Like all of you, I read plenty of information on the interwebs about what to eat. Honestly, it can get a little confusing at times. Low Carb, High Carb, Paleo, Zone, carbs at night, carbs only post workout, intermittent fasting, eating small meals more frequently, eating larger meals infrequently, and so on and so on. With all this information out there, we simply need to remember one thing: Nutrition is extremely important. The way I look at it, 80% of the results you get from exercise stem from what you put in your mouth, the other 20% come from that exercise exercise. Oddly enough, folks would rather beat themselves into a pulp for that measly 20%. But, by following the following seven tips, you can greatly simplify your life and some of the eating decisions you need to make:
Eat Unprocessed Foods
Food quality matters! For the purposes of this piece, we will forget about organic, local, and grassfed options. They simply confuse the situation and at the end of the day, you simply need to eat unprocessed foods. This means food that grows or that someone killed. It doesn’t matter what it ate during it’s lifetime or how someone treated it during growth. I realize this sounds harsh, but we need to focus on simplicity as the first step in this process. Forget about Paleo vs Non-Paleo, again because that confuses people and think about processed vs unprocessed. Just eat some veggies, fruit, and meat and you have won half that battle. Yes, you can eat rice and potatoes. Again, keep it simple for now.
Better Eating > Supplements
Folks seem to always want to quick fix and Nutritional Supplement companies have built a multi-billion dollar industry on this fact. The advertisements entice us and make us think that we can skip the tough stuff and make it happen more quickly because we always wants our results yesterday.
Exercise patience, clean up the diet, stop popping pills, and mixing 10 different powders in your blender bottle. You cannot out train or out supplement a bad diet, so don’t worry about how raspberry ketones work, or which stimulant you should buy, because it doesn’t matter. Eat some good quality unprocessed food for 6 months. Then we can talk about supplements, and even then, I might suggest you go for another 6 months.
Determine your goals
Focus on one goal because you cannot have everything! Do you want to find a performance boost for your college sport? Do you want extra fuel to handle the workout volume that will get you to the CrossFit Games? Do you have two kids and want to improve upon your pre-baby weight? Do you simply want to see your abs again?
Relative to the gym, people usually change their diets for 1 of 2 reasons; 1)Look good 2)Perform better. Pick one and focus! Without getting too detailed here…
When do I eat? Eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not.
What do I eat? Limit carbohydrate…don’t eliminate, just limit.
How do I know if its working? Look in the mirror, and use that as a gauge for your progress
When do I eat? Eat when you’re hungry, eat after you workout, eat when you’re not hungry.
What do I eat? Don’t worry too much about eating “too many” carbs. You need carbohydrates to give you a well-placed performance boost, especially for Crossfit type workouts.
How do I know if its working? Review your strength numbers and WODs on a regular basis.
Notice that I did not mention any of the other nutrients nor specific amounts (it’s confusing) to eat, because you need to keep it simple.
Earn you cheat days
Desserts and long nights of drinking may or may not have an impact on you and your goals in the gym. Quite frankly, it depends. Before you decide to have a few beers or treat yourself to the Blizzard of the Month at DQ, you should ask yourself: How did you look the last time you saw yourself in the mirror? How have you performed in the gym this month? The answers to those questions should tell you what to do. If you’re happy, then go for it. If not, then don’t. Earn you cheat days!
Don’t worry about what your friends think
Putting yourself on the path to nutritional success can come with its awkward moments.
You’ll go out to dinner with friends, the waitress will arrive and ask for your our order. One friend will get the bacon cheeseburger with fries and a side of ranch, the other will get the chicken quesadillas, and somebody orders the teriyaki wings. You opt for the simplest meat entree, the New York Strip Steak….but you want those breaded and fried onion straws removed and no croutons on the side salad.
Here come the stares, snide comments and questions from you friends; Why are you afraid of carbs? Why can’t you eat croutons, they are low in fat! You’re eating red meat? Don’t you get bored eating the same thing all the time?
Dinner rolls right along and as they eat their tummy fat-inducing, poor performance food, they sarcastically ask you how your “boring” meal tastes. When this happens, take a look around the table. Take a good look. Do they have the body composition you want? Probably not. Will they ever understand why you want this so bad? Nah. Are they jealous? Most likely.
If they don’t support you, you need to develop a thick skin or ditch the haters!
Water makes up more than half of the human body and plays so many important roles in everything that you do every day. By simply drinking more water, you will immediately feel the difference. Water consumption recommendations can get confusing. So, do this…go to the bathroom and check your urine color. Clear = hydrated. Yellow = drink more water. Very easy. Keep water with you during the day and when you exercise and just drink. This one’s too simple to screw up.
If you don’t include plenty of protein in your diet, you put your physical goals at risk. Protein repairs tissue, plain and simple. You want to work out, break down tissue, and have protein repair what you destroyed. I know you want to know how much to eat, but don’t worry about that. Just make it a point to eat some protein every time you choose to put something in your mouth. In addition, proteins of animal origin will always be superior than those of plant origin. Don’t count it, just eat it.
People try to confuse the concept of dieting and they shouldn’t. Just follow these basic guidelines and maintain consistency. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what program it falls into. The program doesn’t dictate results, your diligence does. Relax, stay focused and you’ll achieve your goals.