Putting together a sound nutrition plan can be confusing…
Putting together a sound nutrition plan can be an overwhelming and confusing task to say the least. There is a ton of misinformation about what you should be eating, how much you should be eating, and when you should be eating it.
Lucky for you, the 10 tips listed below should make it a breeze to ensure that you’re getting the nutrition you need to look, feel, and perform your best without making you frazzled.
You have a couple of different ways you can use this list:
A) If you’re completely new to good nutrition, try incorporating the tips one at a time. You might spend a full week or two only focused on that tip, until it becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit, move on to the next tip, and incorporate that until it becomes a habit. Eventually, all of these tips will become second nature to you, and you will have completely revamped your nutrition, one manageable habit at a time.
B) If you’re not new to good nutrition, use these tips as a checklist to ensure that you’re eating how you’re supposed to be eating. Even if you have heard of these tips before, there is a good chance that you’re not implementing all of them 90% of the time. So hold yourself accountable, and make sure you’re doing everything you can to fuel your body properly.
Without further ado, 10 nutrition tips you should be following:
1. Eat real food.
Sometime over the last 50 years, it seems that we got so caught up in “dieting, “diet foods,” and “meal replacement bars/shakes/drinks” that we forgot to eat real food. Think about it…how many of us (or our friends) grab a granola bar or a meal replacement shake for breakfast, have a 100 calorie pack of cookies or crackers and a diet soda for lunch, and then pop a Healthy Choice or Weight Watchers frozen dinner in the microwave in the evening for dinner?
Oh, and don’t forget the sugar-free Jell-o with sugar-free, fat-free whipped topping for dessert! Since when are those things considered food?
If it’s engineered in a laboratory to resemble food, then it’s not real food.
If you are not sure if something is real food or not…ask yourself the following questions: At one time, did this food walk, crawl, swim or fly? Did it have parents? Could you pick it from a bush, tree or vine? Would your ancestors have had access to it 1000 years ago?
If you cannot answer yes to at least one of these questions, then put the genetically modified ball of chemicals down and walk away!
Go to your local farmers market or co-op and pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, cuts of local meat, fresh fish, hearty nuts, and delicious oils. Those kinds of foods should make up the majority of what you are eating. Fuel your body properly and it will be very good to you by keeping you healthy, giving you energy to perform your best, and shedding excess body fat to reveal strong and sexy muscles.
These are some great examples of real food!
2. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re 80-90% full.
This tip sounds very basic, but with all of the focus on portion sizes, meal timing, and even habits that are ingrained in us from the time we are little (i.e. “clean your plate or you won’t get dessert!”) we tend to lose touch with our true signals of hunger.
Do your best to eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you are mostly full, but not stuffed. Over time, you should get a better sense of when you’re body truly needs nourishment, and when you may just be bored or having a craving.
Of course, listen to your body within reason. If you know you have a huge appetite, or you have a tendency to eat very little, keep that in mind and adjust accordingly.
3. Drink enough water.
The old 8-glasses-a-day recommendation for water consumption isn’t necessarily a bad recommendation, but it’s a bit outdated and there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all-approach to water consumption.
For example, a 200 lb. male athlete is probably going to need more water than a 100 lb. woman with an office job, right?
So how much water should you be drinking? A good place to start is with half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., then 75 ounces is a good place to start, and remember, if you are engaged in physical activity, then you will most likely need to be consuming more than that.
Use your body as a guide. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated, so try to avoid letting yourself get too thirsty, but don’t drink so much that you feel water-logged.
You should also build up to drinking more water slowly. Add in an extra glass or two a day until you are at your recommended amount.
If you really don’t like plain water or find yourself struggling to drink enough, try marinating some cucumber slices or some cinnamon sticks in a pitcher of water overnight for an interesting twist to your water. You could also squeeze a slice of lemon, lime or orange into your drink to spice it up a bit, and you can always reach for sparkling water as well. Bottoms up!
Infuse your water with cucumber, mint, or cinnamon to encourage yourself to drink more.
4. Incorporate protein with every meal.
In my experience, most people (especially women) do not consume enough protein each day. Protein is not only satisfying and filling, but it helps stabilize your blood sugar and energy levels, and it’s very important for repairing the damage that comes from strength training (you are strength training, right?) so you build more lean mass. More lean mass means a higher metabolic rate, which can help you burn more body fat.
If you’re not sold on protein yet, also keep in mind that it takes more energy (read: calories) to digest protein than it does to digest carbs or fat, so when you’re burning even more calories simply by replacing 100 calories from carbs with 100 calories from protein. Granted, it’s not a huge difference, but it adds up over time.
One important thing to remember is to vary your protein sources. This will not only help prevent boredom, but it will help stave off food allergies and sensitivities, and ensure you get all of the amino acids your body needs.
Try eggs or sausage for breakfast, chicken or turkey for lunch, and steak, salmon, or bison for dinner. In between meals you can snack on hard boiled eggs, tuna fish, or beef jerky if you get hungry.
When buying foods like bacon, sausage or beef jerky, make sure you look choose sources that are nitrate and nitrite-free, free of preservatives, and local if possible.
Shoot for at least 1 gram of protein per lb. of body weight each day.
5. Eat more vegetables.
Similar to protein, most people don’t eat enough vegetables on a daily basis. Most vegetables are low in sugar, high in fiber, and chock-full of vitamins and minerals that help keep your body healthy.
