Some of the questions that are asked include:
- How many times a day should I be eating?
- What should I eat after I workout?
- Can I eat bananas for breakfast?
- I’m using soy milk is that ok?
- I’m still hungry after meals, what do I do?
- I’m having cravings for this or that, what do I do?
- Can I eat ________ and _________ together?
- How many calories should I be eating?
- I’m never really hungry and don’t eat breakfast, etc… is this ok?
There are a ton of questions that come in ranging from one topic to another. I’m hoping that this post will allow you to become your own diet sleuth and build some easy to maintain habits that you can adhere to over the long haul for continued success in improving your health, wellness, energy, and body composition.
In today’s articles I’m going to take a real nutrition log that someone sent my way and break it down for you all. Use the concepts provided to adjust you own plan in order to dominate this nutrition thing…. chicken wing (just cause it rhymes).
STEP 1: GO BACK TO SCHOOL
Sorry folks, first things first. If you want to fix your nutrition you actually have to know what you are eating. I always hear “I eat pretty good” or “My diet is good, I pretty much stick with healthy food 80% of the time.” Brutal honesty time… it’s typically not.
Most often we’re not even aware of what we’re putting in our mouths and this includes drinks. Or we eat pretty well during the week and completely fall off the wagon on the weekends. Or lastly, we’re eating foods we typically think are good for us but actually lack real nutritional value, are full of empty calories, or effect our blood sugar and insulin management.
A great approach to figuring out what you actually eat is to write it ALL down. And I mean EVERYTHING! Most people who do this for the first time are shocked at what they actually take in.
The goal during this process is to record quality of food not quantity. Calories are important but trying to make too many changes at one time can lead to information overload, obsessive behavior, and poor results. At first we want to improve the quality of food that is coming in. Usually this in itself takes care of unnecessary calories and improves body composition.
What to do:
- Get a small notebook and a pen or use an online resource like FitDay, LiveStrong, or MyFitnessPal.
- Record EVERYTHING that you goes in your mouth. Food, beverages, toys, dirt, bugs, whatever. One single M&M, a teaspoon of ketchup, a sip of orange juice.
- Try and record everything right away as sometimes we can forget later on. If you need take time at the end of the day to write what you ate. Maybe even take pictures so that you don’t forget.
- Record everything for one (1) week. Some recommend 3-5 days but a week is usually more accurate. I often see a pretty decent week of eating and then on the weekends all hell breaks loose and the sugar and processed food gods come down from the heavens above and impose their power 🙂 ruining what was a pretty decent week.
Here is an example of a log sent my way recently:
Breakfast – fasting
1230pm – 20 oz water, 1.5 cups spaghetti with 1 bread stick, 2 chic chip cookies
4pm – 20 oz water, 2 oz chicken, 1 tbls black beans, 1 tbls corn, 1 cup romaine lettuce, 12 oz coke
830pm – 20 oz water, 1/2 banana, 1 tbls nutella
10am – 20 oz water
12pm – 10 oz water, 10 wheat thins
1pm – 10 oz water, salsa, 2 tbls guacamole, 2 tbls black beans, 2 oz grilled chicken, flour tortilla
3pm – 12 oz coke
630pm – 20 oz water, 4 oz pork, 1/2 cup pineapple
7pm – 30 mins of Insanity (workout)
8pm – 10 oz water
8am – 10 oz water
830am – 10 minute walking warm up, 15 min hill sprints, 30 min abs and arms
9am – 10 oz water
11am – 4 oz turkey, 1/4 of an avocado, 12 oz coke
230pm – 1/2 cup blackberries, 1/2 cup strawberries, 10 almonds, 20 oz water
4pm – 1/2 banana, 1 tbls nutella
7pm – 4 oz chicken, 2 tbls salsa, 1 oz bacon, 1 cup spinach, 1/2 cup corn,
20 oz water
8 pm – 15 min arms and abs, 20 oz water
8am – 8 oz milk
9am – 10 oz water
11am – 4 oz turkey, 1/2 cup blackberries, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1 cup cherry tomatoes
230pm – 10 wheat thins
4pm – 20 oz water, 10 min warm up, 30 min legs, 10 min abs
5pm – 12 oz coke, 2 oz turkey
6pm – 5 min warm up, 15 min legs
730pm – 6 oz chicken, 1 cup spinach, 2 tbls low-fat/cal dressing
8:00pm – 20 oz water
11am – 4 oz turkey, 1 slice pepper jack cheese
1130am – 15 min hill sprints, 30 mins arms and abs
1230pm – 1 cup black berries, 20 oz water
230pm – 20 oz water
5pm – 10 wheat thins
7pm – 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup pineapple, 20 oz water
Awesome! Step 1 is complete. We’ve recorded everything we ate and even included times. BONUS points!!!
STEP 2: USE YOUR STINK EYE AND BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR LIQUID CALORIES
After you have recorded your nutritional intake for a week review each day like a BOSS and look for any unnecessary liquid calories you may be taking in. While they may be beneficial if your goal is to add some lean muscle, liquid calories may be a major culprit as to why some extra body fat just won’t come off. Liquid calories don’t do the best job of filling us up and usually elevate our insulin levels which makes it difficult for our bodies to stay primed for burning fat as fuel.
Some common sources to be on the look out for are:
- Fruit juices
- Added creamer, sugar, milk, etc.. to coffee or tea
- Gatorade and sports drinks
- Alcoholic beverages
- Sweetened beverages like Almond milk, tea, etc… you’ll really have to be label reader to discover these
Lets take a look at the above example and sees if we can identify any days where there might me some liquid calories coming in…. Inspector Gadget time! Go ahead, scroll back up and check it out….. I’ll wait. See if you can identify anything.
Here is what I noticed:
- Sunday: We’ve got a code red on a 12 oz coke
- Monday: Another 12 oz coke
- Tuesday: 12 oz coke
- Wednesday: 8 oz milk, 12 oz coke
- Thursday: Good to go! 😀
So for this five-day log we have 4 out of 5 days that include caloric beverages. You might be thinking, “That’s not so bad.” Just one a day. But lets break it down a bit.
A single 12 oz. Coke has 143 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrate (all from sugar!). Since this client has had one 4 out of 5 days that is equal to 572 liquid calories, essentially all form carbohydrate and sugar with no nutritional value. Now add in that glass of milk and we’ve added another 90 calories.
Some options to sub in for that Coke and Milk would be water, unsweetened green tea, black coffee (try to limit to one to two cups per day tops and none after 2pm). If you really are dying for some flavor try squeezing some lemon or lime into a cold glass of water or carry around a liter with you that has a few lemon wedges in there already.
Now take a look at your log. See any more caloric beverages in there? Any place where you are adding calories to an otherwise zero calorie beverages like coffee and tea or maybe to foods (i.e.: creamers, sugar, milk, etc…)?
STPEP 3: IMPROVE YOUR CARBOHYDRATE CONSUMPTION
If you need a refresher on what types of carbohydrate we will be emphasizing check out this FREE resource and food list. For the most part all of our carbohydrates will be coming from either fruits or vegetables.
And yes, vegetables are carbohydrates. We some times forget that and just classify them in their own separate category.
If fat loss is your goal 1-2 servings maximum of fruit per day is a good starting point. A serving is typically 1 medium apple, a handful of berries, and 1 cup of melon. Try your best to avoid tropical fruit (papaya, banana, mango, etc..) if weight loss is a priority and stick more so to berries.
Emphasis should primarily be on vegetables whether you are trying to gain lean muscle or lose fat.
What you will want to do during this step is to eliminate any processed foods, grains (bread, cereals, baked goods, etc..), beans, legumes, sugars, candy, honey, etc… and replace them with vegetables and fruits. If this is confusing at all please give me a shout right here
This step you will most likely find you needing to make the most change. It can be a little overwhelming but hopefully I can help out a bit here.
Here is what I noticed:
- Sunday:Spaghetti noodles, bread stick, 2 cookies, beans, corn, nutella
- Monday: Wheat thins, black beans, tortilla
- Tuesday: Nutella, corn
- Wednesday: Wheat thins, low-fat cal dressing (usually means there is sugar)
- Thursday: Wheat thins, rice
I know what you’re thinking. That’s a lot to tackle and you probably thought some of those foods were pretty good for you. Lets take Sunday and Monday for example and see how we can improve.
