Four Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Nutrition
If you’ve been consistently putting time in the gym, yet you’re unimpressed by the changes (or lack thereof) you’re experiencing physically, you might be missing a big piece of the results puzzle: PROPER NUTRITION.
Showing up day in and day out for your WODs is only one small piece of your overall fitness. Many of you may think you’re making healthy dietary choices most of the time – and perhaps in some cases you are – but if you’re looking to attain specific goals including improving performance, losing fat, or gaining lean muscle, yet you’ve had little or short-lived results to show for it, you just might be sabotaging your efforts in one of the following ways without even realizing it. If you’re ready to make lasting changes, it’s time to get honest with yourself. Do any of these nutrition mistakes apply to you?
Disclaimer: Here’s my quick hippy-dippy-kumbaya-love-yourself spiel that I can’t help but interject, because, well, love yourself, damn it! 🙂 There is nothing inherently wrong with whatever form your body decides to take as long as you are healthy and happy and accepting of it. In fact, probably the healthiest approach you CAN take is to appreciate and love your body no matter what your perceived shortcomings or flaws may be. However, if you feel like your hard work and training efforts aren’t reflected in your physique and you’d really like to see a physical form that reflects the inner badass that you already know you are, or if you truly need to shed the weight for legitimate health concerns, then maybe it’s time to take an honest look at your habits.
1. You’re eating too much.
“But I eat healthy, my food is totally paleo. I only eat 85% dark organic paleo chocolate sweetened with brown rice syrup, and I LOVE healthy fats, I put coconut oil and almond butter on EVERYTHING!!!! I totally don’t eat gluten and gave up dairy ages ago! So where the hell are my abs?!!!”
It may be time to assess portion control. It is possible to overeat healthy foods. It’s very easy to overeat delicious healthy fats and ‘clean’ treats. (Believe me…I am a fruit and nut addict, myself!) Energy balance (aka calories) does matter, particularly if you’re trying to lose body fat. My personal wish for every one is to love and accept whatever body size or shape you have and work on getting fitter and stronger and more confident regardless, but alas, it’s reality that most people want to shed a bit of fat. Food quantity matters in this regard. It doesn’t matter how ‘clean’ or ‘paleo’ your choices, if you’re eating too much food – even the healthy stuff – you won’t lose weight.
2. You’re not eating enough.
“I totally don’t eat carbs, they make me bloat – but my big ass salad for dinner was so massive! It had, like, loads of spinach and kale and bee pollen and a handful of activated walnuts for my healthy fats and protein! Why aren’t my lifts going up?!!!”
Again, food quantity matters. If you want to build muscle and a strong physique, you not only have to train hard, but you have to fuel properly. Strength training is only one part of the stimulus your body needs to grow muscle. Eating enough food — specifically PROTEIN — to actually grow muscle is the next piece. In order to put on muscle mass, you have to train hard AND eat hard. If you’re not eating enough calories or protein to support muscle growth, your muscles won’t grow. You also have to make a commitment to taking in enough carbohydrates to maximize your performance and recovery from your training sessions along with protein to support muscle protein synthesis throughout the day. If you’re trying to gain muscle on a caloric deficit and a low carb diet – you may want to rethink your approach. A general rule of thumb for most strength training adults is to consume around 2 grams of protein per kg body weight per day (or more specifically 1.8 – 2.7 g/kg body weight/day). For a 75 kg person, this would be at least 150 grams of protein per day, ideally split into a few regular meals (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner). Meal frequency is not as important as overall intake, anywhere from 3-6 meals would be a good place to start.
3. You’re undoing your efforts on the weekends.
“I ate good and trained hard all week, so I deserve a weekend of booze and pastries and rich meals out! It’s only the weekend…” Repeat EVERY weekend.
