You think to yourself you know what to eat to be healthy, but it just never happens.
Or worse, you think you’re eating healthy, but in reality you’re far from it.
The snacks in the pantry keep calling your name.
It’s too easy to grab drive-thru in the morning on the way to work.
Well, the list of guidelines below will help you set the wheels in motion for healthy eating — long-term.
My biggest tip is to start slow, by following only one guideline for an entire week, even two or three weeks (studies show it can take up to 3 weeks for a daily habit to completely set in) before adding another.
Your New Nutrition Plan
The idea behind this nutrition plan is to make it easy to manage and easy to follow.
And rather than make the plan too constrictive, you only need to follow a certain set of guidelines. There’s no counting calories and weighing out food. Just keep the portions reasonable, and eat until satisfied, not full.
It’s a plan that can easily fit into any lifestyle with only a little thought and planning.
All you need to remember is six guidelines, “rules” if you will, and you’re good to go. So here they are:
1. Eat 5-6 meals per day
Eating more meals throughout the day is not a magic formula, but it helps you feel fuller, reduces your cravings, and controls blood sugar. Eating more often helps you avoid overeating after going several hours without food. By training with Athletic Workouts, you’ll need more calories than someone that doesn’t train, so you’ll need to eat more meals. Lastly, the extra nutrients will also help with recovery after exercise.
1a. Focus on eating whole foods, and avoid processed foods and sugars.
By eating mostly whole foods, you avoid the over-processed, chemical-added foods that can completely sabotage all of your efforts, and lead to many diseases and illnesses. A rule of thumb is to make sure that 90% of the food you eat comes from the “perimeter” of the grocery store. Focus on fruits, veggies, meats (including fish and poultry), eggs, and dairy, while limiting foods that come in a bag or a box.
Sticking to this rule will keep you from over-doing it with calorie-rich/nutrient-poor foods that usually come from said bag or box. And following this rule alone, you will see an incredible increase in health, body composition, fitness, and performance levels.
2. Eat lean protein at each meal
We need protein to help repair and build muscle and other tissues. Proteins and amino acids are the body’s building blocks. Even more, protein helps your feel fuller, longer. But protein does much more than this.
Protein helps control insulin responses because eating more protein usually means you will eat less carbohydrates that can spike insulin levels. Protein also has a higher “Thermic Effect” than carbs or fats. What this means is the energy it takes to digest your food is higher with protein meaning more calories burned resulting in increased metabolism.
Your best sources of protein are lean meats, fish, poultry, whole eggs, dairy, and you can supplement with whey protein, if you aren’t eating whole food protein at some meals.
3. Eat fruits and veggies throughout the day
Fruits and veggies will be your main source of carbohydrates throughout the day so stock up. Fruits and vegetables are your vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber sources.
You can even use moderate amounts of dips and dressings (try peanut butter with celery and apples) to help you get used to eating more fruits and vegetables. Just make sure the dips and dressings contain healthy fats (unsaturated fats are most healthy, limit you saturated fats, and stay away from trans-fats).
4. Eat starchy carbohydrates only after a workout, or for breakfast.
Here’s a big one. Let’s be clear, I’m not anti-carb. In fact, carbohydrates are essential for proper brain function and muscle energy. The thing is most of us eat too many carbs, and usually the carbs we eat are highly processed (see #2 above).
We see a lot of our fat gains by eating too many refined carbohydrates that don’t get burned as fuel then turn to fat. These foods also cause a spike in our blood sugar levels causing a greater insulin response which helps promote fat storage and can lead to Type II diabetes.
There are, however, times when an increase in our insulin and blood sugar levels are beneficial. Eating carbohydrates for breakfast will help replenish your liver glycogen stores. While you sleep, your liver glycogen stores are used for body functions. This is because we don’t eat while we sleep, so we need to get our energy from the glycogen stored in our liver at night. So, eating carbohydrates in the morning will fill up your liver glycogen stores when it needs it the most and will not be stored as fat.
After a workout, a spike in insulin from increased blood sugar levels will promote muscle growth and aid in the recovery process.
5. Drink lots of water and eliminate calorie-containing drinks.
Studies show that even a 2% decrease in hydration levels can have a significant effect on performance and body function. As rule, to keep yourself properly hydrated drink 2 glasses of water when you wake up, one glass with each meal, and one more before you go to bed. This will add up to 9-10 glasses per day which should be enough for most guys.
Staying away from beverages like alcoholic drinks, soda, and fruit juice will eliminate a lot of empty calories. These can add up quicker than you realize. Now I admit, one of life’s simple pleasures is sitting with your buddies over a beer and watching the game, just make sure you aren’t overdoing it. Which leads me to number 6.
6. Adhere to the above 90% of the time.
What this means is you can enjoy your beer and potato chips 10% of the time and not have to give up the foods you enjoy. In fact, eating 5-6 meals a day means you can break the rules on 4-5 meals each week. I usually save these for the weekends.
Sample Meal Plan:
7am – Breakfast – Omelet with veggies, whole grain toast, fresh fruit
10am – Snack – Protein Shake with flax oil and fruit
Noon – Lunch – Spinach salad with lean protein and veggies, oil and vinegar dressing, fruit
3pm – Snack – Apple and peanut butter or nuts and fruit
6pm – Dinner – Lean protein and whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce and veggies (post-workout), small side salad with veggies, fruit
9pm – Snack – Fruit, cottage cheese, protein shake
*Be sure to drink water and/or green tea at each meal.
So you can see, it’s really not that bad, and eating like this you will be following all of the guidelines outlined above. It focuses on whole foods, avoids excess sugar, has lean protein sources at each meal, and gets you plenty of fruits and veggies throughout the day.
And if you can follow these simple guidelines 90% of the time, you will be rewarded with an optimal body composition, increased energy, fitness and performance, and most of all, improved health. You owe it to yourself and your family to be the best you can be.