Eating Like a Body Builder to Lose Weight? Sign Me Up!

I know I’m not alone when it comes to being confused on how to put together a great “macro-friendly” meal. For years, I would throw together as many veggies and proteins as possible and wonder if I’m eating the right thing.

I used to make meals by starting out with a foundation of vegetables, and I felt like I didn’t have “room” for protein or fat. I would panic and try to make my next meals based on proteins; eventually burning myself out on what I needed to eat. There is a simple formula that helped me break down each meal by macro, without panic or hassle. This formula came from “Burn The Fat; Feed The Muscle,” which is a great book to read or listen to. In this book, Tom Venuto breaks meals down in this fashion:

  • 1 Protein
  • 1 Starchy Carb (or Whole Grain)
  • 1 Fibrous Carb (Fruit or Vegetable)

Where does fat fit in? If you’re eating a plant-based diet, the fat can come from one or more of these foods. Plants contain a combination of each macro, so you may need to mix-n-match. If you get protein from animal-based sources, the fat is already built into the protein. I’ll give examples of each type of meal.

Breakfast:

  • Scrambled tofu (Protein)
  • Potato (Starchy Carb)
  • Kale (Fibrous Carb)
  • To add fat, cook the potatoes in 1tbsp olive oil, or serve with avocado.
  • Protein powder
  • Oatmeal (Starchy carb)
  • Fruit (Fibrous carb)
  • You can add peanut butter, flax seed, chia seed, hemp seed, pretty much any nuts or seeds to increase fat content.
  • Eggs (Protein and fat)
  • Toast or potatoes (Starchy carb)
  • Fruit or any non-starchy vegetable (Fibrous carb)

French toast:

  • Egg wash (Protein and fat)
  • Bread (Starchy Carb)
  • Fruit (Fibrous carb)

Lunch/Dinner:

Seitan and broccoli:

  • Seitan (Protein)
  • Rice (Starchy carb)
  • Broccoli (Fibrous carb)
  • Add sesame seeds or oil to add fat.

Simple salad:

  • Protein (Chick’n, seitan, tempeh, tofu, edamame)
  • Leafy greens (Fibrous carb)
  • Grains, beans, lentils, legumes, potato, pasta, etc. (Starchy carb)
  • You can use salad dressing to add fat.

Taco:

  • Protein (Beefy crumbles, beefless tips, seitan, tempeh)
  • Fibrous carb (Onions, peppers, sometimes the tortilla [Mission Carb Balance Tortilla])
  • Starchy carb (Tortilla, potatoes)
  • Fat (Sour cream, avocado)

Sandwich:

  • Protein (Deli slices, temeh, facon, etc.)
  • Fibrous carb (Non-starchy veggies, sometimes the bread can be high in fiber)
  • Starchy carb (Bread)
  • Fat (Avocado, animal-based protein)

You can apply this to a majority of common dishes. Try it out with your favorite ones! This formula is super simple because it is easy to remember and you can adjust the amount of each food to perfectly fit your macro requirements! You can build almost any meal with this approach and not have to use an excessive amount of ingredients. This helps people lose weight because when keeping track of food intake, it is much easier to calculate meals with 3-5 ingredients rather than those with more than 5 ingredients. Building meals with fewer ingredients can also help people save money!

How is this related to bodybuilding?

This method of breaking down meals by macros has been practiced by bodybuilders. It’s used to ensure that they get the proper amount of each macronutrient to reach their physique goals. You’ll notice that the typical body building meal will be something like chicken, rice, and broccoli. One protein, one starchy carb, one fibrous carb. This is a very customizable approach that can help eliminate decision fatigue.

How do I calculate my macro requirements, though?

I have tried a few macro calculators, and the one by Legion Athletics is my favorite so far. If you use a macro calculator and the total number of calories looks too low, go ahead and add more. I say this because when I put in my stats (4’9″), macro calculators always tell me that I need to eat around 1200 calories, when I should be eating at least 1400-1500. You can always adjust your macros to a ratio that works best for your body and lifestyle. A simple and easy to remember approach would be to divide macros into a 40/40/20 split. 40% Carbs and protein, 20% fat. This is a good baseline to start at if you are new to tracking macros. You can always adjust these numbers based on your needs.

