When initiating a diet, individuals often get too caught up in the fat loss process and forget the body’s micronutrient needs. You can look in the mirror and see the impact of hitting your optimal macros. But, you don’t necessary have as many glaring visual signs if you micronutrients are lacking. I am a big proponent of maintaining a fun, balanced, and less restrictive lifestyle. But, there are limits to how much of your diet can be made up of less-than clean foods. At the essence of a “diet” or cutting program you are manipulating several factors. When doing it correctly, the food intake is one of the main variables being manipulated. But, as you remove food from your diet, so too are you removing sources of vitamins and minerals. When bodybuilders of the 80s and 90s were studied during contest prep the most common deficiencies found were Vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. (Helms, 2014) So, even among the elite, deficiencies become an issue when dietary manipulation is taking place.
Let’s get a little more specific as to HOW these deficiencies are bad. Zinc deficiencies can result in a down regulation of the thyroid to the point where energy expenditure is substantially reduced. In one case study in which zinc deficient individuals introduced zinc supplementation, one subject increased their resting metabolic rate (RMR) by 194 cals after 4 months, and the other subject increased their RMR by 527 cals after supplementing with zinc for 2 months. (Maxwell, 2007)
Another example of how a micronutrient deficiency can negatively affect your progress is iron, which is an especially common deficiency in female athletes (even more so when energy restricted). In a recent study on a group of female volleyball players who were supplemented with iron, it was found that during strength testing the iron- supplemented group displayed greater total strength across a range of barbell lifts compared to the control group that did not receive iron supplementation .
Clearly, in some cases correcting a deficiency during dieting can be incredibly important for success. Calcium is another common deficiency and also is required in relatively large amounts in order to maintain bone health. Consuming dairy on a diet can fix this issue; and low fat, low carb, high protein Greek yogurts can be fit into diets that are low in calories, fat or carbs, and are a great way to prevent deficiency. However, for those who don’t have access to this type of Greek yogurt in their location, or have a specific reason that precludes dairy consumption, calcium supplementation may be something to consider.
- Zinc deficiencies can negatively impact your metabolism.
- Iron deficiencies can negatively impact strength.
- Calcium deficiencies can negatively impact bone health.
Deficiencies can have a significant impact on health, performance, and potentially diet- success if ignored. A diet with good variety can cover these bases, but as calories and macro nutrients get lower, it will be harder and harder to prevent deficiencies.
When you are not dieting or when in a gaining phase it will be much easier to prevent these deficiencies. However, if individuals need to consume an excessively high amount of calories to achieve their goals, they may be less inclined to eat fruits and vegetables in favor of more calorically dense options. In this case, supplementation would be appropirate. When consuming a moderate or maintenance level of calories if is quite easy to ensure your micronutrient needs are met with whole foods. You can email DK Fitness for advice on how best to do this: Dkrueger@Dkruegerfit.com.
There are some general rules of thumb that the average individual can follow as long as they don’t have any specific goals other than ensuring enough nutrient rich foods are present in their diet.
If the individual has weight loss or gaining goals, these rules would need to be adjusted accordingly. Generally speaking you should consume 1 serving of fruits and 1 vegetable per 1000 calories that you ingest per day.
Aside from extremely low or high-calorie diets, 1 serving of fruits and 1 serving of vegetables per every 1000 calories is a very good basic guideline to follow. One of the benefits of implementing this set up is that when you’re dieting, these foods tend to be higher in fiber and higher in satiety which will help you with stick to your diet consistently.
Produce in general tends to be very low-calorie, so you’ll find that increasing your intake of these particular foods can help you feel like you’re eating more despite being in a caloric deficit.
The point I want to drive home is, hitting your caloric goal and achieving your protein, carb, and fat intake targets is only part of the job. Advising people to eat fruits and vegetables often times comes off as cliche because it is such a generic piece of health advice that everyone from your mother to Hulk Hogan has said. But, becoming deficient WILL hinder your fat loss and muscular development progress. Contact DK Fitness if you would like us to optimize your nutritional intake based on your goals, lifestyle, and food preferences. Dkrueger@Dkruegerfit.com.
Helms, E.R., A.A. Aragon, and P.J. Fischer, Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2014. 11(1): p. 20.
Maxwell, C. and S.L. Volpe, Effect of zinc supplementation on thyroid hormone function. A case study of two college females. Ann Nutr Metab, 2007. 51(2): p. 188-94.