The two biggest excuses I hear in regards to vegetables is that they’re boring and take too long to cook. Make sure you’re using different cooking methods for your vegetables like baking, roasting, steaming, or sautéing to prevent boredom. And don’t overcook your vegetables. They will get soggy and lose a lot of the nutrition if over-cooked. Also cook large batches of vegetables that will last you several days to avoid having to cook them with every meal.
No you have no excuses. So eat up!
In Part 1
of this article, I discussed 5 simple nutrition tips that are easy to follow, and help you wade through all of the confusing and conflicting nutrition information that’s out there. These tips will not only help you achieve a lean physique, but they are also fantastic for optimal health and performance. Today, I am bringing you 5 more.
Keep in mind, if you’re new to the nutrition game, you might not want to try incorporating all of these at once, as that can be super overwhelming. Maybe just incorporate one tip at a time until it becomes a habit, and then incorporate another.
If you’re a veteran of sound nutrition, use these as a checklist to make sure you’re still on top of your game, at least 90% of the time.
6. Time your carbs appropriately.
From low carb to no carb, good carb to bad carb, low glycemic to high glycemic, it’s enough to anyone feel crazy!
While low carb diets can be very effective for fat loss, they can be difficult for many people to follow, and consistently following a low carb diet without incorporating higher carb meals or days can lead to health issues, namely sluggish thyroid function.
So how do you incorporate carbohydrates into your diet without inhibiting fat loss?
Simple. Make your carbs work for you by timing them correctly.
Immediately post-weight training, our muscle cells are more insulin sensitive than normal, and our fat cells are less insulin sensitive. This is the body’s way of ensuring that nutrition consumed post-workout gets shuttled where it’s needed most (to the muscle for repair). So within an hour or so after a weight training workout is the best time to consume starchy carbohydrates (with an easily digested protein source of course), and if you weight train very intensely, you may actually want a small meal of protein and carbs before you weight train as well.
It’s also important to keep in mind that everyone is different and some people function much better on a moderate to higher carb diet, so experimentation is key.
– Try eating both lower and higher amounts of carbs and see how you feel.
– Try having carbs pre-workout and see how you feel.
– Try different sources of carbohydrates at different times and see how you feel.
– Make sure you give yourself a week or two to adjust to the dietary changes before coming to any major conclusions.
As for good carb sources, try: sweet potatoes, red potatoes, white potatoes, rice, butternut squash, berries, or gluten-free oats.
Not all carb sources are created equal…
7. Include healthy fats with most meals.
For years, the health industry was convinced that we should be afraid to eat fat, because it will not only make us fat, but give us heart disease and high cholesterol. Now we realize that that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Eating good sources of healthy fats will not only keep you full and satisfied, but it will help stabilize your blood sugar, mood, and energy levels. Sound familiar? (see: tip #4).
Even though the health industry is coming around and starting to recognize the benefits of fat, there is still a lot of confusion about which fats are ‘good” and which are “bad.”
Here are a few of my favorite fat sources: olive oil, real butter, coconut oil, avocado, nuts/nut butter, whole eggs, walnuts, ghee, cashews, fatty fish, grass fed beef.
Here are the fat sources I try to avoid: fats from conventionally fried food, mass produced cakes/pastries, most vegetable oils (corn, soybean, cottonseed, canola, safflower), hydrogenated oils.
8. Taste the rainbow!
And no, I don’t mean eat more Skittles (even though they can be a delicious treat on occasion).
By “taste the rainbow” I mean include more colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet. Many of us stick with the same vegetables all the time (I am totally guilty of this!)
Choosing from a variety of fruits and veggies not only gives you a wide variety of nutrients, but it prevents dietary boredom!
There are several color categories for fruits and veggies and the wider a variety of foods you get from these different categories, the more likely you are to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health. Here are just a few examples of fruits and vegetables from each category:
White: onions, mushrooms, garlic, bananas
Yellow: butternut squash, peppers, yellow squash, pineapples
Orange: peaches, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes
Red: beets, cherries, watermelon, tomatoes, radishes
Green: bok choy, kale, swiss chard, spinach, avocado, kiwi, lime
Blue/Purple: eggplant, purple cabbage, plums, blueberries
9. Eat According To The Season
In today’s over-abundant society, it’s hard to imagine a world without grocery stores on every corner, and whatever kind of food we want, right at our fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
As lucky as we are to have these options, our bodies aren’t designed to eat certain foods in abundance year-round. That’s why certain fruits and vegetables grow seasonally, and that’s also why we crave different foods at different times of the year. During the fall and winter we tend to crave hearty meats and root vegetables, and during the spring and summer we often crave lighter fare like fresh fish, fruits and vegetables.
Try to pick foods that are grown locally and are in-season. Visiting your local Farmer’s Market is a great way to ensure that you’re making good choices.
10. Experiment with pulling out foods.
Food allergies and sensitivities can wreak havoc on your digestive system and negatively affect nutrient absorption and energy levels. The worst part is that many people don’t know they are suffering from them.
The 8 most common food allergens are: milk, corn, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish.
Don’t let these common food allergens wreak havoc on you!
Try pulling some or all of these foods out of your diet for at least 3-4 weeks, adding them back in one at a time to gauge your reaction. Give yourself a full 2-3 days to see if a reaction occurs. Common reactions include: rashes, breakouts, stomach pains, constipation or diarrhea, brain fog, exhaustion, or just a general feeling of malaise.
Those 8 foods are a good place to start, but you can always try pulling out any food that you suspect you might not tolerate well.
There you have it! 10 nutrition tips you should be following to ensure you always feel, look, and perform your best!