Everyone knows that you have to “eat healthy” in order to get the maximum results from your workout regimen. But, here again, we find ourselves in super ambiguous territory. What the heck does “eat healthy” even mean?
Once again, you have to be super specific about what you’re doing if you want to see visible results and feel better. That means simply telling yourself “eat healthy” really doesn’t mean anything.
And I’m not going to lie to you. If there is one thing that’s required in order to get the results you want, I would say it’s sacrifice. I’d also add determination and consistency. But I think really the number one quality I had to accept and live as I broke into this lifestyle was sacrifice.
Sacrifice the time you used to devote to other things, in order to prepare your workout strategies, spend the time working out, and prepare your eating plans, meals and snacks. But most of all, sacrifice eating some foods that might be among your favorites, in order to provide higher-quality fuel for your body’s workouts and as a strategy to achieve visible results.
I live in Italy, where food is a major cultural component in socializing. It’s not easy to eat a regimented diet here. But, like anything else in life that you work towards for a purpose, in the end it doesn’t really matter whether it’s easy or not. In fact almost nothing worth having is easy to get, after all.
The first six weeks of breaking into weight training, I went hardcore on this diet and cut out all sugar, bread, pasta, non-water drinks, and tried to eat as much protein as possible. Now I’ve eased up a bit on that but I still maintain more or less the same eating habits.
I allow myself one splurge or cheat meal a week, in which I don’t put any barriers on what I eat or drink. Obviously I don’t go crazy, but at the same time I’m not stressing if I have a few glasses of wine and something with a cream sauce or whatever.
I’m certainly not a nutritionist, but I can share with you here the tips and strategies that have helped me to get really fast results, while combined with an intense workout regimen.
1) You absolutely have to sacrifice certain fillers that do nothing for your athletic performance or your body. Basically there’s really nothing else you need to be drinking besides water. If you can drink only water, do it. I drink mainly water, have an occasional cappuccino and like a splash of milk in my espresso. Other than that, it’s water. Sometimes with lemon, always slightly carbonated, and I always have a bottle with me.
2) There’s no reason you need to be eating bread. Honestly. Man can live without bread. And, imagine my shock and horror when my Coach told me to cut out pasta as well. PASTA?! In Italy!? But I did, and I survived. Why cut out bread and pasta? The simple answer you can probably guess is “carbs.” But again, what the heck does that really mean? Why we really want to cut out bread and pasta is because they have a high glycemic index and therefore cause your blood sugar to rise, and that can be metabolized into fat. You want your diet to be as low in sugar as possible. You don’t want to cut out carbs completely, you just want to choose them from the best sources. So the carbs you eat should be coming from fruit sources like bananas, apples, berries, etc., but not white bread and pasta. It also is more effective for fax oxidation if you eat them early in the day, or before or after a workout, rather than late afternoon, evening, or night. Here’s an article with more essential facts to know about carbs.
3) Speaking of sugar. You shouldn’t be adding sugar to anything. In an ideal world you could cut it out altogether. Try for that.
4) Cut out all processed foods. This was perhaps my biggest challenge. It basically means anything that’s gone through any sort of process in a factory. You want to be eating things as close as possible to the state they were in when they came out of the ground, off the tree, etc. I basically don’t eat anything from a box or package anymore, except I do buy frozen fish and bags of frozen vegetables. But I make sure that when I buy these things, that’s ALL there is. CHECK LABELS! A lot of frozen veg mixes and packaged frozen fish have added olive oil, spices, etc. etc. No. Just buy ones that have only natural vegetables or fish without anything else added. You can then season it yourself.
5) Snacks. Basically I eat breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner. The best go-to snacks I use are the ones most training specialists recommend: healthy fats like a small handful of almonds, or a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt (lots of protein, no sugar, low carbs).
6) Planning ahead. Obviously you have to have these things around your kitchen in order to eat them and prepare them. So do your grocery shopping accordingly. Also, don’t buy anything that you aren’t supposed to eat. Some people say “But I have kids..” etc. Ok. So do I. I have three preschoolers under age 5 at home. They don’t eat the exact same diet as I do, but pretty darn close. They do eat pasta, and drink lots of milk. But they eat very little processed food and don’t get unhealthy snacks except as a special treat. I no longer really crave junk food so it’s not a problem for me, but if you are getting a special treat for the kids, buy just enough of it so that once the kids have their snack, there isn’t anything left around the house. My kids get popsicles instead of ice cream in our freezer. We make them with fruit juice.
Those are the tips I have for you for now. More will come over time.
Where are you at in your current eating habits? Do you pay attention to the food you’re putting in your mouth? Do you absentmindedly eat whatever is quick and convenient, or do you make an effort to be conscious about the foods you choose?