxes in your bed after you’ve let the phone go unanswered for several days. By focusing on the simpler and easier plan of eating for health in between phases of fitness eating, you can conserve your muscle, keep your fat in check, and stay healthy, all while staying sane and balanced. And when you’re ready to sharpen the fitness blade again, your next fitness diet is an easy transition of specifics, not a whirlwind return from total lawlessness to complete hermetic control.
If you read that list and think you might be interested in a health-focused diet, where can you start? First of all, we at RP have a detailed and comprehensive book all about dieting for health; ‘Understanding Healthy Eating.” After reading the book, you can use the principles, tables, and practical recommendations within it to design yourself a health-focused diet.
But if you’re interested in having the work done for you already, you might consider our new Healthy Eating Templates. These templates are based on your current bodyweight, and they help you establish and stick to a diet that is both simple and enhancing to your health. No crazy restrictions, no mandatory purchases of juice cleanses, no magic foods or evil foods… just a sensible, flexible, scientifically-backed plan to help you improve your health through your diet.
These templates were designed by a University professor of nutrition for health (Dr. Mike Israetel) and a medical doctor specializing in weight loss and health (Dr. Spencer Nadolsky), so what you’re getting is evidence-based and backed by thousands of studies and years of cumulative teaching, consulting, coaching, and bedside experience. The templates come with an option to eat 3 or 4 main meals each day, as well as a conventional and low carb approach to daily diet. They also come with an impressively comprehensive FAQ, How-To guide, and handy pictorial guide to help with determining portion sizes. And if you’re ever curious about the deeper nutritional science behind the way the templates are designed, look no further than the Understanding Healthy Eating ebook itself.
Whether you’re a first-time dieter, are here because your doctor had “the conversation” about your diet and health, or are a returning RP athlete seeking a period of balance between sessions of fitness dieting, give the Healthy Eating Templates some thought. We think you might like them, and as always, wish you the best in your health, appearance, and performance goals.
- Team RP