What should I eat? How much should I eat? When should I eat it?
3 very common questions that are asked when it comes to determining nutrition needs to aid you in your physical fitness efforts. The amount of information on nutrition really is an endless pit and it can feel very overwhelming with the abundance of information out there. Chia seeds this, probiotics that, kombucha will cure x, y, and z. The list goes on and on.
Once you can begin to have a firmer grasp on those 3 questions, weight loss, strength gains, and general energy levels will all see improvements, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Okay, most people know that pizza and chips are “unhealthy,” and chicken breast, tilapia, and broccoli are “healthy.” There hopefully isn’t too much confusion there. But let’s outline general health guidelines to start.
There are 3 macronutrients (alcohol is a 4th technically but let’s ignore that for now, but it does matter!). Protein, carbs, and fats. These 3 macronutrients are what calories are comprised of.
Protein, protein, protein. The thing every trainer says to eat more of. And honestly, you probably need to. While too much of anything isn’t good, most people, especially if you’re engaging in resistance training, aren’t consuming an adequate daily amount of protein.
To be clear, when I say protein sources, I mean things that are PRIMARILY protein, very minimal carbs, and low to moderate amounts of fat. There honestly are only a few categories:
Meat/fish: chicken breast, chicken thigh, lean cuts of beef, ground turkey, lean ground beef, pork tenderloin, white fish, salmon, shrimp, shellfish, turkey breast, bison...you get the idea. Basically most meats besides ribeye steaks, sausage, and bacon.
Protein powder: Whey protein, plant-based protein, whatever. Have it with water, almond milk, cow’s milk, sheep’s milk if you’re bougie, in a smoothie, whatever tickles you’re fancy. It’s the easiest 40-50 grams of protein you can have, you don’t need to heat it up, and it’s a nice change of pace from chicken breast. You don’t HAVE to if you don’t like it, but it’s kind of a cheat code when it comes to protein intake.
Greek Yogurt: Non-fat greek yogurt ...not full-fat. That is all.
Eggs: Yes the yolk has cholesterol, but it also has delicious healthy fats so perhaps a couple eggs, paired with a couple egg whites.
Meat substitutes (for the vegan/vegetarian homies): Tofu, tempeh, Beyond Meat, Morningstar. All are good options. Just be pretty mindful of fat content in these and make sure you vary them throughout the week.
Those are pretty much the main options for LEAN-ish protein sources. Experiment, find what you like, and be consistent with it :)
Carbs are NOT evil!!!! Carbohydrates are a very essential key to building lean muscle mass and recovering from training. Yes, there are better carbs than others.
So real quick….
“Good” Carbs: White rice, brown rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, quinoa, barley, lentils, oats, 100% whole grain bread, fruit (in moderation).
“Bad” Carbs: White bread, dough, white pasta, sugar (aka desserts).
Biggest thing with carbs is timing. If your goal is fat/weight loss, then you do need to limit total carb intake, but it is IMPERATIVE that you have some carbs in the morning, before a workout, and after a workout. The rest of the day you do want to limit your carbohydrate intake and keep snacking to healthy fats and protein sources. They will keep your belly nice and happy.
Fat makes everything taste real good. Butter, fried foods, cheese, all the good stuff. These are unfortunately not the types of fat you want to be having on a regular basis. Olive oil, small amounts of grass fed butter, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, eggs. These are good sources of fats that can fuel your body and keep you full, but just remember, they are still fat! So don’t go eating half a tub of peanut butter with your fingers.
This feels like enough for now. Another time we’ll cover determining/tracking macros, but this should give you a nice foundation to start thinking about food a little differently.