Now that I’m working out more, what should I eat? What’s the best post workout meal? Should you drink a shake? I want to eat right but I don’t want to be the one weirdo that isn’t eating with everyone else. I get asked these question a lot. In an effort to keep it simple, I always suggest protein and green veggies need to be staples in your diet, but sometimes that isn’t enough. We need examples of what a day should look like; a day with a workout and a day without.
First let’s take a look at portions. Should you count your calories? Weigh your food? How much of each macro (carb, protein, and fat) should you get at each meal? And doesn’t it vary for each person? I mean logically a 130lb female wouldn’t eat as much protein as a 250lb male. Fortunately there’s a very simple method that everyone can do and doesn’t take any time or calorie counting. Use your hand! Women, your protein source can be measured with the palm of your hand. Your vegetables are measured with your fist, carbs should equal your cupped hand, and fats are the size of your entire thumb. Men, simply double those recommendations. For weight loss, simply cut the carb portions in half and increase your veggies. Check out the picture below for reference.
Second, do these recommendations change depending on your activity level? Yes. I always suggest people eat one of their largest meals post-workout. During your chosen activity you’ve beaten the muscle down and it needs more protein to repair itself, so start by upping the protein. As for your other meals during the day, that depends on your goals. If body fat loss is your goal then increase your veggies for the rest of your meals, and lower your carbs. Remember, you can NEVER eat too many veggies. Take a look at the pictures below for reference.
Using myself as an example, my typical day looks like this:
5:20am- coffee and head to work
7:00am- strength workout
8:00am- breakfast; 3 eggs with ham, cheese, and guac, and oatmeal with berries
10:30am- snack; nuts and a banana
1:00pm- maybe a run or swim depending on the day
2:00pm- lunch; chicken burrito with cheese, black beans, veggies, rice, and guac
4:30pm- snack; nuts and plain yogurt with fruit
7:00pm- dinner; grilled hamburger patty, green beans, rice
You’ll notice a couple things; first, I typically strength train on an empty stomach. Don’t read into this… it just works for me. Second, my breakfast is generally higher in fats (eggs, cheese, and guac). This is because I know I’ll only get a small snack mid-morning then possibly a run or a swim, and again I prefer to have a relatively empty stomach. Third, my lunch is pretty filling, this is by design. It refuels me after a swim as well as gets me through my afternoon without making me “Hangry”. Finally, my dinner is heavy on protein with minimal carbs. I’ve eaten enough startchy carbs during the day but still need some to help me feel full so I can sleep well. On my non-training days generally I’ll follow the same format but my 3 main meals will be smaller. Through trial and error I’ve learned I need to consume more fats to keep me full longer. I also learned sugars, ie; treats, table sugar, sodas, and snacks, simply don’t work for me.
Here’s the thing, if you want something bad enough you’ll do what it takes to make it happen. If you fail to plan, then plan to fail. Take a look at my typical day of eating and training and now toss in 8-10 hour work days (training clients, business meetings, etc.), and being a present father and husband. Just understand, your dietary woe’s aren’t a product of you not having enough time; you just haven’t made it a priority.