There’s no shortage of diet plans out there and it’s easy to be deceived by the phonies trying to make a quick buck off the latest diet fad.  On a daily basis I hear from someone who swears by keto, and another who says intermittent fasting is the way to go, and another who lives by If It Fits Your Macros.  Prior to earning a certification in Sports Nutrition coaching, I bounced around from various diets trying to find what was right for me and what would work in the long term.

What I’ve found is that there’s no magic solution, but it’s also not overly complicated.  I needed something that was sustainable, provided flexibility when I’d be in the field or deployed, and still allowed me to enjoy a certain quality of life and enjoy dinners out with my wife and friends.  Here’s what I believe to be a few simple truths of nutrition that are the foundation of any plan.  Essentially this is my north star for sustainable eating.

1. Consume around 0.8 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day.  A higher protein diet will allow you to retain, or build, as much muscle as possible while remaining lean.  I do recommend when someone is starting to eat this way that they invest in a food scale and measure their protein to ensure they are hitting the correct daily intake.  As you get familiar with what the portion sizes look like after weighing then it becomes much easier to eyeball this later.  Plant based diets seem to be one of the latest crazes in the nutrition world.  I think it’s important to note that while you can get a sufficient source of protein from a plant based diet, they are considered incomplete proteins because they lack all of the essential amino acids needed for your body to function correctly.  On the flip side, animal proteins are considered complete.  Amino acids are used to repair and grow new muscle, so it is vital we maintain a complete amino profile.  In terms of plant vs. animal protein, I like to look at it as a Lambo and a Prius are both cars, but they are not the same.  If your protein once had a face, life, and mother then we’re on the right track.  Consuming a high protein diet also allows us to feel satisfied for much longer and helps reduce hunger pangs throughout the day.

2. Drink between 0.5 – 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day.  Every cellular function of the body works better when we are properly hydrated.  On days where I sweat a lot I keep my water consumption more towards the 1 oz/pound side of the spectrum.  0.5oz/pound should be the minimum goal on any given day.  Staying properly hydrated also helps reduce cravings.  Oftentimes when you feel that mid afternoon hunger pang, it’s not necessarily your body telling you it needs to eat, but it might be telling you it needs more water.  Next time this happens try going for a bottle of water instead of a snack and see if it reduces your hunger.

3. Eliminate (or limit) added sugars.  Added sugars are pretty much exactly what the name says, sugars that do not naturally occur in food and are added.  Natural sugars, such as fruit, are totally fine and we can pretty much eat without abandon.  You’ll find that added sugars are typically associated with foods that are overly processed.  The ones that taste really good, but aren’t satisfying in the long run because you end up hungry again a couple hours later.  Our food choices have become more and more processed over time, decreasing in nutrient value the more processed they are.  No wonder nutrient deficiencies become more common each year.  By eliminating, or limiting, added sugar we are left with foods that that are nutrient dense and keep us satisfied for a longer period of time.  Optimized immune system support, gut health, and better digestion are just a couple of the perks.  I put “or limit” in parenthesis because the most crucial part of any nutrition plan is that its sustainable.  I definitely like to put a brown sugar rub on my ribs when I smoke them, but it’s the exception, not the rule.  On a daily basis my goal is to eliminate the added sugar.

4. Eliminate (or limit) alcohol.  The part that nobody likes.  Sure, there are studies that show a glass or two of red wine can have health benefits, but nobody is really arguing that alcohol deserves a spot in a balanced nutrition plan.  While alcohol is not its own macronutrient, we often count it as such because it contains 7 calories per gram.  Compare this to proteins and carbs at 4 calories per gram and fat at 9 calories per gram.  It’s pretty easy to start packing on some extra weight if we don’t have a plan for consumption.  Let’s look at a 150 calorie beer (low calorie count compared to most craft beers) and say somebody consumes 2 a night on average after work.  Over the course of a year that totals 109,500 calories.  With an energy surplus of about 3,500 calories required to gain a pound of fat, that leaves opportunity to gain just over 31 pounds a year.  What is a seemingly normal habit for most can actually add up to a lot of weight over time.  At the same time, alcohol is a big part of social gatherings and if it’s something you can enjoy responsibly then I’d say find the balance.  Setting parameters such as only drinking twice a week and no more than 3 drinks in one day can help provide the balance you need.  Consume a high protein meal prior to drinking to help reduce hunger cravings after alcohol consumption.  I’d say ditch the high calorie mixers, but that’s already happening if you’re following the third rule.

There you have it, my foundational rules of nutrition.  You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned counting calories.  I’m in no way saying that it’s not important.  You must be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, so understanding your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and roughly how many calories you’re consuming is a powerful tool in helping you reach your goals.  The point in not mentioning it in the rules is that most people don’t need to jump from not dieting at all, to now counting the calories in a breath mint.  Eat more protein, hydrate properly, limit added sugars and alcohol.  Just try that out for a month and see what happens.

If you’re interested in personalized sports nutrition coaching or just have questions and would like to learn more you can send me a DM on my Instagram page @modernathletestrength or visit and fill out our contact form.


By Brian T

Hey guys, I'm Brian. I've been in the military around 11 years at this point in 11 and 18 series jobs. I started Modern Athlete Strength Solutions not just to give it the cool nickname of MASS, but to provide free strength and conditioning training to those that want to cut through the BS, not pay $100 for a generic program, and develop their athleticism through qualified S&C coaches. I am also the Executive Director at Operation RSF, a 501c3 non-profit that provides education and community initiatives on how fitness benefits mental health.

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