Does it ever feel like you spend way more time than you should having to think about food? What you should eat and shouldn’t eat; how many meals you should eat; which foods are best for fat loss; what’s best for improving overall health; are total calories or food quality more important; how many calories/carbohydrates and fats you should eat for building muscle, losing fat, toning up…its an absolute headache!
Eating healthy seems complicated because of all the information and misinformation about food, but, eating healthy is actually easy!
If you are an average person that just wants to look good and feel good (which is probably most of you reading this right now), then you need to create a sustainable lifestyle built upon simple habits that can be maintained long term.
Not for 8-12 weeks, but for 12 months and beyond.
That’s the first thing you need to ask yourself when starting a new diet. Can I follow this routine for 1 year? If yes, that’s great, you are on the right track. If not, and eating the way you are now is a chore or too much of a hustle, then you need to change.
In this article I’m going to tell you guys the things I believe are important to know about healthy eating and nutrition, my best advice and also an example on how to build your own plate.
So here we go, the basic 3 things you should have in mind when choosing your foods are:
1. You need a good balance of macronutrients (fats/carbs/protein) and micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) on your plate.
Bellow I’m just going to briefly explain the role of each of one those macronutrients on your body.
One of the most important thingsfor the muscle building process. When you regularly exercise, your body will need more protein than the average person.
Protein will break down in your body into amino acids. Amino acids assist with growth and repair of muscle tissues. If you don’t eat enough protein, your muscles will not have enough amino acids for recovering and growth.
Another interesting fact about protein is that even if your main goal isn’t to build muscle mass, you still should keep your protein intake high in order to have an amazing performance and strength level.
When should you have it? I personally have one portion of protein with each of my meals. But I concentrate a bigger portion just after my workout as it minimizes muscle breakdown and promotes better muscle growth.
Everyone talks about carbohydrates as if they are the enemy. Carbs are not the enemy, over eating is the enemy…which means YOU are the enemy hehehe.
Please, don’t listen to all the nonsense about carbs, they are very important to our body’s in many ways. We particularly need carbs for growing muscles as our body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which are our muscle’s main source of energy.
Carbohydrates are also very important to our nervous system: collecting, interpreting and responding accordantly to the sensory output (sight, touch, smell, taste). We can move better, lift better and think better!
When you are on a low-carb diet, and your body is not receiving the right amount of energy from carbs, it will look for whatever other source of energy it can find in your muscles to keep doing whatever you are doing. This eventually leads the body to using protein as fuel for your exercise = muscle breakdown = muscle loss = fat gain.
You probably heard about Low-GI and High-GI carbs.
Low-GI carbs are slow digesting carbohydrates, and these are the ones you should be consuming most of the time.
High-GI carbs induce a high level of insulin after consumption, which can sometimes cause cardiac and other related health issues.
Before a workout however – High GI carbs can be a great boost of energy for your training. Or as soon as you finish your workout – when you are depleted in energy and your body needs carbs and protein to speed up the muscle recovery process.
Just make sure MOST of your carbs come from the Low-GI type!
Also crucial for a healthy balanced diet. Our brain needs those omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids to work properly, to improve memory, to fix hormone imbalances, to aid with depression, to learn new skills and to maintain a healthy temperature protecting our organs.
Similar to carbohydrates fats are also another source of energy.
Fats provide a lot of calories in a very small volume.
The most important role of fats I believe, is to keep our body cells working properly, so we have better absorption of those essential micronutrients I mentioned above. Some vitamins and nutrients cannot be absorbed without the presence of fats in our body, such as vitamin A, D, E and K! Therefore, we must have enough good fat in order to be healthy!
Ok, now going back to my 3 basic things you should know, number two and three are:
2. Most of your foods should be coming from fresh wholefoods, ideally all of your food.This means no processed or refined foods and try to avoid additives or other artificial substances.
A simple way to understand this is that your body knows what to do with whole foods. It has had years and years of practice breaking down and utilizing the nutrients.
Processed and refined foods are very new to our bodies digestive processes therefore we haven’t evolved to be able to efficiently break them down. So, consume a lot of greens, wholegrains & a lot of colorful vegetables and fruit (that’s where you get most of micronutrients from).
3. Portions are different for everyone, they should meet your health and body composition goals, but on average, you should be using the hand size guide for measuring your food!
This makes portion selection super easy. The hand size guide is a pretty simple/less stressful way of measuring your food, because let’s be honest, unless you are prepping for a competition or trying to reach a goal for a very specific reason, you don’t need to overcomplicate things and stress yourself counting every single little calorie.
With this hand size guide, you know exactly what to eat, even when you are eating out. You also can and should add variety to your menu, avoiding boredom and getting different nutrients and vitamins from different foods into your week. Example in the below photo:
Now let’s put all this information together!
Bellow there is a list of wholefood examples I made, that are not exhaustive to eat. Many could fall in other categories. Eggs, for example, could be listed in the fat and protein groups but appear under protein; Nuts could be listed in the fat and protein list but appear under fats. Don’t get obsessed with minor details but use this as a guide for building meals and snacks.
- Pick 1 item from the Protein list
- 1 item from the Carbs list
- 1 or 2 items from the Veggies list
- 1 item from the Fats list
Once you’ve decided which ones you want to cook from each list, measure your portion by using your hand guide.
So that would be 1 meal. (1 palm/1 fist/1 thumb/1 cupped hand – if you area woman & 2 palms/2 fists/ 2 thumbs/ 2 cupped hands if you are a man).
You can have 3 to 6 meals a day just like that depending on your time, lifestyle and body needs. For example:
If you have a bigger body structure
If you aren’t feeling satisfied after your meals
If you do heaps of exercise a day
If you are trying to build muscle mass
Then you can start increasing a little bit of your fats and carbs in a few meals a day.
If you have a small body stature
If you are not very active
If you feel too full after your meals
If you are trying to lose weight
Then you probably need less food. You can start by removing a little bit from the carbs and fats in a few meals a day.
But most importantly: listen to your body and what it tells you. Don’t force food into your body if you don’t feel like it, but also don’t eat until you feel full, tired and bloated just because it’s there. Eat to refuel, to feel energetic, to perform and to feel good.
My best advice to avoid the struggle is to not have “forbidden” or “off limit” foods, because you think they’re “bad” and they will make you gain weight. Do not fall into the disordered-eating trap of labelling foods “good” and “bad” or becoming obsessively neurotic with what you eat.
Trust me, I’ve been there and it only made my life harder, I was mentally unhealthy, sad, worried and feeling guilty whenever I was enjoying life with my family or loved ones. I got to the point where I would bite a cookie, or try a cake, or anything sweet and than immediately spit it out; I would repeat that for a while until I get sick of it and just anxiously stuff my face with everything on my way, binge eating and feeling absolutely shit and disappointed with myself.
Until one day I really thought about it and realised, that’s not the way to live, that’s not what being healthy is about, that’s not how you are meant to feel when you eat something.
Physical health is important and is achieved by eating mostly whole foods, but mental health is as important and yet is often not mentioned on a diet discussion.
You need to have flexibility into your food choices. You need to like your diet plan, and you need to make room for your favourite foods.
As long as you are eating a healthy-balanced diet 80% of the time, you can enjoy other favourite foods in moderate amounts. You don’t need to have an “all or nothing” mentality. You don’t need to “eat perfectly” all the time. Remember, this is a lifestyle, and your favourite foods belong in it.
Do the right things most of the time and believe me, you will look good & feel good, inside and out.
And bear in mind, that building a healthy lifestyle requires the same commitment and consistency as showing up to the gym every day. It’s doesn’t happen in one day, it requires time and persistency as you are creating a new habit.
You will “mess up’ sometimes, and that’s completely normal, just don’t crucify yourself or dwell on it forever, giving up.
When you do “mess up”, simply enjoy the food you just had, and move on. Start again back to eating healthy on your next meal. Soon enough you will get better and better at controlling your mouth. Just be patient and persistent.
I usually remind myself when I’m about to blow out that If I eat more I will feel bloated and full and that just doesn’t feel good, so that thought usually holds me from eating the whole cake kkk.
I also try not having at home, foods that I know will trigger an overeating thing. If I want a cake, for example, I have to go get a piece somewhere else.
So find your triggers, and make a plan to help you stay on track. I hope these tips really help you guys on your food journey. If you need help building your plan, send me an e-mail so we can work something out together 🙂
Thanks for reading, and like my men 50 said “I love you like a fat kid loves cake”!