If you find it unbelievably easy to cram three or more, super-intense workouts into each week but ridiculously hard to straighten your diet out enough to make that gym time count, trust us, you’re not alone. However, putting a little bit of that same effort into cleaning up your diet would do wonders for your overall results.
The good news is that a little nutritional makeover isn’t as difficult as you might think. No need to go out and get blood work done or enlist a pricey food guru. Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, a nutritional consultant who specializes in sports nutrition, says that most people can clean up their diets in a few easy steps.
1 COOK MORE
If you’re like most people, nearly every minute of your day is accounted for before you roll out of bed. Amid the mayhem, it can be easy to hit the drive-through, but that’s generally a great way to do your physique a great injustice. “Just cook your own food,” White says. “Homemade food is almost always better for your body than drive-through or takeout.” Plus, it removes the doubt. Cooking homemade meals will help you to ensure that you know exactly what’s going into your body, 24/7.
Making tip No. 1 work requires a bit of advance preparation. “Think about your entire day when it comes to food choices instead of approaching things one meal at a time,” White says. One good tactic is to cook a bundle of chicken breasts and sweet potatoes or brown rice each Sunday night, then pack the meals in individual containers and load them into the refrigerator. Keep a few of those packs of pre-washed salad on hand, and then a microwave is all that stands between you and a muscle-friendly meal.
3 DRINK MORE
No, we’re not talking about single malt. White recommends drinking more water and other calorie-free fluids in order to promote satiety and cut overall calorie consumption. Studies show that subjects on a low-calorie diet who drank 16 ounces of water before meals lost an average of 15.5 pounds over three months and kept it off — or lost additional weight — after a year of the same regimen.
4 THINK GREEN
And while you’re at it, think red and yellow and orange … you get the point. “Eat more fruits and vegetables to get more inflammation-fighting antioxidants,” White says. She adds that these foods are good, low-calorie sources of fiber that slow digestion, which is key for maintaining body composition.
5 ALL-DAY PROTEIN
It has been beaten into our heads that we need to flood our bodies with protein before and after workouts. That’s because we need it to maximize hypertrophy and recovery and to minimize muscle damage. But what’s not talked about enough is the need for all-day protein. “Instead of mega-portions once or twice a day, spread it out to all meals and snacks and especially after workouts,” White says. If you’re eating six to seven times per day and your protein goal is 175 to 200 grams per day, that equates to 25 to 35 grams per protein at each sitting. Use shakes, beef jerky and other lean protein sources to meet this goal.
For more tips on sports nutrition from Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, including recipes, visit danawhitenutrition.com or check out her blog for the Food Network at blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/.