The second tier of the OFM Pyramid is diet, however, OFM departs from focusing on the conventional metrics of macronutrient profiles or calories and instead focuses on Nutrition and Nutritional Balance. Observationally, once an athlete can obtain the proper nutrition calories take care of themselves.
So what is an OFM diet?
The OFM Diet & Fueling approach is conceptual in nature with the end goal being for the athlete to intuitively know what to eat and how much. This sounds vague unless you are already an OFM athlete.
Because this subject is very complex and interrelated trying to break it down consciously on a daily basis is impossible. To reach the goal, taking a relaxed, organic approach is necessary for success. Here are key points to adopt and bear in mind.
An OFM Diet is based around a Whole Foods Diet using readily available fresh food sources that are “Nutrient Dense” in bio-available macro-nutrients, vitamins and minerals, in particular the fat soluble vitamins only found in animal fats. For vegetarians and vegans we offer a special section on strategies and resources.
OFM uses the concept of “Whole Animal Dieting”. Whole Animal Dieting means not only eating muscle meat but organ meat (read: liver and/or liver based foods) and broth to obtain what is found in the skin and connective tissues (collagen, gelatin, etc.). Doing so balances the proteins/amino acids along with the proper levels of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals for optimal uptake and utilization.
This does not, by any means, suggest an animal based diet of hotdogs and SPAM but one using fresh sources whenever and wherever possible and utilizing other sources where conditions and practicality dictate their use over fresh sources.
Nor does the OFM diet force individuals to eat a lot of animal products. Because there is a wide swath of individual variation some athletes will do optimally well with only a small amount of animal fats and proteins while others will require considerably more. Because whole, minimally processed animal products are nutrient dense the amount necessary in the diet can be quite small for a person who thrives on a diet rich in vegetables and low glycemic fruits.
During transitioning to the Fat-Adapted Metabolic Foundation, recovery and base training periods an OFM Diet eliminates or minimizes concentrated carbohydrate sources from the daily diet because they are nutritional wastelands and raise blood sugar levels to where fats are not metabolized. In terms of nutrition high blood sugar inhibits the uptake of key nutritional components (cholesterols and fat-soluble vitamins) in fats eaten by OFM athletes. During these periods the OFM Diet is a High Fat, Moderate Protein, Low Carbohydrate diet generally sufficient to get the athlete back into a state of NK.
During periods of high volume and/or intensity of training including competition concentrated forms of carbohydrates are brought back into the diet and fueling “strategically” in conjunction with VESPA use to retain the benefits of high rates of beta-oxidation and ketosis while benefiting from the fast metabolizing glucose from the carbohydrates.
Nutritional Timing is also an important component of the “Nutrition NOT Calories” equation. Read more here.
Nutrition NOT Calories:
The core of performance and health is driven by Nutrition with Calories supplying the energy. So let’s forget about calories for the time being.
The OFM Diet is one focused on delivering nutrition to the body. Delivery is the key because so much of the mainstream dietary advice and marketing of supplements talks about nutrition and breaks nutrition down to the body needing this specific vitamin or those Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) or that key mineral without really looking at the bio-availability, or the need to balance components.
A key concept of OFM is “Nutritional Balancing”. This is a concept that is crucial for success in any dietary strategy and we cannot overemphasize this enough. Many nutrients can actually lead to a toxicity situation at certain levels without balancing them with other elements while the same levels can be synergistic and aid in performance, recovery or adaptation at much higher levels when “balanced” with other elements.
Well known examples of the importance of Nutritional Balancing are:
- Calcium uptake and deposition. Many people are getting more than sufficient dietary and supplementary Calcium but are low in Vitamin D thus have low rates of deposition of Calcium in their bones.
- Vitamin A toxicity and the complex interactions between Vitamin A, D,K,E
- Methionine from muscle meat. Without balancing it with B Vitamins, Glycine and Choline, Homocysteine levels become elevated, however, when balanced with these Vitamins and amino acids, methionine supports the growth and repair of tissues, our defense against oxidants, detoxification and proper cellular communication.
The above are a few examples and all critical to an athlete’s performance and health.
Because dissecting this topic would take volumes and the readers would need a university level biology/physiology background to understand we won’t go into it here, however, we will stress and point out this concept throughout the Dietary component of the OFM Program.
The OFM focus on Nutrition and Nutritional Balancing through consumption of whole food sources which are naturally nutritionally dense and highly bio-available, in conjunction with a healthy stomach and gut, make the need for supplementation to a minimum. This being said, most endurance athletes are placing a large load on their bodies so, even with a well-adapted OFM athlete, some supplementation is necessary.
Under the OFM program, because the athlete does not consume massive amounts of food for calories the nutrition component needs to be spot on. Read the Supplementation page for more detail, but, here are few pointers.
Salt: Like fat, salt (Sodiium Chloride/ NaCl) becomes your friend and many people who shift to Nutritional Ketosis tend not to get enough salt in their diet because we are told salt causes hypertension (high blood pressure) ….not when fat adapted….the body will actually excrete sodium and an athlete will be sweating out boatload so you need salt. Add to this the salt lost in sweat of any athlete who has a high volume of training this makes salt a critical component of your diet and electrolyte replacement. Because there is a wide variation between individuals and environmental variables there is no easy metric of how much salt is necessary for each athlete.
Magnesium: Magnesium is a crucial mineral but one that is not needed in massive amounts. The issue is that Magnesium can be rapidly depleted but it cannot be rapidly absorbed. So I recommend taking in a supplement of Magnesium Chloride (available from VESPA) which is a naturally occurring, easily assimilated, relatively inexpensive form of Magnesium after your meals in 100-200 mg doses. Trying to pack in Magnesium to make up for a loss can result in diarrhea (think Milk of Magnesia). I also think that Epsom Salt baths, especially in the winter and topical oils containing Magnesium can be useful for athletes with a high training load.
Zinc: Another mineral that is essential but often not optimized in athletes having a high training volume. Oysters are literally the best source.
Keep in mind Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc are key minerals which need replenishing for endurance athletes but each “competes” with the others for absorption. Most commonly athletes are getting plenty of Calcium in various forms which “out competes” with Magnesium and Zinc. This is an overly-simplistic explanation.
Other trace minerals are generally available via eating whole foods which are nutrient dense as they are needed in such minute amounts, however, this does not mean an athlete cannot run up against a deficiency.
Iodine: Iodine is essential for proper Thyroid function and is easily available in many seafoods, iodized salt and some other foods…..this being said iodine deficiency is fairly common even when an athlete is eating seafood etc…..one of the most common forms of iodine deficiency/ thyroid dysfunction is actually via consuming plant based foods that bind the iodine and other minerals. Cruciferous Vegetables, especially in raw (uncooked and/or unfermented form), consumed in large quantities are known goitrogens and should be cooked and consumed in moderate amounts…..many athletes unknowingly consume loads of raw cruciferous vegetables and end up with Thyroid issues. Here is a great article on the subject and one of many resources on the subject: http://www.westonaprice.org/basics/bearers-of-the-cross, http://huntgatherlove.com/content/just-kale-me-how-your-kale-habit-slowly-destroying-your-health-and-world
The take home is that most people are going to get enough iodine if they eat a varied diet that includes some seafood and iodized salt and as long as they are not eating a ton of raw vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables.