So how do we actually go about eating the right foods at the right times in the right quantities. Short of employing a nutrition company to provide you with a bespoke food plan, delivered meals and constant check ins most of us won’t be able to. But there are definitely things we can do to maximise the benefit our diet is doing for us and to minimise the damage it could be doing to us. The key to good nutrition is making it manageable. Weighing and measuring your food is great, for a week. Then it is time consuming, anti-social and generally unsustainable. Not eating a,ny carbs is fine, until you want to work out. Then you’ll have the energy of hungover sloth. So what is sustainable?
Eating real, whole food 90% of the time: now the specifics of a diet could be argued out over a thousand blog articles and you still wouldn’t have an answer. But what we can agree on is that whatever ‘diet’ you follow it should consist of a wide variety of whole foods ie things that grew in the ground, on trees or had a face. If an item of food has more than 4 ingredients its probably shit for you and if you can’t pronounce some of the ingredients it’s definitely shit for you.
Eating whatever you want the other 10% of the time: hopefully we all realise we can not be good all the time. That is completely unsustainable, anti-social and just generally boring. As much as I eat for fuel I still enjoy ice cream and rum and so allow myself to indulge every now and then. As long as we are eating right the vast majority of the time then we are good to go.
Side note – make sure it is a 90/10 split. Most people go with ‘I only eat what I want at the weekend’. Meaning Friday night through to Sunday night right? So, 2 and a bit days out of 7? Or roughly 35% of your week? Crap.
Keep energised: most fad diets in magazines and blogs restrict calories and carbs. They do this because it’s an easy way to lose weight fast. It’s also a good way to the have the energy and sex drive of road kill and it is only sustainable for 2-3 months tops. A good nutritional plan will keep you feeling energised and motivated for life, continuously.
Eat when life allows: the old school body building approach of loads of small and uninteresting meals throughout the day doesn’t really work for most of us. Our work and life schedule is generally geared towards 2-3 meals per day with some snacking involved. So do what works for you. To fit with my work schedule, I usually have a small breakfast, my main meal at lunch and then a smaller meal when I get in around 9.30pm. I then snack during the day as and when I feel hungry. Is this an ideal eating schedule, far from it. Is it sustainable and manageable for me, yup, so I roll with it. Trying to time life around food will never work long term so plan your food around your life!
If you are exercising eat carbs: unless you are keto as fuck you will be needing carbs for any activity more arduous than sitting. Yes, cutting them out will mean you loose weight and look ripped in a few days. But then you’ll look drawn, soft and have absolutely no get up and go! Keep carbs, time them well and balance them with your proteins and fats and you’ll be dandy!
So how do we time carbs: when you need energy, most importantly before you train. Carbs are the single best fuel for exercise so getting roughly 25-50 grams of carbs with 20-40 grams of protein down you 90 minutes before you hit the box is a great start.
Learn how you feel: I always rattle on about elimination stuff (because it works) but if you can’t face cutting things out then start recording how they make you feel. Eat a bowl of pasta and write down how you feel after, how you trained that day, how you slept. Eat no carbs another day and do the same. Then a day on no grains or lots of grains. You’ll soon build up a picture of how certain foods make you feel and then you’ll know what you personally should and shouldn’t be eating.
Eat fruit: often given a bad rap because of its high sugar content fruit is still one of the best things you can eat. I guarantee if you’ve ever felt unwell eating some fruit has made you feel slightly better? What more do you need to know!
So, sustainability, affordability and simplicity are the keys to a good diet. Will it be the one most optimum for your athletic and life performance? Probably not. Will it help you be the best you can realistically be with the options you actually have available? Fuck yeah. It’s not pessimistic to set realistic standards for yourself, it’s being honest and setting yourself up for success.
Next week we have the often-asked questions answered. If you think of anything you want to know let us know before the weekend and we can add our answers in!