Quick Bite: A Basic Introduction to Behavior Change

If you have dabbled in the world of health, fitness, weight loss, etc, you’ve most likely heard of the following:

  • I haven’t worked out in ___ days, I need to push myself during next workout.
  • I ate ___ yesterday, so I need to fast/eat less today.
  • I haven’t reached ___ goal, I’m failing at this.
  • I wish I looked like them, I don’t like my ___.
  • I’ve been doing ____, why am I not ___?

None of these thoughts are healthy. They will not get you to the goal that you want. These ideas are toxic and are borderline disordered. If you do struggle with thoughts like the above and its affecting your quality of life, please seek a professional. These ideas are rooted in our love of instant gratification and comparing ourselves to others. It’s not intentional, it is human nature. These are two of many examples of behavior patterns that helped us survive, thus evolve. Today, humans have access to everything. Shelter, food, water, technology, anything you can think of. We no longer need to spend the majority of our time searching for these resources, we are now living comfortably with “nothing to do,” other than work, raising a family, school, hobbies, etc. We are living in an advanced world, stuck with the thought processes carved into our neural pathways by millions of years worth of successful evolution. What does any of this have to do with health? We’re in 2021???? It is helpful to identify the thoughts and behavior patterns of the primitive brain and use the modern brain to overcome these barriers.

What is this *~secret~*?? It all boils down to switching our mindset to that of self-love before making changes to our behavior. Take the phrases from above and ask or say them to the next person you see. It is not what people say to those they love. We can change our behavior, which stem from our thoughts, once we love every inch of ourselves. Our aspirations are the end result, it takes behavior changes that turn into habit to “set them in stone.” When it comes to implementing a new behavior, motivation is a flake and most of the time there are no “overnight” results.

Before implementing a new behavior, keep these concepts in mind:

  • Bodily processes move much slower than psychological processes; You can think about what your health goals are while not seeing results over time. Change takes time. Pay attention to more subtle changes within the body and mind.
  • The human body is not a machine. The body is a living, breathing entity to house the soul. It cannot push through workouts every day, it cannot function without sleep, it won’t malfunction after two or three “unhealthy” meals in a row, and it won’t follow through with what you want it do to without showing it love and respect.
  • A healthy life is not a sentencing. Most people turn their health around because they would like to have a better quality and quantity of life. It is a permanent lifestyle change. It is not a punishment. It should be sustainable and fun. Thinking of it as a punishment or restriction will not make someone want to do it. Make it fun. Eat plants you like, move in ways you enjoy. Do these things because you love your body and want to take good care of it.
  • Cancel out negative thoughts. It may feel awkward at first. You may need to “fake it till you make it.” Any negative thought that comes up, say the opposite back.
    • “What if it doesn’t work out?” What if it does?
    • “____ is unhealthy.” ____ is a treat.

When you start to think of healthy habits as self-care, it makes them less daunting. Feels less like chores. It’s easier to change our behavior when we are happy! Now that we’re aware that our goals will take some time, let’s change our behavior. A behavior occurs when Motivation, Ability, and Prompt converge at the same time! Motivation refers to how much we want to reach our goals and prompts refers to “setting the stage” to complete the desired behavior. We need to make sure that we can easily access the tools needed to complete the behavior, are physically capable of completing it, and want to complete it. If someone has a goal of working out, but the nearest gym is 30 miles away from home, this person may consider getting some home equipment. Going to the gym in this case will lack ability and prompt. If the same person works in close proximity to this gym that’s 30 miles from home, they may consider going to the gym before or after work. In this scenario, going to the gym will have all three requirements to go through with a behavior. The ability to go to the gym comes from being close by. The prompt is the fact that this person already has a daily habit of going to work. This is a very basic example, I recommend reading “Tiny Habits” by Bj Fogg. He is great at breaking down this process.

Did you enjoy this snack-sized chat? Would you like to see more in the future? Let me know if you want to know more about psychology!

5 Ways to Make Food Tracking Easier

I’ve talked about the importance of why tracking food intake is important. The least I can do is share some tips that make it easier. Trust me, its not as easy as it sounds, it takes some practice. Before diving in, here is a list of food tracking essentials:

  • Food scale: This is the most important tool because estimation will hinder the desired results. Here is a basic scale.
  • Food tracking app: I like Cronometer because it breaks down many micronutrients in addition to macronutrients. I am currently using MyFitnessPal because its the app that can sync to the fitness app that I have set up through my personal trainer. Keep in mind that when picking a food tracking app, if its not popular, it may be harder to share your diary with the people or apps you want to see it.
  • Measuring tools: Measuring cups, spoons, scoops, etc. These will help with your accuracy.
  • Food storage: Storage containers are great for people who like to meal/ingredient prep.

