nutrition fix

Fix Your Nutrition: 4 Ways to Make Your Food Work for You

I mentioned in a recent article that I like to tell people I just met that I make a living as a professional pecan farmer.
Why do I do this? Because when I mention I’m in the business of shaping people’s lives (literally), 9 out of 10 people will say “CAN YOU TRAIN ME?”

People always seem to think joining a gym, running for miles on end, or getting into a cult-like workout program is what’s necessary to get fit, lose weight, and be healthy. Basically everyone feels they have to work out. While physical exercise SHOULD be included in an effective fitness plan, it is not the end-all be-all in terms of getting fit. It is especially not necessarily required for losing weight. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a mere 20% of the overall equation. Furthermore, if you’re someone who dreads the thought of exercising, it is still entirely possible to lose fat. You won’t be Mr. Olympia by any means, but you can reach a healthy body weight.

nutrition fix

While physical exercise SHOULD be included in an effective fitness plan, it is not the end-all be-all in terms of getting fit. Image courtesy of Go Hasty.

So let’s get back to all these people who ask me to train them.  (For free, I might add, but that’s not the point.) The list of people I take on to train personally is exceptionally small, so I almost always decline to train these people in a workout setting. I then steer the conversation towards their nutrition and diet. I make my claim that if they really want to see results, THEY MUST PRIORITIZE AND FIX THEIR DIETS FIRST. That’s a service of mine I’m always willing to provide. And always, I mean ALWAYS, they’ll say, “NO, I DON’T NEED A NUTRITION COACH. I KNOW HOW TO EAT HEALTHY.” You do not know how much I do not like to hear such an ambiguous response such as I EAT HEALTHY.  As if there are some foods that are inherently magical and cannot make you fat, no matter how much of them you eat. And they will instead make you completely jacked and tan and ready for the cover of People Magazine.

THERE ARE NO GOOD, BAD, HEALTHY, CLEAN, UNHEALTHY, POISONOUS, TOXIC, SEPTIC, NUCLEAR, ETC. FOODS.  THERE’S JUST FOOD. Yup, you read that right. There is no food on this planet that will instantaneously make you fat if you eat it. It just doesn’t happen. It will however happen IF YOU EAT TOO MUCH OF THAT FOOD. There is no food on this planet that will make you unhealthy if you eat it. It will however happen IF (you guessed it) YOU EAT TOO MUCH OF THAT FOOD.

A favorite saying of mine is “The Devil is in the dosage.” This translates to saying “In proper amounts, nothing is bad.” Even chemicals. People seem to be scared to death when they see words that belong in a chemistry textbook on their food labels and deem them as totally unhealthy. But drink too much di-hydrogen oxide (WATER, FOLKS) and that will kill you.

Most people feel they have to take their food choices to an extreme in order to be healthy.  They feel it’s necessary to restrict tasty foods like ice cream, cookies, cake, bread, pasta, and cheeses. People think they’re instantly fattening and will suddenly make their hips expand. They’re only fattening if you eat too much of them. I’ll tell this to people and they’ll give me the whole, “YEAH YEAH, I KNOW ABOUT MODERATION, I DON’T NEED THAT LECTURE FROM YOU.” Well, while moderation is important, there’s a bit more to it than that.


Taking control of your health and fitness is a lot like taking control of your personal finances.

If you want to be rich, nobody’s going to show you how to do it. That’s information you have to find out for yourself.

Sure- there’s the same old “save your money, don’t spend too much, get a good job and you can retire at 65” mantra that’s always spewed. But who has become rich by doing that? Rich folks have been resourceful with their information and know there’s more to it than just saving. Same methods apply to health and fitness. The same old “eat clean foods and avoid junk” advice is ubiquitous. If you really want to take control of your health, you must be willing to put in some time and effort. You must dig for the real information that can change your life for the better.


Trust me. I’ve studied rocket science, and taking control of your health by understanding food doesn’t even compare.

But it is A SCIENCE. Your body composition is based on an energy balance system.

Nutrition fix

Your body composition is based on an energy balance system. You put more energy in than you put out, you’ll get bigger. Image courtesy of ILSA.

It goes something like this. You put more energy in than you put out, you’ll get bigger. You put out more energy than you put it, you’ll get smaller. Now I understand that’s a very broad and general way to put it, but that’s what it is. The energy balance can then be broken down to the macronutrients of proteins, carbs, and fats. Once you know that carbs and fats are sources of energy that the body uses (preferably carbs then fat), you can draw a conclusion. It will be something to the effect of “IF I EAT A LOT OF CARBS THEN THAT’S MORE ENERGY THAN MY BODY NEEDS, SO I’LL GET BIGGER.” That situation can be a good or bad thing.  If you’re a small person looking to add some body mass in terms of muscle, then a surplus in energy is what you need. Conversely, if you’re looking to drop a spare tire or two off the midsection, you can probably tell that you should opt for fewer carbs. And I will say this about protein: get it with every meal that you can. The benefits of protein are substantial, no matter if you’re looking to add muscle, lose fat, or both. You can never go wrong with focusing on protein as the main component of every meal.  


