The 5 Basics of Optimal Nutrition

This may be a cliché, but it’s worth repeating: what you eat affects your health.

Unhealthy eating habits have been associated with various health problems such as obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many others.

If you want to live a healthy life, you need to get your nutrition right. Improving unhealthy eating behaviors can even have a faster impact on your body than training, although the latter is also important.

But, what does good nutrition or healthy eating look like?

Well, in a video we’re about to show you, Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Luke Corey from UCLA Health Sports Performance, explains clearly and concisely the 5 basics of optimal nutrition. Not only that, he also explains how to put them into practice.

The video is about 37 minutes long, but it’s well worth watching. Let’s see in more detail what Luke’s video covers.

Table of Contents

  1. Optimal Nutrition Definition
  2. What Are the 5 Basics of Optimal Nutrition?
    1. Eating Schedule
    2. Key Nutrients
    3. Food Selection
    4. Portion Sizes
    5. Hydration
  3. Closing Remarks

Optimal Nutrition Definition

In the first 7 minutes of the video, Luke explains the definition of nutrition, the impacts of nutrition on your day-to-day performances, and the differences between poor nutrition and optimal nutrition. These first 7 minutes are like the introductory part of this video.

The typical definition of nutrition is “the process of obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” Based on this definition, the function of nutrition is to keep you alive and functioning.

According to Luke, while this definition is great, it’s not sufficient to define “optimal nutrition.” We need to expand on this definition when we’re talking about optimal health and optimal nutrition.

So, what’s optimal nutrition? Luke defines optimal nutrition as “eating the right amounts of nutrients on a proper schedule to achieve the best performance and longest possible lifetime in good health.”

Based on this definition, the function of nutrition should not only be to maximize health, happiness, and well-being, but also to improve your athletic performance and exercise capacity.

What Are the 5 Basics of Optimal Nutrition?

After those first 7 minutes, Luke then explains the 5 basics of optimal nutrition. Those 5 things are (1) eating schedule; (2) key nutrients; (3) food selection; (4) portion sizes, and (5) hydration. This section is the gist of the video.

Eating Schedule

There are different eating schedules that people follow. A fairly common one is the three square meals routine, which consists of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then, some eat smaller meals five or six times a day.

Now, which eating schedule is the best to follow? According to Luke, research shows that what really matters is not the eating schedule that you follow, but your consistency in following your eating schedule. So, pick an eating schedule that you can follow consistently.

Key Nutrients

Key nutrients are nutrients that you need to include in every meal you eat. According to Luke, there are four key nutrients, i.e. (1) protein; (2) carbohydrates; (3) healthy fat; (4) vitamins and minerals.

Each key nutrient plays an important role in supporting your body. Proteins, for example, are the building blocks of all your tissues, such as muscles, brain, organs, and bones, while carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body and brain.

As you can see, Luke uses the balanced diet approach. A balanced diet is a diet that includes all the nutrients your body needs in proper quantities. It can be distinguished from diets that severely restrict or eliminate a certain food group, such as the currently popular keto diet.

Although an unbalanced diet may help people with certain health issues―for instance, the keto diet can help people with epilepsy―we believe that a balanced diet is the healthiest and safest approach to eating for most people.

Food Selection

In this section, Luke provides examples of foods that can give your body key nutrients. The important point here is to eat a variety of foods to make sure you’re getting all the key nutrients your body needs.

So, don’t just eat animal-based protein, but also eat plant-based protein, such as lentils, beans, and tofu. Likewise, don’t just eat carbohydrates from grains, but also eat them from vegetables and fruits.

By getting proteins, carbohydrates, and fats from a variety of sources, you’ll also get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Portion Sizes

To determine how much to eat, Luke uses the counting portion approach. In this approach, you don’t need to count calories, you simply need to pay attention to serving size. He teaches how to use your hand to measure serving size.

This approach is more practical than counting calories. The weakness, though, of this approach is that you don’t know for sure how many calories your food has.

If you want to learn about different ways to track food intake, read our article on the best way to track your food intake.


According to Luke, about 75% of your body is water. So, a slight change in hydration can affect your body.

Now, how much water do you need to drink every day? Luke provides an easy way to calculate that. To find out how many ounces of calorie-free fluid you need to drink per day, divide your weight in pounds by 2.

So, for example, if you are a woman weighing 145 pounds, then the amount of water you need to drink per day is 145 : 2 = 72.5 ounces of water.

Closing Remarks

After explaining the 5 basics of optimal nutrition, Luke discusses how to put those 5 things into practice by making a meal plan.

In the summary section of the video, he gives more actionable tips to help you implement the information he has given.

OK, this introductory article is already long enough, so without further ado, please watch Luke’s video below. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!

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