Category Archives: Meals

The PERFECT Meal – What to Eat to Lose Fat & Build Muscle

By On January 26, 2012 ·

As you know, I love to share all of the unique hybrid strength training & conditioning concepts we use with our clients and athletes at Performance U. But, let’s face it – what you eat and how you eat it can really make or break the effectiveness of your program, regardless of how good it is.
“Food is an important part of a healthy diet”
In today’s post I’m going to share with you the simple to understand and easy to apply nutrition advice we provide to almost all of our clients & athletes to ensure each meal they eat will help them more effectively burn fat, build muscle and improve their overall health!


We aren’t nutritionists or dieticians. So we don’t provide specific, individualized diet plans. We’re fitness professionals who read the scientific literature and rely on the expertise of top nutrition and supplement specialists to provide us with general guidelines that work universally for both men and women of all ages and abilities.
By following some basic, generalized and universal eating guidelines – like what I’ve provided you below – We’ve found that rarely is it necessary to use more specific and complex strategies unless we’re dealing with a medical condition, cutting water weight, etc. Which, is beyond the scope of this post.

The Perfect Meal

The two most common questions we get from our clients and athletes are:
-What do I eat to lose fat?
-What do I eat to build muscle?
Our answer to both questions is usually the same – Eat a Complimentary Meal!
A complimentary meal consists of these four basic food components:
-Lean protein (eggs, chicken, fish, bison, beef, low fat dairy, etc.)
-Fibrous carbohydrate (fruits and vegetables)
-Starchy carbohydrate (sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)
– Healthy fat (monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, Omega-3 fatty acids – avocado, nuts, olive oil, etc.:)
Additional Complimentary Eating notes:
– Emphasize fresh/ local fruits and veggies, high-quality meats /eggs, fish
– Limit processed foods, simple sugars, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils and alcohol.
– Instead of eating three large meals (breakfast, lunch dinner), cut those in half and eat 4-6 smaller meals.

Why does Complimentary eating work?

We call it Complimentary Eating because each component of the meal compliments the other to maximize the nutritional benefits.
– Protein is the building block of muscle
– Starchy carbs are a great energy source
-Fibrous carbs are used to move it all through the body (and energy).
– The healthy fat to decrease inflammation, joint health, heart health, disease prevention and cognitive function.

How big should my meals be?

The answer to this question is: It differs for every person and should be based on how you feel and how much fuel your body requires that day.
In general, we recommend sizing your complimentary meal portions in this manner:
– Make the protein & fibrous veggies the largest portion on your plate
– Make the starchy carb and fruit smaller than the protein and veggies.
– Make the healthy fat the smallest serving on your plate.
Additional Complimentary Meal Portion notes:
-Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3s provide many health benefits, but as with any type of dietary fat, too much fat in any form provides excess calories in the diet.
– Some foods are multitasking, like Fish: it’s both a healthy fat and protein source. So it can remain a larger size portion on your plate.
– If you are left feeling hungry within an hour or so after finishing your meal, you probably didn’t eat enough. On the flip side, if upon finishing you feel full for hours – you probably ate too much. It really comes down to common sense, intuition and simply listening to your body.

Complimentary Eating, Fat Loss & The Thermic Effect of Food

A calorie is a measure of heat. And, your body is a heat machine! The term “thermic effect of food“, or TEF, is used to describe the energy expended by our bodies in order to consume (bite, chew and swallow) and process (digest, transport, metabolize and store) food. In other words, certain foods require us to burn more calories than others simply by eating them.
Here’s the general breakdown:
FAT – is very simple to digest. Your body simply keeps breaking down the fat molecules smaller and smaller, so it does not require much work to digest.
Ratio of 100:5 -For every 100 calories of fat you ingest you will burn approximately 5 calories in the digestive process
COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES – take more effort to digest because of the glucose molecules.
Ratio of 100:10 -for every 100 calories from complex carbs that you ingest you will burn about 10 during digestion.
PROTEIN – requires the most work to digest because it is made up of 22 amino acids
Ratio of 100:25 -for every 100 calories you eat from protein, you will burn approximately 25 calories just to digest it.
- 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate/protein equals only 4 calories
Based on TEF, if you eat most of your meals in the manner as I described above, you end up consuming less calories and burning more. That’s pretty damn cool!