Working out and exercising are supposed to be good and healthy for you, right?

Of course. I’m not saying that it isn’t.   

What I am saying is folks will almost always rationalize the ability to eat more because they’re working out. Even if that means eating “healthy” food.  They will unequivocally eat more of it.

Here’s a scenario:

Jim decides he’s going to start lifting weights to tone up,lose a bit of fat, and add some lean muscle mass to his frame. Fantastic. Weights are an excellent way to do so. He gets after it and starts moving some weight around in the gym. He even adds a few minutes on the treadmill after lifting to burn a few more calories. After his workout, Jim’s feeling pretty hungry so he gets home and fixes himself a “healthy” meal of sweet potatoes and chicken breast. He sticks with his “healthy” food choices. He “eats clean”, eating fruity greek yogurt, oatmeal, Fiber One bars, kale shakes and smoothies, and quinoa every day. A few weeks pass and Jim notices he’s gained 5 pounds on the scale.  He rationalizes it as pure muscle gain from the workouts. Another couple of weeks go by and he’s up another 3 pounds. Why is Jim’s weight steadily increasing?

Here’s why:

Exercise has an effect on the body that stimulates hunger, and this is especially prevalent in women unfortunately. The more you workout and exercise, the more of a hunger response your body solicits to meet demanding energy needs from the increased activity. Even by eating those “healthy foods”, Jim was unknowingly eating a surplus amount of calories that was adding to his weight gain. Because he was lifting weight, a small amount of that could possibly be muscle mass (about 2 or 3 pounds of “newbee” gains). But there’s no way he increased his muscle mass by a pure 8 pounds.  That is an increase in body fat mass. So why did I share this story?

nutrition fix

Food choices do matter. It’s important to understand how different macronutrients affect your body composition. Image courtesy of YouTube.

Because if Jim had known that his nutrition should have focused more on lean proteins like chicken and meats instead of oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and gluten free quinoa, he could have mitigated a large amount of unnecessary stored energy in the form of carbohydrates.

Food choices do matter. It’s important to understand how different macronutrients affect your body composition.


I see this happen every day at the gym.

Folks will hop on some cardio equipment and jog a few miles or trek through thin air on the elliptical machine. They’re thinking that’s going to burn body fat in a raging inferno.

Let’s go back to the energy balance stuff. Cardio will only reduce body fat IF YOU PUT IN LESS ENERGY THAN YOU PUT OUT. Which means if your calorie usage through daily activity and exercise is higher than what you consume, your body will burn body fat. And there’s no arguing with that. People will unknowingly eat 800 plus calories over their daily requirements and hit an hour on the treadmill to burn 600 calories. This still leaves them in a 200 calorie surplus. And they wonder why they can’t get lean. Once the calories have been accounted for through tracking macronutrients, then (and only then) will cardio be an effective tool for weight loss.


Let’s break this down a little bit more.

If you do workout, even if it’s every day, that is roughly one hour of your day. The other waking hours of your life are spent eating.

And if you’re not eating, you’re thinking about eating whether you know it or not. You’re constantly being bombarded with food advertisements, aromas, images of food, and people talking about food. All of this can lead to habits of overeating. Yes, even if it’s “clean” food. Constantly eating too much of the wrong things, or even at the wrong times, will undo that one hour of exercise you put in at the gym very quickly. It’s your same old 1 step forward 2 steps back song and dance.


You probably know somebody who can eat whatever they want, hardly workout, and still look phenomenal.

These people do exist, and if you’re reading this it’s probably not you. It’s not me either.

But I know a handful of people like this and they make being fit and healthy look extremely easy. Most of the time, they do a lot of things wrong and still look and feel great despite being way off track with their nutrition and training. This comes directly comes down to genetics and how they’re genetically predisposed. If you’re not one of the lucky ones, all I can tell you is you have to not worry about the things you can’t control and focus solely on the things you can. Like your nutrition and what macronutrient values and foods will work best for you to reach your fitness goals.

nutrition fix

Invest in yourself and take the time to understand the real power of food. Image courtesy of Ripped-Science.

If you’ve stuck with me all the way to this point, I hope you’ve picked up what I’ve been putting down. While working out and exercising is a substantial part of the puzzle, it’s not the means to the end. Information about your diet and nutrition is key. A little bit of knowledge will take you places you never thought you could go. So invest in yourself and take the time to understand the real power of food.

Food is a wonderful thing and should be enjoyed as often as possible. There’s no reason to stop eating delicious foods.  Don’t avoid social occasions that revolve around food because you think certain foods will make you fat, lose your gains, or kill you. It won’t happen. If you really want to make the most of your body, it will always be imperative to have a good training program. But your nutrition and diet foundation will always be paramount.  

About the Author

nutrition fix john cravenWith a background in mechanical engineering, John Craven’s problem solving skills and ability accomplish tasks has carried over to helping individuals achieve their best physiques possible through his articles and coaching. His passion is to contribute science-based information about nutrition and training to anyone looking to take control of their body composition and health while improving the overall quality of their lives. You can find more of his work and coaching services at