Now that we have covered the tools, lets get into the tips!

  • Weigh food as you go. Tracking my food intake was a pain until I realized I was making it too much work. I would weigh my food, chop it and prepare it. Now, I weigh as I chop, and at the same time. I will chop, weigh my food, chop my next food, tare the scale and weigh it. Instead of separating the two actions, I do it all at once.
  • Prepare your own food! If you are cooking for yourself, you will know exactly what is going into your food! You can control the contents. When you go to a restaurant and log the meal you ate, there may be additional ingredients not accounted for and you may think you’re eating a 600 calorie meal, when in reality, its closer to 900 calories. A high-calorie meal is not bad, but making your own food lets you be more accurate and accountable when it comes to your lifestyle goals.

  • Write down the measurements of your most common dishes. I used to measure my breakfasts every day, and I was eating the same thing. This tip works if you use the same amount of ingredients every time you make it. A dish that you can cook with your eyes closed. Write down the weight of each ingredient so you can quickly type it in, or most food tracking apps will let you create meals and recipes. You will plug in your ingredients and measurements once, and you can add the whole meal with one tap! I have a weekly meal planner featuring a recipe card template that is perfect for keeping track of your favorite meals!
  • Do not let “counting calories” keep you from having fun and living life! I know I just said that ordering a meal from a restaurant might not be the best idea for losing weight. You know what? One meal, or a whole day of derailing from your preferred eating style will not suddenly “undo” all of your work. You can either edit the menu item to better fit your lifestyle/macros, OR log the meal as best as you can and enjoy it! It is impossible to eat “perfect” all the time, it is our reaction to it and preceding steps that make a difference. Enjoying the meal with your family, feeding your soul, eating something you actually enjoy is more important than “oh my goodness, I ate ___, I’ll never be healthy! I’ll never see my goals! I cheated, I might as well eat like this for the rest of the day/week!” Eating healthy is important, but please put mental health first. Your journey to a healthy lifestyle should be a fun and pleasant experience!
    • This step is important because you might need more calories than you think! My personal trainer had me log my calories, the first week I did not change anything. I would eat 900-1200 calories (I am 4’9″) a day. I was eating a lot, but I was getting headaches and I looked bloated. The next week, my PT instructed me to go for 1500 calories and gave me specific macros to follow. At first, I was skeptical, shouldn’t I eat less to lose weight? After eating 1500 calories a day, my headaches went away, I can fit into clothes a little better and I have more energy than before! Keeping track of food intake is all about finding a way of eating that works best for you and your health goals. It is also a good idea to see what’s going inside so you can make changes accordingly.
  • Get to know your favorite (Insert macro) food! What do you mean get to know my food? I’m very familiar with it! How well do you know it? When counting macros, it takes a little more creativity to hit goals than a lifestyle that includes eating animals. Animal-inclusive diets have very distinct macro categories. Plant-based foods will have more than one macronutrient. This is important because it may be hard to hit a specific macro goal without the other two being disproportionate. Beans are typically considered a protein source, but they contain more carbs than protein. I used to think that peanuts were a protein source until I learned that they have more fat than protein. Seitan is a great source of protein, it’s very low in fat and carbs.
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Do you track your food intake? What are your food-related health goals?

