There is no such thing as a “perfect diet”… Even though I did record a podcast titled The Perfect Diet and wrote an article on the Dr. John Rusin website called that as well, I still believe everything comes down to the answer of it depends. Because everyone is individual and their nutrition prescription needs to be individual as well.
But in theory, for this article’s sake, if there were a perfect diet… Here’s exactly what it would be like:
1.) 70% Plant Based.
Out the gates with a controversial one! My top ten will be this way on purpose 😉
At the end of the day, majority of people simply do not consume enough plant-based foods and a perfect diet would make sure to avoid falling victim to that. It’s the best way to avoid intolerances and include all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber we need in our bodies.
2.) Animal Products Are In.
I know I know… Attacking the hot topics first.
The truth is, animal products have SO many health benefits that they just cannot be ignored. And trust me, this is not a bash at vegans and vegetarians because there are tons of health benefits associated with those diets as well.
My issue with those diets is that they both restrict or neglect another food group.
Which is my issue with any diet or plan that tells you that something is bad or harmful. The human body is not meant to only consume one type of food group, it’s designed to get an abundance of nutrients – that’s how we thrive – and we need to get an abundance of foods in order to make that happen. Period.
It’s just like the people who are on these carnivore diets now; it’s insane. I was shocked when I heard that they literally ONLY ate meat. Nothing else.
But guess what… No health issues, at all. That tells us one main thing here….
MEAT IS NOT BAD. So stop watching documentaries and writing a food group off. The truth is that those documentarians are just that, documentarians. They’re not scientists, doctors, nutritionists, or RD’s – their jobs are to make compelling and controversial films.
Now that I’m going on a rant and getting fired up behind the keyboard…
I had to put this bullet in here because I’m talking about the perfect diet, remember?
That means I have to put everything that would be included to optimize the human body and if we neglect all animal products we will likely have a list of nutrient deficiencies that would truly help our body’s health, hormones, and body composition.
But remember, still about 70% plant based – because restriction is never the answer.
3.) 90% Paleo.
I know that I just said I hate diets that restrict things, but I really just used the word paleo to get your attention.
What I really mean is whole food based. Paleo is just a word. I’d rather think in ideology instead, so think like this:
If it roamed the earth or grew out of it, you can eat it.
And again, if we want to avoid majority of intolerances or digestive issues, it’s best to play it safe by getting the majority of our food from a paleo-like menu. A perfect diet, should make you feel good too – not just look good.
4.) Individualized Macros Are Tracked and Prescribed.
Macros just work, plain and simple. They’re the easiest way to ensure we’re consuming the right amount of calories and have the best possible macro breakdown for our body, goals, hormonal system, and performance.
Not having these dialed in, in my opinion, is crazy. Even if we’re working off estimates and habit-based guidelines, macros should to be dialed in as much as possible if we’re going to be creating a perfect diet.
I would say that 75% or more of my clients work in an individualized macronutrient based plan with me and it makes a massive difference in the results they see. If you want a chance to apply for your own individualized coaching plan, click here now.
5.) Carbs Are Here To Stay.
Yes, carbs – your ex-best friend you once believed you had to give up, he’s back and he’s hanging out with you every day. Why? Because, this is the perfect diet and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like carbs….
No but seriously, carbs are an amazing tool for physique transformation and the truth is, there is a reason we crave them – our bodies like them!
Carbs are the primary fuel source for performance, which is always going to lead to better training and better recovery and that will always lead to a better physique. There is the rare occasion when someone actually feels great on keto or is just better as a fat adapted athlete, but in almost all cases if you’re performing any higher intensity training, you’ll be best with carbs in your diet.
Carbs are also a great influencer on the thyroid, in a positive way and therefore help keep your metabolic rate high and working for you.
95% of my clients do much better with more carbs in their diet. Sometimes it takes some coaching and adjusting because of the past diets they’ve been on, but in most cases I help them include plenty carbs to feel great and still have their body comp how they want it.
6.) Omega’s Are Consumed Daily.
Omega-3 fatty acids are really important. It’s nothing new, we’ve known this. Yet so many Americans (and often European’s as well) neglect fatty fish in their diets.
And you just won’t get an adequate amount through the other foods that give it to you, like cage free whole eggs or walnuts.
So if you’re not ready to consume some fatty fish a few times a week, start taking fish oil. It’s simple, easy and effective. 2-3g of combined EPA/DHA is ideal and the best supplement to get that amount from, without taking 9 pills a day, is Now Foods Ultra-Omegas (I have zero affiliation here).
7.) Variety Is A Priority.
This is simple, but super helpful for your gut health. If you want an optimal gut microbiome, which trust me – you do, you need to consider doing things like varying your diet a bit. Because the gut needs different nutrients, fibers, and foods to create different bacteria.
Best way to do this without stressing is to just pick a different fruit, veggie, or starch every time you go grocery shopping. Get spinach last time? Get kale this time. Get broccoli last time? Get brussel sprouts or green beans this time. Get apples last time? Get berries this time.
Don’t over complicate it, just eat different things and stay away from the meal preppin’ bodybuildin’ mentality.
8.) Protein Is Never Left Behind, Bro.
