A Simple Way to Eat Healthy with the Iron Crew Nutrition Pyramid

A Sustainable Method of Eating

Nutrition should be simple. Eat whole foods, lots of fruits & vegetables, lean meats, fish, grains, and nuts. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol & soda. Easy right? Wrong!

With the ever changing list of nutrition advice on the market today, it is easy to become overwhelmed. That is exactly why I created this very straight forward, practical, & realistic approach to eating using the above pictured Iron Crew Nutrition Pyramid.

I created this approach with over 2 decades of education, experimentation on myself, and experience training clients. I have personally used this approach and find it to be the most practical way for sustained weight management.

Why So Simple?

It has to be simple. If it isn’t, the majority of us will overthink it until we’re paralyzed, or we will create a perfect plan that is unsustainable. I’ve been there myself, and have seen it in others more times than I can remember.

Nothing is worse than a perfect plan that never gets used. Better to use an imperfect approach that is sustainable.

What This is NOT

Following this approach will NOT get you washboard abs. It won’t get you shredded for your Instagram pictures. It won’t help you add muscle in a short period of time.

This is not a get fit quick scheme. This is not a promise to look like a model. This is not a way to make up for the last 10 years of poor eating.

What This IS

A sustainable, realistic, practical way to manage your current weight so you do not fluctuate or “yo-yo” diet. In fact, this is not a diet. If you are obese or have a significant amount of body fat to lose (30+ pounds), following this advice will help you shed that initial excess fat because your body will naturally go back down to a healthy weight.

This is a lifestyle change. This is a mental shift from eating for health, wellness, and longevity. This a way to have a great relationship with food. Food is meant to nourish you, not stress you out.

So let’s break down the layers to the Iron Crew Nutrition Pyramid.


Calories In vs Calories Out

My clients have heard me say this phrase over and over when discussing nutrition…”At the end of the day, all that matters is calories in verses calories out.” What exactly does that mean?

If you are trying to LOSE weight, you should consistently be in a caloric DEFICIT throughout the week.  If you are trying to GAIN weight, you should consistently be in a caloric SURPLUS throughout the week.  If you are trying to maintain your bodyweight, you should consistently be at a caloric net zero.

For losing and gaining weight, you do not want to overdo this concept. If you want to safely (and sustainably) gain or lose weight, you should do it slowly over time. I recommend never exceeding a 300 calorie deficit/surplus on any given day.

Calories are like the gasoline in your vehicle. Without an ample amount, your body goes into overdrive and starts to rely on other systems to keep it functioning.  This results in muscles loss, fat gain, and can alter other normal body functions.

So how many calories per day do you need?  This is the magic question and the answer is not straight forward.  This entirely depends on age, gender, activity level, metabolism, sleep, and many other factors.  

Here are some very generic guidelines.  The MINIMUM caloric requirement to sustain life is 1,800 per day for men, and 1,500 per day for women.  This is just to sustain life, let alone make progress in the gym.

You will need to eat more based on your activity level. So if you are a woman and you used 300 calories while exercising, you would need to eat 1,800 calories on that day.


Protein – The Magic Macro

Protein is next in priority simply because it is an essential nutrient.  This means that if we do not consume protein from our diet, we will eventually deteriorate and die.

Not only is protein an essential nutrient, it is consistently one of the hardest nutrients to eat enough of in Western cultures.  Western cultures tend to prioritize carbohydrate rich diets because of cost effective methods of production and outdated food pyramids. 

I have always noticed that if I am eating enough protein in my diet, everything else seems to fall into place.  The one consistency across the board in nutrition science and research is that you cannot build muscle without adequate protein intake.  


Healthy Fats for Brain Function

Fat is another essential nutrient, and it is very important for cellular development and brain function.  Fat can also be used as an energy source, which is why it is prioritized over carbohydrates in this pyramid. 

Consuming fat is not always a problem area for many people, but consuming the RIGHT fat is. Avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fish are all great sources of healthy fat.


Carbs for Energy

Fiber is important because it allows for proper digestion and helps facilitate a healthy bodyweight.  Carbohydrates are a source of immediate energy and are very important in competitive athletes, especially in sports that require explosive strength and power.  Carbohydrates are typically not hard to come by in Western societies, which is why it shows up near the top of this nutrition pyramid. 


Do You Really Need These?

Many believe that they need to use performance supplements such as pre-workout drinks, protein powder, and amino acids. The truth about popular supplements is that very few people actually need them.

Our modern day lifestyle has set us up for failure when it comes to naturally obtaining certain vitamins and nutrients. Here are 5 supplements most people should be supplementing with.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because we get it naturally from sun exposure.  Since most humans in Western culture are not exposed to the sun as much as we should, over 70% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient.  

Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus in the body, as well as, maintains proper bone structure.  Research also associates Vitamin D with maintaining a healthy immune system and helps with fighting off infectious diseases. 


Magnesium is naturally found in the soil that our fruits and vegetables are grown in.  Since most produce farms are strictly regulated, they are required to strip the soil of it’s natural minerals to avoid contamination.  One of these minerals is Magnesium.  When the soil is stripped, so is the Magnesium. 

Magnesium is important for growth and maintenance of bones, as well as, proper function of nerves, muscles, and stomach.  

Fish Oil

Most Western cultures under consume fish, especially those high in fatty acids.  This is why most Americans should be supplementing with Fish Oil.  Fish Oil has been highly researched and the health benefits are indisputable.  Fish Oil helps reduce inflammation in the entire body, improve brain function, and prevent blood clots. 


Zinc deficiency results in low insulin levels, hair loss, skin disorders, poor immune system, kidney failure, and poor food absorption.  Zinc deficiency is relatively rare in the U.S., but the effects are severe.  I recommend taking a Zinc supplement to avoid even the remote possibility of becoming deficient. 


Iron is important for proper muscle function and is imperative to athletic performance.  Iron is needed for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide, which is essential for optimum performance.

Foods You Like

Eat What You Enjoy

This phrase is found along the outside line of the Iron Crew Nutrition Pyramid.  This is arguably the most important part of the equation.  If you commit to foods that you don’t actually enjoy eating, then the chances that you will CONSISTENTLY eat them is very low.  

What good is a nutrition plan if you are unable to stick with it?  The great thing about our modern society is that there are literally thousands of foods to choose from.  Many of us also have access to certain foods 365 days a year. 

This makes eating FOODS YOU LIKE a much easier, practical, and sustainable endeavor.

More on Macros

If you’re interested in a more detailed breakdown of what macronutrients are and what they do, check out my article Food for Noobs.

FREE 31 Page Nutrition Guide

Download your FREE Nutrition Guide for a more detailed breakdown of how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming, which supplements to avoid, how to grocery shop, a sample meal plan, and meal prep best practices.

Customized Nutrition & Exercise Coaching

If you’re looking for customized nutrition and/or exercise programming, I’d love to work with you. Click HERE more information!

About the Author

Danny Burde is the founder of Iron Crew Athletics and holds Bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology & Kinesiology. Danny is a CrossFit Level 2 Coach and was Head Coach at NC Fit for 2 years before starting Iron Crew Athletics. Danny has been immersed in fitness since he was 12 years old and has a passion for helping others.

Danny specializes in helping people find sustainable exercise and nutrition plans. His vision is a world where everyone stays in shape and eats healthy forever.

Learn more about Coach Danny HERE.


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