One thing I have never found difficult since I started working with The Trainer is fuelling, or what I used to refer to as “eating”. Most likely because I really like my food, and I enjoy cooking. We were never strangers to cooking from scratch anyway, but there were a few things amiss which were easily remedied with a steer in the right direction. And now, whilst I sometimes mess up a little bit, my fuelling is pretty much spot on and works really well for me.
And why fuelling? Well, that’s why we eat – to fuel our bodies and give them the energy they need to put in a tough workout or work all day or play with our kids, or whatever we’re up to. I certainly don’t eat for emotional comfort anymore, and even though meal times are an important social time in our house, the focus is on being together, not on what we are eating. So the food I put in my mouth becomes fuel, and I can either put premium in my tank and know that it’s looking after the engine, or I can go cheap and of dubious quality and know that it won’t support my body to do what I want it to.
So if I could summarise the keys to my healthy eating, it’d be like this.
Don’t Fear Calories
So many diets out there, whether they explicitly say so or not, revolve around calorie consumption. Whilst it is true that to lose weight, ultimately you need a calorie deficit caused by burning more than you consume, it’s not quite as straightforward as that. I’m currently 30kg down to where I started, with the majority lost in the past year or so, and I have possibly never eaten more calories. I used a tracker (“My Fitness Pal”) at first because I didn’t really trust things at first, and on some days, when I was training hard, I would consume 3000 kcal. Can you imagine any mainstream diet that let’s you eat 3000 calories?! These days were rare, they were days when I (stupidly) stacked 3+ hours of training up in a day, but I fuelled appropriately. Of late, I’ve slipped a little backwards and noticed I wasn’t feeling as energetic or ready to take on big workouts. Then I noticed I was heavily under-fuelling, so of course my body wasn’t feeling awesome, and I also know that in times when I don’t put in the right quantities of high quality food I tend to hold onto weight, as my body goes into starvation mode.
Perhaps one of the healthiest moves I’ve made in the past year or so is stopping my life revolving around calories. It has changed my relationship with food. I see it now as a tool I can use to further my development in the gym, and I’m no longer a slave to it.
Eating 1000 calories and burning off 900 in a spin class is not big or clever. Don’t do it, people!
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t shovel in unlimited numbers of calories from wine, chocolate, cakes, crisps and any old rubbish. That’s where the macros come in…
It’s All About The Macros
Macro-nutrients are the basic building blocks that I’ve used (instead of calories) to ensure that I was fuelling my body for success. Contrary, once more, to many mainstream diet programs, I have found that for me, a diet consisting of about 50% healthy fats, 30% carbohydrates from leafy green things and 20% protein is the optimal combination to facilitate the approximately 20% body fat loss that I’ve had in the past year or so. I know – eating fat to lose fat! My primary source of good fats are coconut oil, which I put in a green smoothie or a porridge most days, and avocados which feature in breakfast, lunch or dinner most days.
When I say carbohydrates, I don’t tend to eat rice, potatoes or pasta (especially since I’m also gluten free) so my carbohydrates mostly come from vegetables. Spinach is a favourite that forms the basis of most salads and the smoothies, and if I need to fuel for performance in the gym, I tend to choose sweet potato. Carbs don’t necessarily mean pasta!
This spinach, beetroot and goat’s cheese salad is a good source of carbohydrates, protein and fats! And is yummy!
Protein is important for building muscle, something else I seem to have done quite well at, and I have learned to enjoy tuna, steak, eggs, salmon, lentils, quinoa and chia as decent sources.
I like to start my day with a good dose of healthy fats and protein, because that levels off my blood sugars for the entire morning and stops me getting hungry until lunchtime, pretty much. These salmon and avocado cakes are tomorrow’s breakfast, and are a great source of Omega 3, healthy fats and protein all in one tasty package!
Oh, and sugar. DO NOT DO IT. Eeeesh.
Plan, Plan, Plan
For me, even more than a year in, I prefer to plan my fuelling accordingly. I can do it in my head now, but I know if I have a workout scheduled the next day (and there is only one day when I don’t, usually!) I need to ensure that I have enough food with me at work to get me through. If I don’t plan, I don’t prepare, and if I’m unprepared I will have limited choices and won’t necessarily have access to the great quality food with the right macro profile that I want. I tend to prepare my fuel the evening before, and use a variety of Kilner jars to transport it to work. And once it’s there, it’s easy to ensure I’m eating the right things in the right quantities. Such as this pink grapefruit and avocado salad which will be a tasty breakfast for tomorrow!
I’m very grateful for the ease with which I’ve picked up these keys to successful fuelling, and every day I enjoy healthy, tasty, nutritious foods. I can’t count the effort and pounds (of money and weight) that I’ve poured into one diet program or another over the years, and now I just eat clean, real food in the right balanced quantities, I’m not a slave to food and I enjoy it more than ever.