Final Thoughts

As I stated from the jump: Complimentary eating is not a specialized diet plan to peak you for a bodybuilding show or for those with medical concerns. What I’ve given you here is simply the GENERAL eating strategy we’ve found to be tremendously successful for almost ALL of the clients and athletes we work with.
No one is perfect and neither are the typical situations life throws at us through work, travel, family responsibilities. etc. So we don’t expect every meal our clients eat to be “perfect.” We simply ask them to do the best you can. And, to use our simple eating strategy to empower themselves with the ability to see through the confusion created by informercials and confusing industry expert jargon.
I mean seriously, it’s no wonder people (even health professionals) are confused about what to eat when there are 500+ page nutrition books on the shelves, which rarely provide us with more practical eating knowledge than I just did here in less than 1000 words.

10 Meals That Are Proven to Make You Happier

1: Chocolate Anything

Eat truffles, load up on antioxidants. Dessert never sounded so sweet.

Don’t beat yourself up about indulging in a brownie or two when feeling down in the dumps. Multiple studies have revealed that chocolate (gasp!) is actually healthy in moderation. Although it’s still high in calories, chocolate contains a myriad of beneficial nutrients that help regulate mood. The sugar that gives chocolate its rich taste helps increase serotonin levels, while the fat content releases mood-elevating endorphins . Top it off with the stimulating effects of caffeine and antioxidant levels higher than even berries, and chocolate becomes a heavyweight mood-influencer. To avoid paying the price in the waistline area, however, indulge in just one or two pieces each day of the dark variety, which is more heart-healthy than milk chocolate.

2: Beef Stew with Veggies and Potatoes

When it’s cold outside, nothing feels quite as good in your belly as piping-hot soup. But the comfort factor doesn’t stop there. Lean red meat is an excellent source of tryptophan and protein, both of which are critical to mood regulation. Dial down the unhealthiness quotient by trimming any excess fat before putting the meat in the Dutch oven or slow cooker. It’s also a health-conscious move to prepare the dish with stewed tomatoes or a beef broth rather than fat-laden gravy. Toss in a few serotonin-enhancing potatoes and some vitamin-rich vegetables to create an all-around satisfying meal for your taste buds and body.

3: Sweet Potato Souffle

sweet potatoes
Yams yield good moods.

Complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, are packed full of energy and mood-boosting vitamins and minerals. Like many other mood-influencing foods, sweet potatoes boost serotonin production. Sweet potatoes act as a referee of sorts because they contain carotenoids, which are responsible for insulin regulation. Correctly managing insulin helps us avoid sugar crashes that cause irritability. The miracle food also contains potassium, which has been shown to reduce mood swings, increase energy levels and lessen tension . Although many dieters malign carbs of all shapes and sizes, low-carbohydrate diets have been linked with a reduced desire to exercise and increased fatigue in overweight adults . The health quotient for this popular holiday dish can be amped up by cutting back the amount of butter used in preparation and by including walnuts, which are an excellent source of tryptophan.

4: Chili and Cornbread

Whether you get your protein from animal or plant sources, your body just can’t function without it. For meat-lovers out there, chili is a great source of protein, especially when it’s prepared with lean ground beef. Lean beef contains high levels of B6 and tryptophan, the proven mood-regulator. An even healthier option for your chili recipe is ground turkey.

Pack your chili full of beans: black, red, pinto and other types you like. Beans are a terrific vehicle for ingesting selenium and increasing levels of magnesium, a deficiency of which has been linked to depression [sources: Magee, Melone].

The perfect complement to this wintertime favorite is cornbread, which contains gluten, known for its ability to stimulate endorphin production .

5: Banana Split

banana split
You don’t have to pass up ice cream. Just load up the low-fat version with fruit toppings.

This ice cream parlor favorite can easily be modified into a less fattening and more nutritious version. The two main components — ice cream and bananas — are both rich in B vitamins, which are effective depression-thwarters . Bananas also contain high levels of tryptophan. This amino acid aids the body in the production of niacin, which in turn produces serotonin .

