What is good nutrition?

People have different definitions of what good nutrition is. A good nutrition plan must: a) properly controls energy balance, b) provides nutrient density, c) produces long-term health, body composition and performance results, and d) is outcome-based.

What is the definition of good nutrition?

What is good nutrition?

For anyone who wants to live healthily and gain muscle and lose fat for better performance, good nutrition plays a significant role. It’s good nutrition that helps you recover faster from an intense training session. 

People have different definitions of good nutrition. For instance, if you ask people what good or healthy eating means, you will likely get different answers. In other words, some think healthy eating means eating no sugar and fewer carbs. Others believe that eating more fruits, veggies and protein is the best eating plan. Others think eating a low-fat diet is healthy eating. others consider a diet rich in protein the healthiest one. Indeed, these definitions of good nutrition and healthy eating are incomplete, and some of them are entirely incorrect.  

So, what is healthy or good nutrition? Or, how to understand the goodness of an eating plan? To answer these two questions, a good nutrition plan must meet the following four criteria. 

  1. Good nutrition properly controls energy balance
  2. Good nutrition provides nutrient density 
  3. Good nutrition produces long-term health, body composition and performance results
  4. Good nutrition is outcome-based 

Let’s now explain clearly each of the criteria for a healthy or good nutrition plan.

Energy balance and good nutrition

Energy represents the capacity to do work. The sun is the ultimate source of energy. Through the photosynthesis process, plants use solar energy to produce stored chemical energy in the form of either fats, carbohydrates, or proteins. After consuming plant and animal foods, fats, carbs and proteins in the foods undergo some metabolic changes and are utilized to develop body structure, to regulate body functions, or to provide a storage form of chemical energy in the body. For this reason, the optimal intake and output of energy are important to being healthy and fit. 

Energy Balance

Energy balance is the relationship between the amount of energy you consume from food and drink “energy in as food calories” and the amount of energy being used in the body for all bodily functioning and daily activities “energy out as calories”. 

Energy balance has a lot to do with cellular functioning in the body more than what has been explained in this post. In this post, we are concerned about its relationship to the weight change. To be fit and healthy, optimal body composition or weight plays an important role. And subsequently, energy balance affects your weight.  

Negative energy balance and positive energy balance

When energy is not balanced, there is either a positive energy balance (energy in more than energy out) or a negative energy balance (energy out more than energy in). Both affect your hormonal balance, metabolism and mood. 

In general, none of them is an optimal way to improve your health and weight in long term. Indeed, energy imbalances impact more than weight gain or loss. Imposing a large negative energy balance declines the whole metabolic rate. Reduction in the metabolic rate impacts non-survival functions in the body such as metabolic function, cognitive function, reproductive function and repair function. So, to be fit and healthy, a good nutrition plan must control the unreasonable negative energy balance in the body. 

Anorexia nervosa

The same is true of anorexics, the ones who struggle with anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is a serious illness or disorder that makes you want to stop eating, and that commonly affect young women in their teens and early twenties. They lose physical fitness, metabolic fitness, mental fitness, bone mass, and muscle mass.

On the other hand, overfeeding or positive energy balance also has its own poor health consequences. Indeed, not only gaining body fat but also increasing blood pressure and blood cholesterol, building up plaques in arteries, becoming insulin resistant (predisposed to diabetes), inclined to certain cancers to name a few, are negative effects of too much overfeeding. This is why a good nutrition program helps keep you fit and healthy. And good nutrition must control unreasonable swings in either direction of energy balance. 

Good nutrition provides nutrient density 

The phrase nutrient density is the ratio of essential nutrients (minerals, vitamins, dietary fibres, etc.) relative to the total calorie content in food. In other words, eat foods that provide a large number of essential nutrients (i.e., protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals, etc.) per 100 calories of foods. It’s referred to as quality calories. And this is only possible when you eat a high level of nutrient-density foods. Good nutrition provides enough nutrients to the human body. 

For instance, a list of high nutrient-density foods is bright and deeply coloured fruits and vegetables, unprocessed grains, dairy and oils. On the other hand, things such as table sugar, white flour, ice cream, soda, etc. are low nutrient-density foods.  

