While most of our schedules make it convenient to have 2-3 meals per day, we should be eating every 2-3 hours, consuming 300-400 calories at each sitting. But with work, stress, and other factors, this is much easier said than done. Ideally, we never overeat and feel full, and never under eat and feel hungry. You will always have energy to burn, available to use quickly in daily life, or during a tough workout session, and won’t be oscillating between hungry and full, which leads to cravings and snacking.
SAMPLE MEAL PLAN
Here is a sample meal plan, including workout day additions, the specifics of which can be mixed and matched with their comparable superfoods listed above, or other favorites, for that matter. It’s important to remember that good should not be the enemy of perfection, and food taking over your lifestyle is a bit much for those of us who are not highly paid professional athletes. Be sure to treat yourself, plan a cheat day every week, and enjoy yourself during holidays and social events.
4 whole eggs, 1 cup spinach, ½ red bell pepper, ½ tomato, ¼ cup lentils or beans, ½ avocado, 2 cups water
1 scoop protein shake powder, 1 scoop green superfood powder, 1 tsp fish oil, 2 cups water
2 portions protein, 2 cups vegetables, ¼ cup lentils or beans, ¼ cup raw nuts, 2 tbsp oil blend, 2 tbsp vinegar, 2 cups water
2 portions protein, 2 cups steamed vegetables, 1 tbsp EVOO, 2 portions sweet potatoes or quinoa, ¼ cup lentils or beans, 1 citrus fruit, 2 cups water, 1 tsp liquid fish oil
1 scoop protein shake powder, 10g creatine monohydrate, 2 cups coconut water
1 cup coconut water, 1 banana
1 scoop protein shake powder, 1 scoop meal replacement powder, 4 cups water
While eating whole foods and fresh juices and vegetables remains ideal, shakes can have an important place in your diet. Rather than skipping a meal altogether, then overeating to make up for the deficit, shakes are a very good solution to the problem of convenience. They are great for pre/post-workout nutrition, supplementing the workout, but without affecting regular meals.
Snacks should be strictly reserved for workout burns, or intelligently controlling a craving, and for no other reason. Stress and other factors provide the landscape for snacking, but unless there is a purpose, we need to avoid this behavior if at all possible.
There is nothing easy about losing weight, and certainly nothing magic about it. Generally speaking, you eat less, or better, and move around more. Any step you take either way will put you in a better position than you were in previously, related to your weight loss goal. Physical activity will burn calories and build lean muscle, which will increase your resting metabolism. But this may increase your hunger, especially if you do not commit to a diet and supplement routine first and foremost. It becomes an exercise in control more than anything, and staying ahead of your hunger and being prepared for workouts are paramount.
Regular meals should consist of protein, vegetables, quality fats, and be lower in carbohydrates, which will minimize the effect on insulin release, providing your body with usable energy without encouraging it to be stored for later. Post-workout meals should consist of protein, vegetables, and quality fats, but be high in carbohydrates, which will promote insulin release, providing your cells with the energy needed to repair damaged muscles, which will ensure better recovery and minimize fat cell production.
Eat slowly, chew thoroughly, set down your utensils frequently, and drink water between bites. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full, so you must stop before you feel full. You should feel satisfied, and in 20 minutes or so, simply not hungry any longer. Eating a diet consisting of less processed foods with fewer additives will certainly help with quantity, hunger, and cravings, as some of these chemicals promote consumption, even when you should feel obviously full.
SAMPLE WEIGHT LOSS MEAL PLAN
Here is a sample weight loss meal plan, which can also be mixed and matched with comparable superfoods above, or other favorites, the difference being that this plan cuts calories dramatically while including foods that promote a full feeling.
2½ oz low-fat, plain kefir, ½ oz banana, ½ tbsp peanut butter, 1½ oz oatmeal, 2 cups water (120 calories)
2½ oz low-fat, plain Greek yogurt, ½ cup grapes, 3 Brazil nuts, 2 cups water (120 calories)
2½ oz ground turkey breast, skinless, 4½ egg whites, 2½ cups spinach, 9½ oz pineapple, ½ tbsp olive oil, 2 cups water (475 calories)
2½ oz low-fat Greek yogurt, 1 cup blueberries, 2½ oz strawberries, 3 Brazil nuts, 2 cups water (120 calories)
5½ oz tilapia, ½ medium lemon, 2½ cups collard greens, 2 medium tomatoes, ½ tbsp olive oil, 2 cups water (475 calories)
2 oz low-fat, plain kefir, 1 cup blueberries, 3 oz raspberries, ½ tbsp flaxseed, 2 cups water (120 calories)
Craving sugar? Drink a coconut water, or have some carrots. Craving salt? Have a handful of nuts, or saltine crackers. Craving carbs? Have a slice of bread or some noodles. Craving fat? Have an avocado or a handful of cashews. Think about a shake instead, and always begin dealing with your cravings with water! This can have a significant effect on how much you wind up consuming.
LABELS and INGREDIENTS
Understanding labels and paying careful attention to the ingredients and the metrics listed is an exercise everyone should be doing. If you aren’t going to get formally educated, at least review the calories, fat, salt, sugar, and know some of the names of ingredients that should be avoided. We think the closer to nature, the better. Choose fresh over frozen or preserved, sugar over high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, less over more ingredients, and no artificial colors or flavors. Try to avoid added sugars, and limit your consumption of artificial sweeteners. While these additives can have a place in your diet and supplements to help keep you moving in the right direction with your health and fitness goals, plan on avoiding them otherwise, and if you must drink a soda, just have the sugar and calories and commit to burning them away later. You can do it!
the 2000 CALORIE DIET
While the research that went into this focused on the percent daily intake metrics for vitamins and essentials, which led to the estimate of 2000 calories on labeling, this continues to be the baseline metric for packaging. Most of us burn a few hundred more calories than this every day, but there nevertheless remains value in this comparison. Simply paying attention to this level of detail in your daily diet will automatically guide you to make better decisions, with each day another opportunity.