Welcome to Calories in Context
About Calories in Context:
I absolutely love nutrition. I have devoted the last 13-plus years to the study of the science behind nutrition and metabolism, the result of which is a PhD and a tenure-track professorship. If there is one topic that I absolutely will not talk to a stranger about if stuck in an elevator or on a long plane ride, it is that of nutrition.
If that last statement made you chuckle, you have come to the right place. If that statement raised your hackles and you think there is only one end-all-be-all dietary prescription for health, weight loss, athletic performance, you name it, this is likely not the place for you.
To those who have not exited (yet), welcome to Calories in Context, a science-based nutrition column that aims to provide information, not confirmation. As I see it, while there are plenty of poor ways to eat, there is no single best way to eat. As the name of the column implies, context is always key when discussing diet and nutrition, and if I am unwavering on any one point regarding nutrition, it is this. Allow me to illustrate.
Imagine approaching a chess grandmaster and asking: “What is the best chess move?” Obviously, the answer is (and should be) it depends. It depends on the context of the move within the current state of the game. Thus, the best move is the one that allows the player to advance his/her play toward winning the game (match? It has been a while since I have played). Much of the same is true of diet and nutrition. The best diet is the one that meets your health and nutrition goals while ensuring maximal adherence. As far as to which diet that is and how it is implemented, that is completely individualized.
I will go even further. There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food. (Gasp!) Only within the context of the diet as a whole can we make that distinction.
Have I sufficiently upset a number of you? Or have I convinced you that there can be reasonable discussion about diet and nutrition? If you managed to get this far without wanting to hate-write me, I take it that you believe reasonable discussion is possible and that you have been waiting for such a place to offer that perspective. I thank you for giving me your time thus far and I truly hope you stay.
Since you asked. From the age of six, I have been an athlete in one form or another. I started competing in swimming from six up until I was 18. Following my swimming career, I had a brief stint competing in triathlons before falling in love with the weight room. Following swimming, I also made the connection that I probably couldn’t eat the same way anymore—which ultimately lead to my two degrees in nutrition (discussed below). Now, in my 30’s, I regularly weight train and maintain an active lifestyle. It is from these experiences that I draw my interests in nutrition, fitness, and exercise.
In terms of my professional experience, I am an Assistant Professor of Nutrition where I teach a variety of upper-level nutrition and metabolism courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. As such, I hold a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences, Dietetics (Rutgers University) and a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry and Physiology (Rutgers University). I have given talks to a variety of professional organizations, such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM) Regional Conferences. Additionally, I have published a number of peer-reviewed and lay publications in journals such as Frontiers in Physiology, Metabolism, the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, and the NSCA’s ‘Personal Trainer’s Quarterly’. In addition to my roles in academia, I also have “in the trenches” nutrition experience having worked with a variety of populations, ranging from college athletes to physique athletes and the lay public.