In contrast to nutrient density, there is also calorie density. Calorie density is the proportions of calories found in a specific food. So, foods with high-calorie density contain a lot of calories per 100 gr, such as cookies, cracker, etc. On the other hand, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, etc. are low-calorie-density foods. 

For the general population and those who want to lose fat, a diet rich in nutrient-density foods and low in calorie-density foods could be very optimal. Such good nutrition improves health and fitness. And, those who are interested in muscle gain or being too active should consume nutrient-density foods as well as adequate high-calorie-density foods. Taking enough calorie is essential to increase muscle mass, reduce recovery time and improve physical performance. 

Good nutrition produces long-term health, body composition and performance outcomes

Good nutrition improves your body composition, health and performance, which all are significant issues in life. Many people have been tempted into using powerful drugs, undergoing unsafe surgeries and absurd crash diets in order to lose weight, gain muscle mass, achieving shredded so-called six-packs and/or a flat stomach. While sometimes these approaches improve one’s appearance temporarily, can damage health and performance in the long run. For this reason, instead of focusing only on short-term body composition and/or performance outcomes, one must work on his/her health, performance and body composition outcomes in the long run.

As mentioned above, good nutrition enhances your fitness in a very easy and safe way. To put it another way, healthy or good nutrition increases muscle mass and reduce fat, reduces blood lipids and bad cholesterol (LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein), increases insulin sensitivity, reduces diabetes risk, enhances performance in physical activities and brain, increases the level of daily energy, boosts stamina to name a few.  

As long as any of the three is missed in your diet, that is not good nutrition. Never focus on one. Because an extreme focus on one either “performance”, “health” or “fat loss and muscle gain”, in some cases, produces negative repercussions.  

Good nutrition is outcome-based

Until now, we know that a good nutrition plan enhances energy balance and nutrient intake, improves performance, body composition and health. But how should we know that it does so? To answer this question, we say that good nutrition is outcome-based. To put it another way, you must see and feel optimal results in your health and fitness. Just in some very rare cases, one may not achieve optimal results easily if there are any limiting factors. 

You do not have a healthy or good nutrition plan when you have been asking the questions below.

  • “I follow a very healthy meal plan, but I’m still 5kg overweight. What’s wrong?!”
  • “Although my diet is perfect, why do I still have got high blood pressure?!”
  • “I’ve been eating nutritious foods for months but still have a low level of energy and feel lethargic all the time. Why?!” 

In general, there are maybe three major reasons, in case, you don’t achieve optimal results. 

  1. You have a good nutrition plan but you are not executing it well. 
  2. While you execute a plan well but the plan is not a good nutrition plan.
  3. You have a good nutrition plan and also execute it well but there may be some limiting factors. In these rare cases, you should find those limiting factors and remove them. 

The effectiveness of a nutrition plan can be judged by evaluating your health profile, body composition, and performance. Since good nutrition equals results, if the nutrition program is not outcome-based, there is something wrong. Fix it. 

The bottom line

People have different definitions of what good nutrition is. A good nutrition plan must: a) properly controls energy balance, b) provides nutrient density, c) produces long-term health, body composition and performance results, and d) is outcome-based. 

Energy imbalances impact more than weight gain or loss. Reduction in the metabolic rate impacts non-survival functions in the body such as metabolic function, cognitive function, reproductive function and repair function. On the other hand, not only gaining body fat but also increasing blood pressure and blood cholesterol, building up plaques in arteries, becoming insulin resistant (predisposed to diabetes), inclined to certain cancers to name a few, are negative effects of too much overfeeding or positive energy imbalance. 

The nutrient content of foods varies, and the difference between food groups are more distinct than the difference between foods in the same group. Nutrient density is an important part of a healthy and good nutrition plan. It’s the concept relative to the ratio of essential nutrients such as minerals and vitamins that are found per 100 calories of foods.

Good nutrition is beyond losing fat or gaining muscle. In essence, good nourishing improves your body composition, health and performance, which all are significant issues in life. 

Last but not least, the effectiveness of a nutrition plan can be assessed by evaluating your health profile and fitness. For this reason, by following a healthy and good eating program you must achieve optimal results unless there is something wrong. Fix it. 

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