Sure, life should be enjoyed – but again, if EVERY weekend is a heavy drinking session and loads of crap food, then it’s likely your weekend binge-fests are negating any progress made during the week. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this (no judgement here), but examine your priorities and decide what’s important to you. Weekend fun is totally worth it – there’s definitely more to life than slaving after a six-pack, but just be honest with yourself about your priorities. Does EVERY weekend have to be a big blow-out or can you scale it back to a couple of pints and one nice meal out? It’s a tradeoff. What’s important to you?
4. Your dietary habits are inconsistent.
“I woke up late so skipped breakfast, lunch was a banana in a meeting that ran over, and by the time I could get a real meal I was so hungry I could eat my own arm, so I just polished off a bag of Taytos while waiting on Deliveroo to bring me a curry. (Okay, two…but I hadn’t eaten all. day.) But, I did remember to have my protein shake after the gym for the first time this week!”
Are you a sporadic eater with random habits – often forgetting to eat meals or grabbing whatever is quick from the convenience store when hunger strikes? Maybe you’re a diet hopper (this month paleo, next month IIFYM, maybe a week of low carb followed immediately by an inevitable week of high carb – aka – EAT ALL THE CAKES!). Perhaps you just fall into the all-or-nothing camp. The ‘oops I ate one ‘bad’ food and now my diet is ruined, screw it I’ll just order pizza and chips for dinner and start over again tomorrow…’ Only to find that sometimes ‘tomorrow’ becomes ‘next week, after the office party’, which morphs into ‘well, I was ‘good’ and had a salad for lunch, so I deserve this take away curry for dinner, feck it, work was a bear! Throw in the bottle of wine, too.’
If any of this describes your approach to eating, then you could benefit from developing more consistent eating habits that might include deliberate meal planning and a better understanding of how to structure meals on the fly to better suit your health and fitness goals. Consistency is not the same thing as perfection. In fact, being a little less than perfect will likely help you become a lot more consistent in the longer term with your diet habits, and I’m talking about for years down the road for the rest of your life.
Developing a regular routine or typical go-to meal structure may take a while to establish and may require self-experimentation to see what works best for you. There’s no right or wrong or one way about it. Treats and the odd night out can also find a place in a long term consistent plan, as long as the majority of the time you’re making choices in line with your goals–whether that’s fat loss, muscle gain, or general health and wellness. Diet hopping and frequent full on binges, however, can have huge negative ramifications for not only your physical goals, but can also create a negative pattern of on-the-wagon, off-the-wagon dieting that can become a cycle that’s hard to break free from, that can slowly eat away at not only your body but your mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Similarly, regularly skipping meals or forgetting to eat is not going to propel you further on the path to strong, fit, and healthy.
Developing good, regular eating habits with a consistent approach that allows a bit of wiggle room will help stave off these prolonged periods of being off-the-wagon while giving you the freedom to enjoy your life and the odd special occasion. Once you develop a good base of consistently healthy habits surrounding meals and diet, it becomes easier to tweak and make adjustments as needed to meet more specific performance or body composition goals. You shouldn’t have to spend your whole life ‘trying’ to be on a ‘diet’. That’s exhausting. Make eating mostly healthy automatic, then you’ll only need to ‘diet’ when/if you feel the need to reign things in a bit or decide to go after a specific goal. However you may find with consistency you’re able to maintain a body composition you’re mostly happy with, most of the time!
(Again, I still believe this happiness should be felt with whatever current form your body happens to take. In reality many people who lose fat or gain muscle still are never truly satisfied with their body shape or size or physical performance – the shift really needs to begin on the inside before you’ll be happy with the outside. That’s a little more hippy-dippy-kumbaya for you! Did I mention you should love your body now, yet? Love it through good nutrition. Now that’s a good goal!) 🙂
If you’re interested in getting your nutrition habits on track and want to learn more about how to eat for your goals or just need that extra little bit of accountability and consistency, there’s still time to sign up for the next session of Eat Clean Be Lean – the NEW 6 WEEK nutrition and lifestyle challenge that aims to teach you how to approach your diet AND your mindset in order to finally get the results you’re looking for. Click here to sign up now!