Protein is either over-glorified or hated on far too much. The truth is, it’s a pretty damn important macronutrient… in fact, it’s essential and that means you actually need it in order to survive. So yeah, let’s prioritize it a bit.
Eat 0.8-1g per lb of bodyweight and shoot to have anywhere between 20-50g of protein per meal. If you do this, you’ll not only get enough daily to support your goals and performance, you’ll also hit the Muscle Protein Synthesis frequency that will speed up recovery and gains even more.
If you have 30+ lbs to lose, I’d base your protein needs off your lean body mass or simply your goal weight to make it easy.
9.) Fruit Is On The Menu, Daily.
Whoever demonized fruit in the dieting world, should be slapped and kicked out of the kitchen.
Every single morning, you wake up with 50% of your liver glycogen depleted because of breathing. You know what the number one resource of liver glycogen is? Fruit!
Now this doesn’t mean you should eat 4 servings a day, because calories and sugar still matter obviously – but in general, I believe that 1 serving a day will actually contribute to a better physique and performance than NOT having any fruit at all in your diet.
10.) A Post Workout Shake Is Included.
I know I know… This one sounds ridiculous, because we debunked this a long time ago right?
Well yes, for building more muscle and not going catabolic like they once told us, it’s just not that important. But let’s look deeper…
Hormonally, our cortisol is jacked up during training. Not a bad thing; helps us perform hard actually. But we cannot have that cortisol jacked up chronically, so we need to blunt that cortisol response with some kind of fast acting nutrients – specifically carbs and protein.
Now if you can go home right after and eat, that’ll do. But if you cannot, you should have a shake right afterwards – assuming you’re doing some higher intensity workouts.
11.) It Has 4 Meals Per Day.
Zero evidence or scientific literature to prove that there is anything special about the number 4, to be 100% transparent with you. But experience over years and years of coaching, has shown me that this seems to work best with the majority of people.
Why? Can’t be 100% sure, because everyone is so different, but here are my thoughts…
First would be that almost anyone can make this work with a little planning, where as 5 or 6 meals per day may just be too much and cause more stress than not. So unless the client simply needs more calories and is struggling to reach those calories, I typically don’t go past 4 meals per day.
Second, you’re definitely staying satiated. 4 meals are plenty to keep you full throughout the day, because you’re still able to distribute calories in a way that allows decent sized meals.
Third, you’re not over-stuffed constantly. I enjoy a large meal at night, which is why I typically save the bulk of my calories for that meal… But I’m also not doing jack shit at that point, so eating a big meal and then chilling back while watching some Netflix with my fiancé is great. But if I were only eating 2-3x per day, I’d hate to be that stuffed all day long!
Fourth, it may promote better energy and recovery. We know that calories are energy and although hitting your daily intake is really the big rock that matters most, I believe there’s merit to say that eating balanced meals throughout the day WILL provide better energy levels. Also, having protein spread across the day may promote better MPS and that can help recovery levels improve as well.
Fifth, last one I promise, it still allows variety without needing too much variety. Variety is great for us, but it can also be hard to plan out. So this allows some, but not too much variety. You can even repeat meals day to day while still getting a solid amount of variety meal-to-meal and week-to-week.
12.) The Routine Doesn’t Change, Much.
A perfect diet has routine. A perfect diet IS routine. A perfect diet is well thought out, planned out, and executed.
What I mean by this is so unbelievably simple, but drastically changes the results people see – when they actually apply this idea to their diet.
Studies have shown consistency and adherence literally doubles when there is a routine in place. Makes sense, because the mild cases of anxiety that people face when trying to focus on all this is primarily associated with the unforeseen future – not knowing what’s to come. So plan things out, simple solution.
Studies have also shown that your insulin sensitivity may actually improve with a solid meal plan routine. NOT whether you eat 3 or 4 or 8 meals per day, but that you PICK A FREQUENCY of meals and stick to that daily. My guess, which I’ve been preaching for a long time now, is that your body just loves routine and when it can learn your routine and then adapt to it, it’ll better utilize the fuel you’re giving it.
13.) You Don’t Skip Out On Ice Cream.
Flexibility is the key to dietary longevity.
I’m not a fan of how IIFYM took advantage of this and made people believe that eating only ice cream, protein powders, and multi-vitamins would be ok.
But I do love how they’ve made it more well known how much macros do matter when it comes to seeing body composition and/or performance changes.
That being said, the perfect diet is 90% whole foods – remember?
But that means 10%, which can sometimes move upwards of 20% to be honest, can be whatever it is you truly enjoy and can fit into your macros.
I always use the ketchup example when I discuss this, because I love ketchup and my 10% becomes daily ketchup on practically everything I eat. I even have podcast listeners sending me ketchup meme’s and recipes – its great, true fans!
But I can fit low sugar ketchup into my macros, or regular ketchup for that matter, and still stay within all the boundaries I’ve laid out here in making the perfect diet.
That’s flexibility. And that allows me to adhere to a solid nutrition plan a lot easier, because nobody’s telling me what I can and can’t have. We lay out guidelines, not rules.
With flexibility comes adherence and with adherence comes consistency. Consistency leads to much better results over time and that is what matters most, because sustainability is the thing we’re always striving to create.
Getting lean is cool. Staying lean for good is the dream (which you can make happen).