When talking nutrition you'll find that there is a wide range of information that is available for your consumption. To be purely honest...there is just too damn much. Moreover, this expanse of words is filled with tips, secrets, and guidelines that often end up contradicting something else.
There are the zealots who boast about fad diets that do everything short of stopping death itself. Whether it is the alkaline diet, paleo, atkins, or even vegan diets there is a constant push to have adopt a particular set of habits. Each "boast" a series of benefits that are exclusive, unique, and critical to your longevity, or so they say.
Then there are the quality nutritionists who simply want you to focus on the basics and build from there. An emphasis on rules and steady progress towards a place of health and performance is typically the push. It's boring and doesn't package well for $39.99, but it works, and always will.
Regardless of whether or not you jump on the next fad diet, or find yourself simply focused on doing the small things correctly over time you'll likely find yourself with a Do-and-Don't list.
There are a ton of rules and healthy behaviors that if applied will lead to tremendous success in your diet. Some include:
1. Focus on the consumption of vegetables in the diet. 5-10 servings per day.
2. Aim to consume .7 - 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This depends on activity level.
3. Drink 8 to 10 standard glasses of pure water a day
The list goes on and on and can become very specific. I could easily do a "ten commandments" of dieting just to write a blog. That's not what this is about though.
We are looking for the 1 thing you need to do; that is not negotiable.
Plan your Meals
I've beat this one to death on this very blog, and every trainer has too. Yet, at the end of the day....
"if you fail to plan, then plan to fail".
This "rule" doesn't even need to be as specific as cooking all of your meals, and cutting things into appropriate servings. EVEN IF you are going to find yourself eating out it is imperative to do your homework and plan what you are going to eat. One of the quickest ways to short circuit progress is to fall victim to an empty stomach, hangry emotions, and tastebuds that contemplate what would happen if you put a cheeseburger on a donut. (I just learned that is a thing)
Furthermore, this does mean preparing meals on your own to help you avoid situations where you literally have no other options. Being in D.C. I have many clients who spend the morning in meeting rooms that convert into pop-up Dunkin Donuts. Pastries, bagels, and not an ounce of protein populate a landscape of important individuals in suits holding monster-sized coffees.
This is where having a little tupperware container of fruit and a protein bar in your bag becomes more clutch than Jose Bautista before the bat flip heard around the world.
And...Boom goes the dynamite
Translate this to any meal time, and prepare for the worst. Whether it's knowing the coolest salad shop in the city, or spending time on the weekends roasting chicken like you are working at Boston Market it does not matter; prepare for your meals by developing a plan for every day!
If your dietary protocol has a list of "do's", then it will certainly have a companion list of don'ts. Some examples of this would be:
1. Avoid processed foods that are high in added sugars and fats (think packaged snack foods and candy)
2. Don't eat too quickly, especially when in a situation where more food is available. Slow down and let your hormones catch up to your mouth
3. Avoid consuming a meal that is high in fat and sugar at the same time. Your metabolism will bog down from calorie overload.
Just like the list of rules you should follow this list could turn into a short novel itself.
Do Not Compound your Bad Meals
Simply put, do not eat something bad for you and follow it with something else bad for you, especially if you aren't going to be working out that day.
This can be done one of two ways:
1. Make sure you demolish the gym on a day when you enjoying a tasty, but less-than-healthy treat in your diet. While food should never be justified by exercise it never hurts to make use of those additional calories for a high-energy work out that makes Thor jealous.
2. After you enjoy your cheat meal make sure your next 3-5 meals are highly focused upon nutritional quality. One meal doesn't need to become 3 or 4 consecutive "screw it" meals.
For example, if you are like me and eat a bit more freely while watching football on Sunday, then make sure you have a very healthy dinner planned and drink a lot of water.
On Monday it is important to eat a protein rich meal that is low in carbohydrates for breakfast and lunch to balance out whatever your splurge was. A balanced late-lunch and dinner can round out the day. Do your best to continue this trend through Tuesday and into the week until your next planned cheat.
It is important to admit that you will at some point eat or drink calories that aren't beneficial to the achievement of your goals. I'll openly admit to anyone who wants to know that I absolutely adore boneless wings while watching football, or a movie...or HGTV...
If you take the time to accept the fact that you are human and you will consume less-than-optimal foods at time, then you will be better prepared to work with your dietary choices. This approach is healthier physically and psychologically, since you are not going to allow yourself to go into that spiral of regret and self-loathing that tends to follow a cheat-meal/binge.
We often hear of the 90-10 rule when it applies to our diets. If we eat healthy 90% of the time, then the 10% shouldn't do much damage to our progress. I like to extend that just a bit further; however, by emphasizing that we shouldn't be stacking our cheat meals and lazy days.
What is stacking?
Stacking would be taking the whole weekend out of the gym and indulging on the foods you want and not the foods you need.
Stacking is going out for drinks on friday, eating pizza at 4am, waking up hungover and not eating until your starving and slamming a bag of chips, a soda, and a huge greasy burrito to bounce back. Nevermind working out...you are working to stay alive on the couch...that is...until your Saturday night begins...
Side Note: This "Don't" is easier to follow if you abide heavily by the "Do".
There is a mess of information out there. Let's simplify the process and make things easier on all of us.
Plan your meals
Don't stack the bad meals.
Till' next time..