Sunday: Replace the spaghetti and bread stick with some veggies from our list. Lets go with spinach and broccoli. The chocolate chip cookies will just have to go. Since this meal is entirely made up of carbohydrate we will want o add some protein and healthy fat (more on this later. Right now we’re focusing on carbohydrates.
The beans and corn in the second meals we can replace with some grilled asparagus and chopped onion
The last meal includes a banana and nutella. The banana is cool but a handful of blueberries is a better choice and lets sub out the nutella with almond butter.
Monday: The wheat thins were eaten as a snack by themselves so to stick with that lets just sub them out with an apple
Our next meal includes black beans. We can substitute shredded carrot and chopped bell pepper. Instead of the flour tortilla lets use lettuce wraps to hold the food instead.
Now take a look at your food log. Where can you subtract some of those grains and replace them with veggies and fruits? Contact me if you need a little help.
Try this step for one week. Make sure you get it down before moving on.
So now you’re almost pro. We’re aware of what we are eating (step 1), we are not taking in any liquid calories (step 2), we have replaced some of those grains with greens.
Now we want to find a balance. Our meals are looking better but we want to make sure we have some balance. Eating the right foods is a big step but not if the only thing we are eating all day is fruit, or olive oil (that would be gross), or ground beef. We want to make sure we are getting a balance of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates spread over the course of a day. Make sure to refer to this food list so you are familiar with which types of food each nutrient group contains.
Lets take a look at the first meal on Sunday.
A meal that was once:
- Water, spaghetti, bread stick, and cookies has now morphed into…
- Water, spinach and broccoli
Now this is a great start if we are a rabbit but since we are not we will need to add a little more substance. We want to try our best to emphasize having protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats at each meal. Take a minute and think….. what do we have so far…. I’ll wait
Great! You’re right. All we have are carbohydrates from our spinach and broccoli. To improve on this meal lets add in some protein (salmon, about the size of our palm) and healthy fat (1-3 tsp olive oil). Again, refer to the food list for some help. This meal will do a better job of satisfying our hunger, keeping our blood sugar stables, and providing us with enough energy to perform daily tasks and exercise.
Now take a look at some of your meals. Are they balanced? How can you make some changes in order to emphasize this step.
STEP 5: MEALS PER DAY
Some of you that read this might gasp but this is what I will say about how many times a day you should eat…
The idea of eating six small meals a day is an excellent idea but it is also an excellent pain in the ass and not very convenient for most of the population.
Preparing food, finding breaks (20-30 minutes) to sit down and eat without feeling rushed, and digesting that much food is pretty tough for a lot of us. Myself included.
This guide is a way to build healthier habits. Let the initial food log be your guide. If you found that you were normally eating four times a day then that is a perfect number of meals to eat for YOU. If you found that you wear eating seven times a day then that is a perfect number of meals for YOU.
I typically eat about four times a day (these are meals and not snacks) with possibly an extra snack here or there. It usually ends up being every four hours or so. This works well for me.
The main focus is on the quality of food. If you can change the types of foods you are eating to emphasize more nutritious choices you will do just fine.
FIN & A CHALLENGE
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how to hack your own nutrition plan a bit. Focus on those foods found in the food list and you should do quite well for yourself. If you need any further explanation my inbox is always open. Try and keep them brief…. so I can get back to everyone in a timely fashion.
So get your inspector gadget on! For this upcoming month hack your diet. Use the free resources to start eating REAL FOOD and develop healthy habits. For the next 30 days or how ever many days are in July when you first read this, dedicate that time to eating real food, exercising, playing, and just moving at least 30-45 minutes a day, and have fun doing it!
Use some of the FREE workout programs on the site or read some of the past post on how to workout/create your own workouts. Eat foods only on the REAL FOOD CHART and see what happens. If you’re still a little lost just give me a shout and I’ll help you get started.
Find me on myfitnesspal or fitocracy. I just started messing around with these a bit more so forgive the nakedness to them. But a great way to hold yourself accountable. Plus you can see what I am eating and doing for workouts…. YIKES! :p
Find any patterns in your current plan?
Any unexpected foods or drinks you didn’t realize?