3 simple principles to follow to get in shape and stay healthy for life, according to an NFL nutritionist

  • Getting in shape and staying healthy can seem complicated.

  • NFL nutritionist Mike Minnis has bottled it down to three key principles.

  • Nail your intake of energy, protein, and fiber, he said.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of confusing health advice flying around when it comes to getting in shape, sports nutritionist Mike Minnis has distilled it all down to three key points.

Minnis, who has been working with elite NFL athletes for nine years, told Insider that if you want to be fit and healthy, you need to nail the concept of energy balance, and your intake of protein and fiber.

If you understand how much food your body needs and then maintain a healthy weight, while getting enough protein and fiber, you'll likely end up in a pretty good place.

Mike Minnis
Mike Minnis helps elite athletes with their nutrition.Mike Minnis

1. Understand energy balance to help maintain a healthy, stable weight

The most important thing to understand is the principle of energy balance, which just means the balance of the calories you're consuming and the energy you're burning, Minnis said.

While there's more to weight loss than eating less and moving more, having a general understanding of this concept is helpful, Minnis said.

Eating too much can lead to health issues, just like eating too little.

"Eating too much can lead to visceral fat, that internal fat which has been shown to lead to metabolic dysfunction and a whole cascade of issues, and that in itself is a stressor to the body which then raises cortisol," Minnis said. "And then on the other side of that, if somebody's not consuming enough calories, they're going to lose muscle mass, be fatigued, and have increased risk of injury, and that's also a stress."

So before worrying about whether foods are organic, or you're taking the right supplements, or something contains artificial ingredients, you should simply work out whether you're eating the right amount for your body and activity levels, Minnis said.

Minnis encourages people to eat a nutritious diet, but said "quality is vastly important, but it's not as important as quantity."

He said: "If someone's calorie budget is 2,000 a day and they're eating 2,500, it doesn't matter if they're only eating grilled chicken, broccoli, and brown rice. They will gain body fat."

As such, you could technically lose weight eating less nutrient-dense foods while in a calorie deficit, but he wouldn't recommend it.

And while weight fluctuations are normal, Minnis advises people to do their best to avoid large swings throughout their life as "yo-yo cycles" can hinder metabolic health.

2. Eat more protein, even if you're not an athlete

While most athletes eat enough protein because they prioritize muscle recovery and strength adaptation, Minnis believes much of the general public thinks they don't need a lot.

"People have a misconception that they don't have to have much protein because they're not working out (or they're not working out as hard), or people get older and they think they don't need much protein anymore, which is literally the opposite of what's true," Minnis said.

He suggests people aim to eat 0.8 to one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. Most people eating a standard American diet are not hitting that amount, Minnis said.

Some people say they don't want to put on muscle, but eating enough protein helps you maintain what you have, as our muscle mass gradually starts to decrease with age, Minnis said. The more muscle you have, the stronger and more stable you will be and the faster your metabolism will be.

Eating protein is also satiating, meaning it keeps you feeling fuller longer, and it uses more calories in digestion than carbs or fats, Minnis said.

3. Eat enough fiber

Having a low body fat percentage and plenty of muscle mass is all well and good, but if you're not paying attention to other factors, such as your fiber intake, you may not be particularly healthy, Minnis said.

Minnis calls fiber "the great equalizer of quality" when it comes to food and diet, because to eat enough of it you have to by default eat nutritious, minimally processed, plant-based foods.

Fiber is important for maintaining good digestive and gut health, and the best sources of fiber are whole grains, legumes such as beans and chickpeas, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Requirements vary from person to person, but Minnis recommends people aim to eat 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. So someone who eats 2,000 calories a day should aim for 28 grams, whereas someone eating 3,000 calories should eat 42 grams of fiber.

If you're unsure whether you're consuming enough, Minnis recommended tracking food intake for a week or two in an app such as MyFitnessPal (Minnis is an ambassador for the brand).

If you're way below your fiber target, it may be a sign that you are eating too many processed foods, even if you're eating the right amount of calories and protein, Minnis said.

Ultra-processed foods have been found to lead people to eat more and gain more weight, and are also linked to health conditions such as heart disease.

Read the original article on Insider