The Principles of Nutrition

In the last article, Mike Leng of Unorthodox Nutrition said that all successful and sound diets must follow a few basic principles in order for them to be successful.   

So what are they? In the latest of our nutrition series, Mike runs through the key principles you should follow for optimum nutrition and performance in sport.


This is the first thing that anyone must focus on if they really want to get a good handle on their nutrition. Pretty much every diet that is marketed to the masses uses one trick or another to maniplulate calories (removing food types, only eating for a certain portion of the day, placing restrictions on types of food etc). In every conclusive study that has been done, it has been undoubtedly proven that calories are still one of the biggest factors in dieting success.

When you ask most people about nutrition, they will probably say something along the idea of “calories”.  A calorie is basically how much energy your body gets from ingesting foods and liquids. Certain foods have more calories per gram than others (fat being the highest, then carbs and protein being equal). The idea is that if you burn off more calories than you take in you will lose weight and if you take in more than you need you will add weight (hopefully muscle if you are training hard and ingesting the right foods at the right time, but more of that later). However, this is in reference to WEIGHT not to FAT. While this is what most magazines would have you believed is a good thing, it can be quite the opposite. I mean, who wants to lose those guns for a couple of pounds on the scale (I know there is more too functional BJJ training than ‘guns’ but everyone loves guns...).

This doesn’t mean that calories don’t play the biggest part in nutrition. The first thing that we need to do is ascertain how (and more importantly what) you are eating and when. I highly recommend keeping a food log for a week or two. It will give you a great idea of how much or little you are actually eating. This will give you a great starting point. Lots of people recommend certain numbers for men and women when it comes to how much you are supposed to be consuming. I personally think that it is so individual that a random number can’t be slapped on everybody. The best thing in my opinion is to take a food log so that you can get an average of what you are taking in at the moment, then adjust from there (more on that in a bit).


This is the second most important principle that we must adhere to when setting up a nutrition plan.

 Macronutrients or Macros are basically what your food is predominantly made of ie protein, fats or carbohydrates. Some food will contain just one type of macro, however most will be made up of two or in some cases all three. To be more specific a macro is defined as,

macronutrient [mak″ro-noo´tre-ent]

An essential nutrient that has a large minimal daily requirement, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and water. The term sometimes specifically includes, and sometimes specifically excludes, minerals required in amounts greater than 100 mg daily: calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and sulfur.

The topic of macro nutrients has become a murky one lately with the term itself becoming an industry buzz word (I've never known an industry that creates so many trends, fads and buzz words as the nutrition industry). This makes things very confusing for people as Facebook and Instagram is constantly filled with people with great physiques who all recommend different things (eating clean, flexible dieting, people insisting you can eat ice cream etc). They often say every other method but theirs doesn't work and is old fashioned etc. This just isn't the case at all.

In the past people used to talk predominantly about a 'macro split'. This referred to what percentages of which macro made up your nutrition plan. For example you would have, 30% Protein. 40% carbs and 30% fat. Some people may have 30% protein, 30% carbs, 40% fat. It all depends on how your program is set up to achieve a certain goal. Athletes who have a more intense training schedule may have higher carbs while those looking to lose a bit of fat or who aren't as active may have a lower carb, higher fat diet. It is purely down to the individual and how the tailor their nutrition to suit their goals.

Now setting up your macros is a very personal thing. There are many great calculators on line that can give you a great starting point but it is the adjustment of these macros that will give you the best results.

Nutrient Timing

Nutrient timing is just a posh way of saying when you eat your macros. Now while there are some diet plans out there that have nutrient timing as their primary method (ie carb back loading, skip loading etc) calories and macros must come first. However, after those two principles nutrient timing can have a massive effect on not only an athletes training and results, but their ability to recover.

I’ll cover this in future articles, but some of the basics are the following,

  • Protein at every meal
  • Carbs around training
  • Keep fats out of meals around training
  • Lots of veggies.

This will be covered more in future posts.

Food composition.

This is basically the micronutrients in which our food is made up of (the good stuff).

The fact of the matter is that most of us don’t eat enough nutritionally dense foods (fruits and veggies).

This absolutely needs to change. Fighters cannot keep living on diets of chicken, rice and broccoli and expecting to be living to a ripe old age and playing with their grandkids. The sport of BJJ is an abusive one on the body. It is a high impact sport that wears down tendons, effects your immune system, damages muscles and in some extreme cases can effect vital organs (ever wonder what lots of bad  weight cuts do to a liver and kidneys? Go have a look). I’m going to be real with you. There are aspects of this sport that will kill you if you do not do them properly. There are factors that if not addressed, will give you serve long term negative effects. Not only on your performance, but the ability to be a husband, father and friend.

By now it should be blatantly obvious that your health needs to be your number one priority.

Eat some damn veggies.

In the next article I will start to take a closer look at these specific factors and what you can do to make the most out of them to affect your return to the mats.


Stay Healthy,


February 22, 2021 — Rokas Katinas

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.