Beginner Series

What is optimal nutrition?

Optimal Humans

What is optimal nutrition?

As with all the aspects of becoming an optimal human, optimal nutrition has to cater to both performance and overall health. Your health can’t suffer because of the focus on eating for high performance. And your performance can’t decline because of the way you eat for health.

Performance and health go hand in hand. And we have to find the balance to thrive in both.

Evaluating nutrition for performance and health

To make this work, we have to first narrow down what we need from our diet to support optimal performance. 

These are the non-negotiables:

  • Moderate to high protein intake for building and maintaining muscle mass
  • Moderate to high carb intake for energy
  • Enough water for optimal cell function, energy transport and blood pressure

Then, balancing that with the nutrition needs for optimal health:

  • Fruits and vegetables for nutrients and minerals
  • Omega-3 for brain and joint health
  • Vitamin D for bones, blood pressure, brain health, blood pressure, mood and the immune system
  • Limiting processed foods to keep weight and cholesterol in check by avoiding nutrient-poor food choices. Choosing the least processed foods also means we’re using our jaw muscles more. Which, over time, can improve our breathing.

Some of these obviously overlap. As in, we need protein, omega-3 and water for health too. But the amounts per day are higher for those who are into sports and training vs those aren’t. 

The great thing about the above lists is that it doesn’t dictate how you should eat. Instead, it gives you the parameters to build your optimal diet around your personal eating and diet preferences.

Making optimal nutrition work with your diet preferences

At Optimal Humans, we consider Omnivore, Pescatarian, Mediterranean and Paleo diets are the most optimal for performance and health. They all provide a balanced diet and, when done well, easily cover your daily energy, nutrient, mineral and protein needs.

In contrast, a strict vegetarian diet, vegan and carnivore diets are sub optimal. They all severely restrict one or more food groups.

It is possible to make vegetarian and vegan diets optimal for performance and health 

Both require considerably more focus, effort and supplementation compared to the other diets we listed. Especially when it comes to performance. But, it can be done and there are plenty of high level vegetarian and vegan athletes doing amazing things in their sports.

Not so much for the carnivore diet

As for the carnivore diet, it is a relatively new diet with limited data. And we find it hard to imagine it being great for your long-term performance and overall health. That being said, we’re always open to science to prove us wrong.

Optimal Humans benchmarks for optimal nutrition

As mentioned above, Omnivore, Pescatarian, Mediterranean, and Paleo all score the highest points in Optimal Humans app. Vegetarian loses one point. Vegan and carnivore lose twos points

  • Zero processed food
  • 5+ servings of vegetables each day
  • 3+ servings of fruit each day
  • 2+ litres of water each day
  • 26-40% of the diet is protein (mostly from whole food sources and supplemented where necessary)
  • Vitamin D supplement each day. 
  • Regular omega-3. Either fish 3x per week or supplement daily
  • Getting 15 minutes of morning sun each day. And 5 minutes at lunch for the sleep cycle. While being sun safe for the rest of the day.

The specific requirements for omega-3, vitamin D supplement and sun exposure depends on your region and latitude. Darker days require more omega-3 and vitamin D supplementing. But it’s worth noting that even in countries with ample sunlight throughout the year, such as Australia, most people are deficient in vitamin D.

Summary

Optimal nutrition has to cater to both performance and overall health. Your health can’t suffer because of the focus on eating for high performance. And your performance can’t decline because of the way you eat for health.

Omnivore, Pescatarian, Mediterranean and Paleo diets are the most optimal. They all provide a balanced diet and, when done well, easily cover your daily nutrient, mineral and protein needs. Both for performance and health.

In contrast, a strict vegetarian diet, vegan and carnivore diets are sub optimal. They all severely restrict one or more food groups. 


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