Nutrition Basics: Quantity vs Quality
Food quantity and quality are the most basic, overarching themes of nutrition and weight management. These concepts apply to weight loss, lean mass gains and weight maintenance.
Quantity can be defined as the total amount of calories consumed. It can also be simplified as the total volume of food. Quantity can be assessed as a single meal to an entire day to our diet over a long period of time.
Quantity determines our body’s “size,” and unfortunately, there’s no way around this! If you eat in a caloric surplus (more than you need to maintain your body’s size), you will gain. If you eat in a caloric deficit (less than you need to maintain your body’s size), you will reduce. If you eat what you need, you will maintain.
Foods that are high quality are minimally processed, free of refined sugars and close to what they are when they exist in nature. Very simply, high quality foods have an expiration date! Food quality determines how we feel and how we perform.
However, quantity of food is always going to trump quality of food in terms of weight management. For example, if you were to consume only brown rice, grilled chicken and broccoli, which could be considered high quality foods, but you ate in a surplus, you would still gain weight.
Conversely is also true. If you ate only one McDonald’s Happy Meal per day, which would likely be a caloric deficit, you would lose weight.
Both quantity and quality need to be addressed for proper nutrition, optimal health and wellness and weight management. While quantity trumps quality in terms of the number on the scale, quality determines how we’ll feel and perform for strength training, but everyday tasks, as well.
The bottom line? Choose high quality, nutrient-dense foods but eat them in a quantity that is appropriate for both body size and goals.