People are always asking me about what I eat. Losing weight or getting fit for most people can be as much as 70% diet. However, the general population knows a lot more about working out than they do about proper nutrition.
This week I’ll be featuring posts all about eating. It is important to remember I am not a registered dietitian or nutritionist. These are just things I have learned through years of research and practice. It is what works for me and should not be taken as a recommended meal plan.
A good place to start is with clean eating. This means eating as few processed foods as possible. You can read more about clean eating here, but a general guideline is avoid packaged foods and those with a long list of ingredients and many you can’t pronounce.
You don’t have to take an all or nothing approach right away. It can take years to clear all processed foods from your diet. Start with little changes like eliminating fast food and pop, and adding more fresh fruits and veggies.
Secondly, be sure you are eating to meet your goals. What you should eat and how much depends on if you are trying to lose weight, lean out (drop body fat) or build muscle. Generally muscle building requires higher calories and more carbs, while weight loss or “leaning out” requires less, but the exact formula is different for everyone. It may take trial and error and manipulation of your macros over time to find the right plan for you.
Macros are your carbs, fats, and proteins. You’ll want to track your daily intake of each to make sure your meal plan is striking the right balance. An app like My Fitness Pal makes this super easy to do.
Each meal you eat should consist of a lean protein, complex carb, and healthy fat. If your goal is weight loss or just to eat healthier, a good place to start is the 40/40/20 rule: 40% of calories each from carbs and protein, and 20% from fat. (This formula changes if you are carb cycling or on an otherwise low carb or low fat plan.)
An example of breakfast might be egg whites, a half cup of oatmeal and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Eggs would be your protein, oatmeal your carbs, and peanut butter your healthy fat.
Don’t fear fat, your body needs it for energy. However, your body needs healthy fats like olive oil, nut butters, and avocado. Keep portions in check and add a little to each meal. Avoid saturated and trans fats.
Eat every 3-4 hours to keep your metabolism fueled. Remember: this means small meals, usually about 200-400 calories (depending on your daily calorie goal). If you are used to only eating three times a day, you will now eat more frequently, but portions will be much smaller.
Aim to include a vegetable in each meal. You want to be eating about 5 servings of veggies a day. For example, you could add a cup of spinach to the breakfast above. Mix it up and include many different types of veggies.
You can kill yourself all day at the gym but you will not see results if you do not make nutrition an equal part of your plan. Losing weight and getting healthy requires just as much, if not more, work in the kitchen than the gym. Follow these general guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your goals.