Obviously, the ice cream portion of the banana split is the biggest culprit when it comes to sugar and fat content, but ice cream enthusiasts need not forego this popular comfort treat entirely. Modifying your choice makes it easy to include ice cream in the occasional menu. Numerous light or reduced-fat and low-sugar ice creams abound in your grocer’s freezer section. And thanks to major strides in the ice cream industry in recent years, low-fat ice cream tastes surprisingly close to its full-fat brethren .

6: Mashed Potatoes and Turkey

Turkey and mashed potatoes need not be reserved for Thanksgiving, thanks to the mood-boosting vitamins and minerals this main dish and savory starch contain. Potatoes are complex carbohydrates, and eating them actually increases production of serotonin. That’s why ingesting complex carbs helps people calm down, even when they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed (as many of us do during the holidays) . Turkey is also credited with being one of the top feel-good foods because it contains many nutrients that stave off depression and maintain good moods. Because turkey can make people feel sleepy (it packs a might wallop of tryptophan), try serving iron-rich spinach or other leafy greens on the side to provide a much-needed energy boost.

7: Spaghetti and Lean Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballs
Make that spaghetti even healthier by using whole-grain pasta instead of white.

We’ve already spelled out the benefits of whole-wheat pasta: It’s high in folic acid and helps increase serotonin levels. Ambitious chefs don’t have to let the nutritional gains end there, however. Meatballs or sauce made with lean beef are great sources of protein, selenium and B6, the vitamin that facilitates serotonin production . Try serving this Italian favorite alongside vitamin-packed spinach, broccoli or a leafy green salad. All are believed to be powerful mood-enhancing foods. When done right, spaghetti and meatballs can be transformed from a guilty pleasure into a healthy meal. (No word yet on any beneficial effects of that classic Italian dessert, tiramisu.)

8: Scrambled Eggs and Oatmeal

For good reason, breakfast is widely touted as the most important meal of the day. Studies have shown repeatedly that eating a healthy, balanced breakfast results in a good mood, increased energy and improved memory skills. Remember those helpful B vitamins found in dairy products? Eggs are also rife with the critical substance. Serve a couple of eggs on the side of folate-rich oatmeal for a filling and nutritious breakfast. The folic acid found in oatmeal is powerful because it produces a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which many studies have linked with increased pleasure. Whole-wheat toast or whole-wheat pancakes are other grain options with high amounts of folate .

9: Salmon and Brown Rice

Experts consider salmon a superfood. Are you eating enough oily fish?

Although most of us wouldn’t consider salmon a comfort food, it’s certainly one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods available. Experts agree that the numerous vitamins and minerals present in salmon qualify the fish as a superfood; furthermore, they recommend that everyone strive to consume two or three servings of salmon or other fish per week.

Multiple studies have linked depression to imbalances in omega-3 fatty acids, found abundantly in fish . Scientists believe omega-3s are responsible for managing brain signals that regulate mood. In fact, studies have revealed that people in cultures who consume more omega-3 rich fatty fish suffer from depression less frequently than populations that eat fewer servings of fish. Because omega-3 can’t be produced by the body, it’s critical to incorporate fish, eggs or cod liver oil into your diet . Brown rice is an ideal dish to serve with salmon because it contains high amounts of selenium, low levels of which have been linked to poor moods .

10: Macaroni and Cheese

Although the boxed variety of macaroni and cheese is a childhood favorite, the homemade kind is really the best way to go when indulging in this comfort food. The dairy products standard in this recipe (milk and cheese) contain high levels of vitamin B, which has been shown to heavily impact the brain. In fact, studies indicate that depression can often be lessened when a deficiency of folic acid (a type of B vitamin) is corrected. Similarly, normal levels of riboflavin (B2), B6 and thiamine (B1) have been proven to boost mood in multiple studies . Coupling the mood-enhancing effects of dairy with multigrain macaroni helps the meal pack a powerful punch.

If you’ve sworn off pasta, consider this: Carbohydrates increase serotonin and endorphin levels, cranking up good mood vibes and energy levels simultaneously. Experts recommend switching from regular pasta to the multigrain variety because it counts toward recommended daily servings of whole grains .


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