What I am going to attempt to explain is a model Jason Phillips, the founder of IN3 and The Nutrition Coaching Institute, developed to explain the direction of opposing goals. This is a tool for coaches but once the foundation is explained to someone trying to improve their relationship with food and improve their health, it helps clarify how you want to set your outcome goal.
There are three basic types of goals when it comes to nutrition.
There are goals focused on performance either in sports or work.
There are goals focused on aesthetics like building muscle and getting very lean.
There are goals focused on longevity/lifestyle that require calorie restriction, low protein intake especially from animal sources, low life stress, and generally feeling good with your body.
Each one of these goals is an antagonist to the other two goals. Let’s take the aesthetics goal. In order to achieve a beautiful physique you have to make sacrifices in your lifestyle like dedicating 10 or more hours a week to working out, weighing and measuring your foods to make sure you are getting the right amounts of each macronutrient and limiting, if not eliminating alcohol and desserts from your nutrition plan. By trying to achieve the most aesthetically pleasing body possible you probably won’t feel that great when you are cutting calories and trying to recover from a hard workout. You won’t perform your best because you are in a calorie deficit and you just don’t have the energy to play basketball or go for a run. So when you are on the bottom left of the triangle, by virtue you are as far away from longevity and performance as possible. This doesn’t mean you can’t work towards one goal for 6 months and then pivot and work towards another goal for 6 months but notice how I didn’t say 1-2 months. That’s because it takes a long time to progress towards the different pinnacles of the triangle. It’s a big commitment and needs to be taken seriously both in time and with consistency.
Now I’m not saying you can’t lean in one direction more than the other but one is always going to suffer when it comes to the last 10% of achieving your goal. Let me give you a personal example. I want to perform as an athlete. I want to be cardiovascularly fit, flexible, and able to play any sport at any time. I also want to put on as much muscle as possible to be beach body ready at any time of the year. The paradox is...to gain maximum muscle for my body type and age, I have to be in a calorie surplus, limit my cardiovascular training, and limit how much I move while lifting hard 4-5 days a week. However, I feel and perform my best when I can play golf and walk, go for 20 mile bike rides 2-3 times per week, lift 3-4 days per week and do CrossFit 2-3 days per week. That doesn’t allow for gaining maximum muscle but it allows me to live a lifestyle I love and look good. That puts me at about 33% of each goal or pretty close to the middle of the triangle. I understand that and I feel better than I ever have physically and in my performance as an athlete. I have leaned too far towards performance in the past and that led to joint problems, sleep disturbances, and muscle imbalances. That can be the price of high end performance in sports because performance doesn’t allow for aesthetics and longevity. What I really want to get across in this article is that your goals need to intersect with reality. If you have that mindset from the beginning you will be much more successful in achieving your goals.
Live Well, Move Well