The Nutrition Gray Zone

Get There to Win with Your Diet (updated 01/2017)

Last night, I was a guest on Mike Robertson’s Physical Preparation Podcast. Before the interview we chatted about not doing a traditional interview, (“what are the 5 foods that you think people should eat?”), instead we opted for a more free flowing, at sometimes philosophical, discussion. I think it went great…but I’m interested in hearing your opinion after you listen to it (I’ll link it up when it is published).

One of the things that we discussed is what I call ‘gray zone nutrition’ and the main reason why mainstream nutrition advice is so bad. Here’s the concept:

We as humans love black and white. Two opposites and we get to pick sides.

good vs. bad

high vs. low

champion vs. loser

gluten free vs. not gluten free

This is one of the reasons that I think gluten free foods have become so popular, while foods that would benefit other, more prevalent conditions, like diabetes, have lagged in market adoption. Gluten free is very black and white. It is either gluten free or it is not.

Let’s continue with the diabetes example. If you take a food that you deem a good snack for someone with diabetes, depending on the food – you could easily find 5 people that disagree with you. When I look at the American Diabetes Association snack recommendations I roll my eyes and think to myself, TWO RICE CAKES, seriously? What is good for diabetics to eat is a highly debated topic. I think the grayness of this has prevented mainstream adoption and action from both food companies and the general public.

Life is gray, messy, and mixed up. At a macro level, grayness of dietary concepts can impede adoption and progression (like in the example of foods for diabetics compared to gluten free foods).

However, at an individual level, your diet should be gray.


There is no one diet prescription that works every time for every person. There is no perfect meal. There aren’t really good and bad foods. It usually comes down to dose, timing, and context.


But after a long and intense workout, you could probably benefit from some sugar in your post workout shake.

gluten free…good…right? 

Not if you don’t have an allergy or intolerance to gluten. Gluten free replacement products (e.g. GF bread, crackers, pasta, etc) are made with highly refined components. If you could eat whole grain bread that packed 4 grams of fiber per slice why would you opt for the gluten free slice made with tapioca starch and rice flour?

trans fats…bad…right?

Not if they are naturally occurring trans fat like vaccenic acid or even if they are industrially produced trans fat consumed at a level of 1% of your total calorie intake or less.

When it comes to nutrition, it is okay to live in the gray zone. You’ll actually do better in the gray zone over the long term vs. the dogmatic world of black and white.

Ground your diet in the 6 Pillars of Nutrition, but give yourself the flexibility to adjust and adapt to what works in your life.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “The Nutrition Gray Zone

  1. Dr. Mike,

    Hour after hour after hour, I’ve ground my way thru the videos on gluten intolerance. Session after session with Dr. William Davis, and a number of others. Have you done any on this?

    And in light of the astonishing response in my own body to simply cutting out wheat (rye, barley, oats, etc.) now, I have a conclusion: this is the simplest and most dramatic turn a person can take toward better health. For reason after reason after reason. You’ve heard of “leaky gut?” Well, what about “leaky brain?”

    I’m reeling with all the info.

  2. hi Mikey
    yes i have to kvetch about the pseudo sugars ~ i hate stevia, xylitol makes me throw up (i wondered as a teen why sugarless gum gave me indigestion), sucralose? bleah… really these all taste revolting~ my gut does not like any of that stuff – it says, “just send ordinary sugar, we know what to do with sugar… we know you’re gonna have protein and fat etc so your levels don’t skyrocket.. just send the real stuff, we can’t handle any of the weird stuff down here, mush love, your gut”

    p.s. speaking of grey zones – yes, discovering food intolerances (dietwise by dr keith scott-mumby) – ya i finally found out why i would eat something, gain like 4 lbs, and then it would take like 4 days to deflate… who knew? ordinary foods too, like lamb, scallops etc…

    • Helen,

      I love that you called me Mikey 🙂 That is what everyone called me as a kid. You are dead on about personal intolerance to various foods. I am continually amazed at how different people are impacted by different things. It is important to find the foods that work for your body and then use them in the context of an optimal diet plan (like the 6 Pillars of Nutrition).

  3. after tests it couldn’t be proved regarding Gluten , so the advice was eat what you like & save your money , it was found that these foods were high Sugar & Fat , it dose stand to reason that a few may have a reaction but it couldn’t t be proved either .