Lately I’ve been having difficulty finding topics to cover on this blog. So, as any good millennial would, I posed the following question to my Instagram followers: “What health/fitness topics would you want to read most about?” Unsurprisingly, I recieved a lot of responses and questions relative to diet.
Now, I have to begin by saying that I am not a registered dietician and the nutrition certification did not fall under my NASM training program. So while I cannot offer you advice on your specific situation, I can talk about the things that I have learned through trial and error on my fitness journey. Before I delve any further into this topic, it’s important to note that each body is different. So the only way to truly discover which foods (and quantities of such foods) will enhance your output/results is to consult with a nutritionist that can give you a personalized plan.
“My diet is the component that I struggle with the most even after (4) years on this fitness journey. Please know you’re not alone.”
My diet is the component that I struggle with the most even after (4) years on this fitness journey. Please know you’re not alone. Through trial and many many errors, I created the acronym M.A.P.P.S. to aid me in tackling the issue of my diet:
Regardless of what you’ve seen on instagram, it’s going to take time and effort to reach your fitness goals. Whether your goal is to increase strength, weight loss, or a combo of the two, you’re going to have to begin tracking the foods you eat each day. Now, I’m not saying be obsessive and calorie count, but you should have an idea of your nutrient intake per meal and whether some items you believed were healthy even are at all. Get ready to be surprised.. When I started tracking my macros, I realized I actually wasn’t eating enough food to reach my goals. I used the free version of My Fitness Pal which is very user friendly and allows you to enter your personalized macros and monitor whether you’re meeting the quantities allotted for each day.
Now what are macros you ask? It stands for macronutrients—proteins, carbs, and fats which are the 3 pillars that make up calorie content. I’m not going to go into extensive detail explaining the significance of macros, but the article I’ve linked above will teach you everything you need to know.
As I mentioned already, your diet will be a long and winding journey. I have had to change course and recalculate my macros and/or cycle foods in and out of my diet numerous times. It’s important to learn early on that you must monitor how your body responds to dietary changes and alter your practices as needed. Your macros are a guide of course, but as I mentioned earlier, each body is different. What should work in theory may not be applicable to you. Trust your gut, literally and figuratively.
Ah, protein. It’s a commonly overlooked component in many health/fitness journies. There are so many benefits to having enough protein in your diet (see article linked above). To my friends who are looking to build muscle, this is crucial for you. While I cannot tell you the exact quantity of protein you should be consuming, I can say this might be the area you’re lacking in. For the first few months of my fitness journey, I worked out without consuming adequate protein and I did lose some weight, but I saw minimal muscle growth. When I began increasing my protein intake, my weight loss was not only exacerbated, but I began to see substantial muscle definition. Presently, my calculated macros have me just shy of my bodyweight (in grams) in terms of protein consumption each day. In order to meet this goal, I do consume one protein bar and shake per day (both vegan/plant based protein). In terms of supplement brands, I will discuss my preferences in a later post.
One of the biggest struggles for me, even presently, is portion size. Our portions in America are much larger than necessary, therefore, we mentally and physically have normalized consumption beyond what our bodies need. My Fitness Pal has helped me with portion control also, but at times the lines can get blurred. Through reading and research of my own, I’ve learned to stick with using the size of my fist for portions. If all else fails and/or you’re willing to spend a bit more to get on track, there are many great pre-prepared meals that will also aid you terms of portion-control. Personally, I have enjoyed Freshly’s meals as each package outlines the contents and allows for easy input into My Fitness Pal. Ultimately, the best way to ensure you’re eating 100% cleanly is to cook your own meals. Freshly and many other companies do produce fairly-clean food options, but nothing beats your eyes seeing the exact contents of your meal.
The last letter in M.A.P.P.S. is honestly the most crucial. You can set numerous goals for yourself and invest in the necessary items, but your compliance is what matters most. I’ve found that creating outlandish goals and following trendy diets (Keto, Intermittent Fasting, etc.) don’t work well for me. My goal is to create a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and set myself up for long-term success. While diet-crazes may produce results in the short-term, it’s imporant to remember that your health/fitness journey is a marathon and not a sprint. The “finish line” is ever-changing and it’s best to set up a flexible plan that allows for life to happen.
I used to stick to Intermittent Fasting and while I’m not a proponent of it, I did see results. I found that my cravings were not as bad after adjusting fully, and was able to consistently reach a caloric deficit which is crucial for any sort of weight loss. As a student and a young professional in NYC, it did fit my lifestyle, but as time progressed it became unsustainanble for me. An example of what I presently eat on any day is as follows:
- Breakfast: Coffee, egg whites (or whole eggs depending on my goals), oats or a piece of wheat toast (yes, you need carbs)
- Snack: Protein Bar (+ a second coffee)
- Lunch: Turkey Burger, Veggies + Hummus
- Snack: Apple + Nuts (Peanuts, Almonds, etc.) + (occasional chips if i’m stressed lol)
- Snack: Protein Shake
- Dinner: Grilled chicken (or other lean meat preferably), Veggies (Broccoli a lot), Cauliflower/Brown Rice (sometimes ill add a sauce + egg and make a stir-fry)
While this is one day, you have to keep in mind that my diet does not look like this every single day. I do often leave room for the unexpected, especially on the weekend.
Eating cake is OK. Having drinks with your friends is OK too. I do all of these things and I will not be stopping any time soon. I’ve learned from experience that restricting myself completely takes the freedom and joy out of my life. Through my journey, I have learned that what I can do is slightly modify each of these experiences to remain on track with my goals. If I’m having cake, I may take a smaller piece and scrape off the heaps of icing. I’m aware that alcohol has absolutely zero nutritional value, but when I do drink, I tend to cut myself off or stick with something less calorie-dense (i.e. vodka soda). Be proactive and create a sustainable plan for yourself!
While this quarantine is far from ideal, being isolated does give you the opportunity to truly hone in on your diet and analyze what you’re consuming day to day. It’s imperative that you find a sustainable plan and adjust it accordingly so that when quarantine finally does end, your habits are already established.
Feel free to comment any tips or experiences relative to this topic below!