This is Part 2 – read about ‘Part 1’ here if you haven’t already.
I think far too many people see the solution to ‘being healthy and losing weight’ as going to the gym/running/exercising in some form. Yes, it definitely plays a part, but nutrition has a far greater part to play in being healthy and losing weight (if that’s your goal). Going to the gym is always going to be beneficial, but unless your nutrition is up to scratch, you are better to take some time to have a look at that and add in some movement later if you are new to ‘working out’. 30 mins walking a day with great nutrition is going to be FAR better for you than working out intensely every morning at the gym for an hour then letting yourself have a chocolate bar at 3pm and/or treating yourself to dessert because you were good and went to the gym that morning. Food first, movement later.
So what does it mean to have your nutrition ‘up to scratch’? Well here’s where the water gets a bit murky. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Genetics, hormones, lifestyle and goals all play a part, and a lot of it is trial and error for you as an individual.
This is something I personally have been working on and trying to figure out what works for me. Factoring in my training goals and what I need to eat to have enough energy to increase strength and lose a bit of size (fat!) as I mentioned in my previous goals post.
It’s a fine balance and it’s definitely still a work in progress. Over the past year or so I have experimented a bit with my nutrition to find what works best for me depending on my training. I have been through phases of high protein, moderate fat and minimal carbs, I have cut out grains, I have cut out dairy, I have been fully paleo etc and through all of this I have finally found what seems to be working. My weight is slowly going down (slower than I would like but I know that is sustainable), my strength numbers are going up and I’m recovering from training fast and starting to feel fit (just starting conditioning phase now). That’s all I can ask for and as long as I’m consistent it’s relatively easy (go figure right?!).
I have realised that I feel better when I don’t eat bread, but oats are ok. Dairy and I are friends and I have no issues with having it in my diet. Sugar is a BIG no-go so I try to avoid it. I need to keep my protein intake around 160-180g per day and the rest I can work around that. Depending on my training each day will depend how many carbs I have, ie: if I have a very high intensity met con (huffy puffy workout 🙂 ) and/or a relatively high strength day (eg: when I was doing huge squat days) I increase my carbs for that day whilst still maintaining my protein intake.
Each meal I make sure to have protein, carbs and fat, with the most carbs in the morning (I generally train in the morning), usually in the form of overnight oats with protein, protein pancakes or a green shake. I decrease the amount of carbs throughout the day, always choosing wholesome carbs (carrot, broccoli, pumpkin, kumara, oats, sometimes brown rice) and having little to no carbs at dinner unless I happen to train at night that day. I have 5-6 meals a day and as I mentioned I make sure I get my protein intake and as long as that is covered the other macros don’t seem to matter tooooo much (but generally the fat is less than carbs). An example of a typical day is shown by the picture from my fitness pal below:
If I feel like a treat I factor it into my macros for the day. For example for dinner last night I had 2 scoops of protein powder, greek yoghurt, cocoa and 1/2 cup of rasberries all mixed together. Was it weird? Yes. Did it taste good and fit my macro count for the day? YES! IIFYM baby!! (“If It Fits Your Macros”). Obviously I’m not advocating having protein powder for dinner every night, but if you can’t be bothered cooking/get home late, it can be an option 🙂 What you define as ‘normal’ vs ‘weird’ is totally up to you and your frame of reference.
How did I figure this out? Pure trial and error. I cut things out, and/or adjusted my macros for a month or more at a time to see if I noticed any differences and adjusted accordingly (ask those who were involved as I did this – it really was a journey! And still is). I tracked everything either in a diary or using my fitness pal and went from there. You can’t do analysis unless you have data sets to analyse from (this is the analyst in me coming out! It’s actually pretty interesting to play with). It does take a bit of time as there are so many variables that aren’t always in your control (sleep, stress etc – another post on this to come) but you learn a lot about yourself and your preferences, as well as becoming a lot more aware of how certain foods make you feel and perform at training etc. It’s like a mini science experiment on yourself.
Have you played around with different macros and noticed differences in your weight, strength or energy levels? I would love to hear about it!