Nutrition is a touchy subject in the fitness landscape.
With so much fluff floating around, it’s difficult to discern what advice to follow. Should we do a 30-day juice cleanse? Should we drink protein shakes to build muscle? Should we broadcast to the world that we’re vegan? Should we take a shot of vinegar before bed? Should we eat
non-GMO, gluten, salt, and sugar free air?
Aghhhhhhhhh. These questions are tricky. And while there’s proof that *some* of this may work, you’re better off keeping nutrition simple. I’d also be remiss not to mention that you’re better off keeping nutrition customized to what works for you.
Nutrition is not my wheelhouse, but I want to provide some basic insights on what has worked for me, my clients, and athletes. If you need detailed advice, I have a lot of friends who specialize in the science and behavioral change psychology of nutrition.
Let’s get started:
1.) Eat the damn cookie.
Recently, I re-read one of my favorite articles on nutrition called “Eat the Damn Cookie.” I thought it was brilliant and simple in its prose.
Instead of fretting and stressing over eating one cookie (or any piece of dessert for that matter), just eat the damn thing. In the grand scheme of your nutrition, it won’t hinder much.
2.) White potatoes are just as good as sweet potatoes.
People tend to demonize any food that is white, such as potatoes, rice, and bread because of a high GI and sugar content. To that end, the color of a food does not necessarily make it “bad.”
White potatoes are rich in Vitamin C, B, and iron, while sweet potatoes have more Vitamin A and calcium. Depending on your nutritional needs, you’ll have to decide what potato works best for you. Also, this is worth noting: you will not get fat from eating “white” foods.
3.) Isagenix, Advocare, Herbalife cleanses and detoxes are a waste of money.
I’ll probably have a lot of hate for this, but oh well. I don’t care.
It’s much cheaper to purchase produce and meat at the supermarket than it is to spend hundreds on the products I listed above.
If you live a busy life and work in a job where it’s tough to eat a meal in front of your colleagues, it may be in your best interest to buy meal replacements. Again, I’m not totally against these, but I’ve found cheaper options that allow me to get my nutrients, stay lean, and feel amazing.
4.) You don’t not need a protein shake to build muscle.
Piggy-backing off of my last point, if you’re getting enough protein in your diet, you do not need to spend money on protein supplements. If your life is busy and you can’t cook, by all means, buy a protein shake.
5.) What works for me, may not work for you.
Too often, my friends ask me what I eat to stay lean.
While you may think I eat kale salads topped with cobwebs, this couldn’t be more far from the truth.
Here’s a brief run down: salmon, shrimp, chicken, eggs, bread, rice, potatoes, fruit, veggies, nut butters, pizza, cookies, cake, chocolate. If you have detailed questions about my calorie balance, feel free to shoot me a message.
But again, my needs are exponentially different because I play soccer twice a week, do boxing twice a week, and strength train twice a week. This woman needs an army to feed her.
6.) If you don’t like a food, don’t eat it.
Never will you see me eating raw, plain broccoli. And even though it’s healthy, I don’t have it in me to consume something so bland.
Give me hummus, and I’ll eat it.
With that said, eat things you enjoy, not just because people say they’re better for you.
7.) You don’t have to calorie track.
Personally, I don’t track my calories. Rather, I eyeball all my food.
So if I have a rest day where I’m expending less energy than normal, I’ll eyeball about a handful of protein and carbs for a meal.
Or if I just worked out or participated in a grueling light saber battle, I’ll eyeball 2-3 fist-sizes of carbs and protein to replenish my energy levels.
If you’re a numbers nerd, there are plenty of great calorie calculators out there (MyFitnessPal), but they do take extra time.
8.) Nutrition isn’t just about food…
…it’s about behavior change. Yes, it’s easy enough to google what is healthiest for us, but alas, we don’t always execute dialed in nutrition.
Because we have psychological issues.
9.) Be mindful of your eating.
Mindfulness means being aware of what you’re putting into your body.
As an example, when you sit down for a meal, can you taste and feel the freshness, sweetness, and lusciousness of a bowl of strawberries? Can you feel the energy and nutrients seeping into your cells?
Not to sound like a New Age hippie, but this process works. Don’t be mindless. Be mindFUL.
In Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating, he sheds light on the way we view foods and how and why we eat certain things. If you’re looking to make healthier and more mindful choices, definitely give this a read.
10.) Cheat every day.
One food that I can’t live without is chocolate, so I make sure I eat it in some capacity every day.
Even if it’s just a few pieces of dark chocolate, or a Snickers bar, I’m ensuring I’m not totally depriving myself. So each day, I eat chocolate, instead of waiting until a designated “cheat day” to stuff it to my face excessively.
11.) Plan your workout around your biggest meal of the day.
For me, my highest calorie meal is breakfast, so I’ll squeak in my workout in the late morning.
This way, I fuel up beforehand, and then finish the rest of my breakfast after my workout.
12.) You won’t lose weight from eating salads all day.
I find it funny when my friends SnapChat me pictures of them eating salads with captions that say “time to lose 10 pounds” or “time to be healthy.”
More often than not, their salads have 10 pieces of kale, sunflower seeds, cranberries, and twigs.
No protein. No healthy fat. Nothing to fill them up.
So if you choose to go the salad-route, make sure it’s loaded enough to satiate your appetite. Otherwise, you won’t be improving your body composition.
Here’s a go-to salad with salmon that is more filling than a Big Mac:
13.) Be prepared.
Some degree of nutritional discipline is needed if you want to stay healthy. Given the hectic lives we live, it can be tough to have healthy options on-hand, so make sure you’re meal prepping.
14.) Less alcohol helps.
Gone are my college days when I binge drank every weekend.
Now that I’m 28 years old, I find solace in having a few pints of Guinness on a special outing like a snowboarding day trip.
From cutting down on alcohol, the changes I’ve noticed physically AND mentally are tremendous.
15.) Paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan ALL work.
The diet that works for you is the one:
1. you can sustain
2. you enjoy
3. you can throw in your friends’ faces. <— shoutout to the vegans.
Kidding. Well, not really.
But hey, if you’re proud of your diet and have been able to adhere to it, excellent. But what works for you, will not always work for another, so stop trying to convert people. Keep it to yourself, and be grateful you found something that works.