Meal Plans

4 Ways to Defeat Nutritional Deficiencies

Don’t rely on your supplement cabinet to fill in the gaps. Getting the right nutrients through your diet can turn you into a muscle-building, fat-fighting beast.

Reducing nutritional deficiencies is a huge step that people forget to think about. When trying to lose fat and build muscle, most of us want to know what to cut out and what we should be eating. We want to cut carbs and sugar, eat more veggies, a lot more protein, only eat raw…and the list goes on. We’ll dispense with a few more examples of common questions that plague gym-goers:

Should I go high-carb or low-carb?

High protein or moderate protein?

Protein shakes, or only whole food?

Should I eat every 2-3 hours, or just 3-meals  a day?

Does Paleo or going Vegan work for bodybuilders?

While all of these may sound like good ideas – a few of them have some redeeming value – they don’t attack the problem with most people. There is no perfect diet, but all of the example diets above do hold a tremendous amount of educational value. Dr. John Berardi has researched and found studies that show the majority of people, even the so called “perfect” eaters and athletes, can be deficient in many nutritional areas.

There was a study in the British Journal of Medicine that showed a 5% decrease in aggression and a 26% decrease in antisocial behavior in prison inmates just by taking a fish oil supplement, multi-vitamin, and mineral supplement. Also, a paper published in Nutrition Reviews showed that giving kids fish oil and a multi-vitamin improved behavior and intelligence scores. Imagine what reducing deficiencies can do for gaining muscle and losing fat?

No matter how well we eat, chances are we have some type of nutritional deficiency. This is why many physique athletes who go on a diet look great but feel lousy. They have low energy, lack focus, are in a bad mood and are short of endurance.

Here are some common deficiencies you need to look for:

Water (low-level hydration): Dry skin, low energy, bloating and constipation.

Vitamins and minerals: Low energy and poor immune function, usually marked by a low intake of vegetables.

Protein (particularly in women and men with low appetites): This can happen when you are not eating enough protein-rich foods. Low amounts of lean muscle tissue, low energy, reduced strength, and not recovering from your workouts.

Essential fatty acids (95% of population is deficient here): Poor immunity, inflammation, up and down blood sugar and reduced satiety.

If you are having one of the side effects mentioned above, the most likely explanation is that you have a deficiency. Keep in mind that you may never be without deficiencies but you can drastically improve them to where you will not notice signs or symptoms. Here are four ways to minimize deficiencies in your diet.

1 FOCUS ON PROTEIN: Eat more of the protein-rich foods that you prefer, such as organic eggs and chicken, grass-fed beef and whey protein, and even plant sources like legumes and nuts. Strive for at least 2 palm-sized servings for 3 meals.


2 INCREASE HYDRATION: Drink more hydrating fluids. Aim for at least 64-100 ounces of water each day, depending on your muscle mass and activity level. If you have a tough time drinking enough water, start by just limiting other beverages, such as coffee, tea, and soda and substitute H2O.

3 EAT MORE FAT: Getting more essential fats through fish, oil, krill or sea algae oils, which will provide the omega-3 fatty acids and EPA/DHA that you need, but not all of them. Also include 2-4 more servings of healthy fats each day from avocadoes, almonds, coconut oil, and fatty fish.


4 GO GREEN: Eat more foods rich in vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients. Consume at least one fistful of vegetables at three of your daily meals. Using a whole food green supplement such as wheat grass and green food powders can help fill in the gaps.  

The bottom line is that if you are deficient in nutrients, you will constantly battle to achieve your health and fitness goals. Getting in all of the nutrients that you need through food will be a tough task, especially since most people are way too busy to prepare and eat the food we need. But if you can identify and plug holes, you can drastically boost health and performance.


Justin Grinnell, CSCS, is the owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. Justin received his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology from Michigan State University specializing in exercise science, fitness leadership, athletic administration, and health promotion in 2004. He is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). He also holds a certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is CrossFit Level I certified. For more training info from Justin Grinnell, CSCS, you can visit his gym’s website at, his Facebook page, or check him out on Twitter.

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