Have you ever felt completely lost when it comes to nutrition and how we should be nourishing our bodies? I can 100% relate. Before I made health and fitness not only my number one priority but a lifestyle, I had absolutely no idea what my body needed nutrition wise to not only look its best, but feel and perform its best as well. As someone who used to struggle with disordered eating, food was always the enemy. I used to have body image issues and this led me down a dangerous path when it came to eating patterns. I used to eat the bare minimum in order to stay “tiny” because that’s what I thought being fit was.
Looking back, I wish I had someone to help me and direct me when it came to living a healthy lifestyle. Thankfully I was able to understand that the overall body and lifestyle I wanted to achieve was NOT going to come from under eating. I knew I needed to make a change, but I was scared and honestly just didn’t know what steps I needed to take in order to change my relationship with food. At this point in time I changed my major in college to Health Sciences & Wellness Management. I had started taking classes on nutrition and did my own research at home outside of school to educate myself more so I could not only help myself, but help give knowledge to others as well.
At this point, I finally felt like I was eating properly and giving my body what it needed after neglecting my relationship with food for over a year prior. It's absolutely crazy to see how your body adapts and performs when it's being given the fuel it needs to grow and thrive in the gym and outside of the gym.
When it comes to counting calories and macros, as a beginner I 100% understand how difficult and confusing it may seem. I also know how stressful it can get having to worry about counting macros and calories as well. I honestly love to have structure when it comes to my food intake, mainly to make sure I am eating enough to get the most out of training, so counting calories and macros is like second nature to me. I also love the idea of intuitive eating, listening to what our bodies need and when they feel our best is something I definitely pay attention to. Having a baseline of what your calories and macros should be while eating intuitively is absolutely possible.
A full day of eating for me looks something like this: I make sure I am having balanced meals throughout the day. A typical meal for me would be a protein source, a carbohydrate source, and a fat source. For example, for breakfast I will typically have either whole eggs or egg whites as my protein source, a bowl of oatmeal for my carbohydrate source, and half an avocado or a tablespoon of peanut butter as my healthy fat source. I will usually always lay my meals out this way if I am not tracking macros at that point in time to still ensure I am getting a proper intake of each macronutrient source with each meal.
To break up the day a bit, I will normally have a snack 2 hours after each meal. This will also help to keep your metabolism firing and consistently burning throughout the day. Eating every 2-3 hours is great because your body will constantly have something to burn and your metabolism will need to work harder to keep up with the intake of food!
Another factor into our nutrition is WATER. WATER IS HUGE! I believe a lot of people underestimate how important it is to be drinking enough water. Its pretty crazy because we as humans are made up of about 60% of water. Drinking water is vital for almost every function in the body. Water helps flush out toxins, boost our mood, enhance our performance in the gym, prevents headaches and more! The list seriously goes on and on. Depending on your activity level determines how much water you should be drinking. The average person should be drinking half their body weight in ounces of water a day. For me since I train typically 5-6 days a week and am a very active person, I will drink 1 gallon of water throughout the day. At first it seemed pretty hard to drink all this water, but it seriously has improved my performance in the gym and has made me feel all around better mood wise and energy wise.
Here are three simple steps that you guys can make to improve your nutrition and live an overall healthier lifestyle:
1) Prepare food for the week ahead. Cooking your meals in bulk will help you have food ready and on hand when you have a busy day ahead! This way you wont be left with the issue of either skipping meals, or finding yourself hungry with nothing on hand!
2) Always reach for the better option. Let’s say you can either grab a bag of chips or a protein bar, grab the protein bar! It’s a source of protein and you will ultimately feel more full from a protein bar rather than a bag of chips that will most likely still leave you hungry.
3) At the end of the day, intuitive eating may not be for everyone and not one specific diet will not work for everyone. Being self aware about what works specifically for you and your body is huge. Maybe you are someone who likes structure, this is where I would recommend counting calories and macros in order for you to stay on top of your nutrient and understand what is in the foods you are consuming. If you are someone who feels that kind of structure would stress you out worrying about numbers I would recommend eating intuitively while still being aware of the foods you are eating and portion control.
At the end of the day, we are all striving to find a diet/ eating approach that fits our lifestyle and allows us to still feel like we have freedom when it comes to food. Finding the correct diet/ nutritional plan isn’t always going to be easy and we have to understand that we may have to try multiple approach’s in order for us to find the one that works best! Once we accept that this is a process of trial and error, we then can shift our mindset from trying to find the “quick fix” to forever trusting the process of a life long fitness journey.