There is a real sense of insecurity among the fitness industry when it comes to nutrition. A lot of people unfortunately try to make nutrition seem like rocket science and convince you that you absolutely must work with a nutrition coach in order to improve at all. Frankly, this is just not true. Think about it like taxes. If you work a normal nine-to-five job, don’t have any side hustles, and receive a standard W2 from your employer, you’re probably fine to file through a service like H&R Block or TurboTax. However, if you have seven different income streams, some have taxes automatically taken out, some don’t, and you own three rental properties…you may need a tax professional. Nutrition is not much different. If you have unique circumstances such as big life events like a wedding or vacation, follow a specific dietary lifestyle such as vegetarianism or a vegan diet, or have to lose or gain weight for health purposes working with a nutrition coach in a one on one environment is going to help you tremendously. For those of you who are simply looking to clean up your diet and improve your health, these are the top three things to focus on with your nutrition.
Make each meal include protein, fiber, and fat.
While complex carbohydrates such as oats, potatoes, and quinoa are great sources of energy for your body, they take a back seat in importance to protein, fiber, and fat. Protein and fat have to be consumed in order to keep you alive, and fiber has been linked time and time again to lowering risk of disease – everything from heart disease to cancer. So maybe including it is a good idea, don’t you think?
Whenever you sit down to a meal, simply ask yourself if it has protein, fat, and fiber. Thankfully, it is likely that most of the meals you eat already include this. For example, a taco salad with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, black beans, corn, chicken, shredded cheese, and avocado include all of these things. As does a a vegetable omelet with a side of fresh fruit. Don’t overthink this – if your plate has a protein (chicken, tofu, seitan, eggs, lean beef, fish, etc), a fat (nuts and seeds, avocado, olives or olive oil, grass fed butter, cheese) and fiber (beans, fruit, vegetables) you’re all set.
Implement some sort of tracking.
You’re probably thinking how tedious it is to track your food. You have to go buy a food scale. You have to download an app like MyFitnessPal. You have to start weighing things and putting it into Tupperware everyday.
Tracking macros like referenced above is a great tool for improving your body composition and nutrition, but it is certainly not the only tool. However, you do need to track your intake in some way. The simple act of being more present with what you’re putting into your body will help you stay away from the box of donuts at work – and open your eyes to how much or how little you’re actually eating. Don’t feel like measuring? Here are two other ways to track your intake:
- Use your hands. Your palm is a serving of protein, your fist is a serving of vegetables or complex carbohydrates, and your thumb is a serving of fats. Shoot for one or two of each per meal.
- Keep a journal. With this you don’t even have to change what you’re eating, simply record it. Chances are, you already know that the Snickers bar isn’t your best bet for optimal health. Creating the habit of writing it down gives you some accountability.
Drink a TON of water.
It is hard to overstate the importance of this. Water is your absolute best friend. If you don’t like water, find a way to learn to like it – drink infused or bubbly water. Water is incredibly important for so many reasons, but even skipping the health side of things, water also helps you to regulate your hunger cues.
The next time you think you’re hungry, drink a glass of water instead of reaching for a snack. Hunger and thirst can feel strangely similar. Many people eat when they are in fact thirsty and could save that unnecessary snack by simply having a glass of water.
All of this is to say, if you’re not consuming 0.5-1 ounce of water per pound of bodyweight you are dehydrated. Your mental ability to suffering for it, and your physical performance is, as well. This tip is so straight forward but so important. It is extremely common for someone to begin working with a nutrition coach and the first piece of advice is to start tracking water intake. You genuinely do not need a coach to tell you that. Just drink more water.
Nutrition advice can go on forever
This list simply contains the top three things to focus on with your nutrition. I’ve worked with a long list of clients who really needed to get these three things in place before moving onto more advance strategies like hitting specific macronutrient numbers, or eating specific amounts at specific times. When you first start to work on improving your diet, you have options: you can jump in the deep end and be overwhelmed by all that nutrition science has to offer, or you can just start with a couple simple steps and see gradual improvement. Not as sexy, but definitely more effective.