Now, before anyone gets all worked up by the title of this blog being very “food Nazi”, give me a minute to explain.
The world of competing has opened my eyes to a totally different way of looking at food. It’s also helped me learn a lot about nutrition, how our body uses food, and how small tweaks can make big differences in our body composition. That being said, I like to use the expression of “earning your food” because I think it’s totally valid, and can help put things into perspective.
Do we all need carbs in our day? Yes. Do we all need protein and fat? Yes. Do we all need carbs at every single meal? No. Do we all need starchy carbs such as breads and pastas? Nope.
Because carbs are generally the problem I see in most people’s diets, we’ll focus on them. Carbs are great – they taste good, they’re easy to include in a meal, and they can do wonderful things for your body. They provide energy, help rebuild muscle, and can contain fibre for heart health. BUT, our society definitely eats far too many carbs, influencing our weight management problems.
Consider a typical day of eating. Common breakfast foods are all starchy – toast, cereal, waffles, oatmeal. Lunch is usually a sandwich or wrap. Dinner might be a piece of protein, some vegetables and a large serving of rice or potatoes, or a plate full of pasta with sauce. Easy to grab snacks are granola bars, crackers, chips, cookies, ice cream… maybe fruit and vegetables?
Obviously, carb-based foods are forefront in our mind. Making some small changes in how you look at nutrition and when you eat certain foods can have a big impact on your body – both in how it looks and how you function!
Earning Your Carbs – In order to make the most out of my carb intake, I time them around my training times, “earning” them with my exercise. A little bit before, and then most of them after (usually in the two meals following my workout). After that point, my meals consist of protein, vegetables (as my carb source), and some healthy fat for energy.
Another way I look at “earning” my food is by timing my refeed / cheat meals around my biggest training days. For example, we train legs on Saturday and back on Sunday, two of our biggest training sessions for the week, putting our Saturday night refeed meal to good work. The extra food following leg days is helpful, and then the extra calories can give a pretty good energy boost for back the next day. To account for this meal, I’ll also alter my meals throughout the rest of the day so I’m not overloading carbs too much.
If you don’t train, have your carbs when you’re going to be the most active / awake. For example, have them for your mid-morning snack and lunch to carry you through your day rather than having a large serving at night before you park yourself on the couch.
I’ll admit it’s a very different way of looking at things; food as fuel was a foreign concept to me before I started with this lifestyle. But, it does make sense and I’ve noticed a big difference in how my body looks and feels when I follow these principles. If I ate carbs all day long, I would put on unwanted weight for sure, even though I’m pretty active. This doesn’t mean I don’t WANT to eat them all day, because I guarantee I would! I just know that if I did, I wouldn’t feel the greatest – bloated, sleepy, and likely craving more carbs.
Disclaimer – be honest with the amount of activity you’ve done and what it can “earn” you. Walking for 10 minutes should not be a gateway to eating cupcakes and ice cream. Make 90% of your food choices healthy ones to fuel your body in the best way possible. And remember that you can’t outwork a bad diet!
Happy, healthy eating!