I wanted to create a simple resource for all my readers based on my nutritional philosophy, which is pretty simple overall and so it should be.
If you did number one 90% of the time or higher, you’d probably get incredible fat loss results and if you don’t, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), we can troubleshoot it for you. This is a quick run-down of the essential questions you should ask yourself before every meal.
I’m giving out a free cheat-sheet here, no strings attached, uncopyright, please fold it up and keep it with you. Refer to it regularly for 90 days and let me know if you make some progress.
1. Am I eating whole foods that I know the origins of?
Three-thousand calories from potato chips and three-thousand calories from potatoes are not the same thing. Eating that many calories from chips is easy, grab a bag or two, but try eating an equal amount of just whole unprocessed potatoes, it’s a lot different! The same thing could be said for a lot of demonized cereal grain carbohydrate products, try eating three-thousand calories of bread, then try eating three-thousand of bulgar or oats. What about eating fruit instead of drinking juice? Think of all the caloric drinks out there we’re drinking from Coke to Mountain Dew, it’s not whole, not even close.
If we could get everyone on earth to eat whole foods the majority of the time we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic sweeping North America, it’s almost that simple.
2. Is this too much food, too quickly?
The Okinawans (little island off the coast of Japan, remember Karate Kid?) have a fantastic saying called Hara Hachi Bu, or in English, eat until you’re 80% full. This is wonderful advice actually because it takes about twenty minutes for your body to register that it’s full anyway, mostly because the feeling of hunger is regulated by the endocrine (hormone) system and it takes a while for these hormones to take effect.
So if you eat until you’re 80% full, you’ll notice that about twenty minutes after you started eating, you’ll actually feel completely full and satisfied.
Another strategy might be to play with your environment, try eating from a nine inch plate, instead of the standard eleven inch plate, this makes the same amount of food look huge and instantly more satisfying, while limiting how much you can fit on there. One other strategy is to simply take a picture of your food at every meal — don’t worry about keeping track of every calorie you eat like most people advise for now.
It’s also O.K. to leave a little on the plate, put the leftovers in the fridge, take them for lunch tomorrow. I hate counting calories and have managed to stay at 6-8% body fat for most of my adult life, it’s doable if you understand quantities — hint: I’m going to show you some easy measurement strategies below using your hand as a good rough guide for quantity. As long as the quality of the food is high (see question #1), these measurements work very well.
3. Is this enough lean protein?
Protein intake is important, the smaller molecules called Amino Acids, that make up proteins are contributing to pretty much every process in your body, which is why they are frequently referred to as the building blocks of the body. One serving of a lean protein is approximately the size of your palm, and about the thickness of a deck of cards to maybe an inch. I would say women should go for one of these servings and men should go for two.
You can choose from sources like lean meat (poultry breast/thigh, fish, lean cuts of beef, pork, bison, elk, ostrich, etc…), or lean vegetarian sources (egg whites, tofu, tempeh, legumes/beans), or powdered protein supplements — for supplements one scoop typically for Women and two for Men instead of the palm size servings.
Protein increases the thermic effect of the meal you are about to eat, which means your body is going to spend more energy actually digesting your food at rest than you would without protein. It also lowers the glycemic response of the food, meaning less spike to your blood sugar levels and less time you’ll have to spend later in life monitoring type II diabetes. Protein also keeps you feeling fuller, for longer as a result of the above.
4. Are there enough vegetables on this plate?
I want you to stop fretting about carbs and start focusing on greens. Veggies make everything else in your system just work better with a great dose of useful vitamins and minerals. They are like the oil in your engine or on your bike chain, making sure everything works smoothly. You’ll feel better, experience less sickness, have more energy, and be more regular.
As long as the protein is there, it won’t feel like your a rabbit grazing on niblets and not getting full. Now it depends on how frequently you plan on eating but if it’s only three square meals a day you should get two of these bad boy measures in at every meal (half the plate or so) If you eat more frequently, like six times a day you could get away with one of them.
Again women probably don’t need as much as men by about half, but keep in mind your fist is probably smaller.
Go after a variety of veggies from cruciferous vegetables, like brocolli or cauliflower, to leaf vegetables like Kale, Seaweed or Swiss Chard, to bulb veggies like garlic, onion or leeks, to things like peppers, legumes, mushrooms, even squash (particularly in the fall), and root vegetables. Try not to have fruit with every meal, but whole fruit can be thrown into the equation from time to time too. Mix it up, find what you like and cook it how you like. You can steam them, grill them, bake them, even saute or stir-fry them in some healthy fats. Eat more, once you’ve mastered this we can talk specifics.
5. Are there too many starches or simple sugars here? If so, am I in my 3-hour post-workout window?
You’ve all heard it by now, carbs are evil. Except that they are in everything to a certain extent almost and glucose (sugar) is needed for the brain to function. Carbohydrates are the gas for your car, you’ll need them especially if you’re exercising regularly. Yes your body can convert fat and protein into glucose, but it’s a slow painful process, so you’ll need some starchy carbohydrates in your diet (or more beans and root vegetables as a good substitute) particularly if you’re moving or exercising a lot, which you should be if you’re trying to lose fat.
However, there is a catch, you should eat these starchy veggies, grains or any simple sugars (if you’re going to eat the latter at all) only after your workouts. There is a physiological reason for this, because it’s the best time for those carbohydrates to assist in recovery from your workout and be stored as carbohydrates and not additional fat.
Simple sugars are the worst offenders, they can completely stall your fat loss, or even induce weight gain. So, for this next meal, are there too many starches, particularly processed ones like bread or pasta? Even if it is a post-workout recovery meal, women should only eat about 1/2 a fist and men should eat a little less than one fist.
Starches in the diet include grains, pasta, quinoa, amaranth, rice, other cereal grains and the processed versions of them like bread, bagels, muffins or cakes. Added sugars can often be found in pop/soda, fruit juices, and anything pre-bought or pre-packaged like salad dressings, sauces, desserts, or sweet snacks. Check the labels! I would say drink only non-caloric beverages too whenever possible, like green tea, black coffee, or water.
Overall, just try to eat less starchy carbohydrates and especially simple sugars found in processed foods. This is tough because they are in everything, right in your face at every restaurant or coffee shop you visit. All else fails, refer to question 1.
The first and perhaps most demonized macronutrient. This is another reason #1 is so important. Highly processed foods generally have nasty processed fats, like trans-fat, these can lead to fat gain, hence the bad rep fats have. However, you still need fat in your diet, the fatty acids that make up larger fat compounds are essential to many bodily functions like tissue repair and regeneration, not to mention it surrounds all your cells and your brain. Fat aids in my bodily functions and protects a lot of stuff. Essential body fat levels for women are approximately 11-14% and in men 2-4%, so we know that your body needs some fat to function appropriately.
You’re going to need a healthy mix of preferably naturally occurring fats if you’re going to lose fat too. So, for this next meal, double check, are there small amounts of healthy fats in this meal? Did you eat some healthy fats today already? It’s not a necessarily a one time a day thing only if you know the right portions but if you didn’t already get some in, you probably should now. You can choose from healthy oils like olive oil or coconut oil or macadamia nut oil, to avocados, even a handful of raw nuts like hazelnuts, cashews or almonds. It could also be a handful of raw seeds like sesame, sunflower, flax, chia, or hemp, and omega-3 rich fish oils are equally great.
Whichever type you choose, make sure you’re adding healthy fats to your diet while replacing the unhealthy ones. Oils should be about the size of your thumb or about 1 tbsp, guys again can probably go a little bit more.
Here is the cheat sheet again. Keep up the good work!