6.5 Things I Wish I Knew About the Gym!

Do you struggle with gym anxiety or not sure what to do when you’re there? I used to be terrified of going to the gym. I knew nothing about equipment or how to structure workouts (which I’m still new to). I was worried about what the gym rats would think about a fresh, clueless member, especially during the new year. I hired a personal trainer in December so I could learn all of these things and not be so lost. I wanted to be ready to be released into the wild by the time my contract was over. Here are some things I have learned so far about the gym. These are things I wish I knew years ago, I may have walked into a gym much sooner.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  • Are people watching me? What will they think? In my experience, people will see and acknowledge you, but no one is staring at you. They don’t care, they just want to work out and go home. People at the gym typically mind their own business, and are sometimes willing to help when asked. There may be communication in situations where you and someone else need the same piece of equipment, just be polite like you would in any other situation; they will be polite back.
  • Weight machines are your friend. I used to be intimidated by the weight machines. I had no idea how to use them, and what if I had bad form while using them? I was told by a personal trainer to not worry about form, because a machine is supposed to assist you with proper form (as long as the settings are proportionate for your height).
  • Plan accordingly. If you have a strength and cardio regimen, you may want to look into the cardio classes at your local gym and plan do to them both in one trip. I have a spin class that I go to three times a week, and I will do my strength training before the class. Its easier for me to go to the gym three times than four or five. I like cardio after strength because you use up glycogen (fuel) stored in the muscles while strength training; after glycogen is used up, your body will burn fat as energy when you do the cardio. So, when you put these two together, you’re getting more bang for your buck.
    • Getting to the gym on time and early enough to get my full workout in required some changes. It’s not simply “Go to gym, workout, go home,” there’s a couple more steps. The night before my gym session, I will pack my necessities. The contents of my bag depend on what I’m doing at the gym the next day. I will always pack two 32oz water bottles, a protein shake or BCAAs, earbuds, a pack of LastTissues (perfect for the stationary bike), and a sweat towel. If I am going to yoga or doing cardio that’s not cycling, I will bring my big gym bag that can hold a yoga mat and a spare pair of shoes. Speaking of shoes, you’re going to want to use different shoes for different activities. For strength training, or exercises that your feet need to feel grounded, go for shoes with a more flat sole. Think of skate shoes. For cardio, you will need a shoe that has arch support and some type of shock absorption. I use running shoes because that’s the only other cardio I do. For something like Zumba, there are special shoes for it with an anatomy that can withstand the dance-like moves. You make lateral movements (side to side), pivot on the ball of your foot, etc. Please look into the equipment needed before starting a workout to avoid injury!
    • After my bag is packed and everything is ready to go, I will go to bed early so I make it there on time in the morning. When I have a 1/2 hour workout planned, I try to get there an hour before cycle class starts. I take into account the time it takes to get there, warm up, complete each set, time between sets, cleaning off equipment when I’m done and be there early for class so I can adjust my bike to my preferred settings. It is always a good idea to show up early to a cardio class, especially if its your first time. You can get to know the instructor, the equipment being used, and get a quick rundown of what you’ll be doing.
  • Check out the classes they offer, if any! Fitness classes are great because they are a welcoming and supportive environment. They are a fun way to get a great workout in, the instructor may have a bangin’ playlist and a variety of challenging sequences! They also go by faster than doing cardio by yourself. 50 minutes in cycle class does not feel like a long time compared to 30 minutes on a treadmill by yourself.
Not only do you need to look into shoes for Zumba, but there are also special cycling shoes. They attach to the pedal of a spin bike! They’re not mandatory, but they’re pretty cool.Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  • Your strength workout does not to be a complicated one hour event. I used to think that I had to perform 32 exercises that worked exactly 47 muscles all the way to failure for two hours to get a good strength building workout. A workout doesn’t have to take forever, and you can do anything from eight to ten exercises with 10-12 reps per workout. An effective workout is one that helps you get to your goal, and it doesn’t take that much to build muscle when you’re brand new to the game. When I started to workout “properly,” I felt a bit of culture shock because I was used to doing 30 reps of something per set. When I work out now, I feel like it goes by fast and like I’m not doing much, but I will feel just as sore as when I would overdo it. I have noticed that I’m getting stronger, and I’m doing less reps than before! If you want a little extra in your workout, you can always do the move slowly and increase the amount of time muscles spend under tension. “Pulsing” is also an option.
  • Your split does not have to be complicated. Your split is how you split up your exercises for the week. I used to guess, I would plan out 4-5 days to workout and made a YouTube playlist for that day. I collected so many videos and I was so overwhelmed. I would get sore, rest for two days and get confused on which workout to do next. If I did an arm and ab workout two days ago, should I do the full body scheduled for today, or the leg workout I had planned right after? I would get decision fatigue and fall off the wagon. Now, I typically do a push day, pull day, and body weight day. You can keep it this simple without much guesswork because of push and pull. Each muscle has one job, to flex and move your bone in the direction you need it to. Your “pushing” and “pulling” muscles are usually opposing on the same ligament (biceps pull, triceps push). This method has been effective for me so far.
  • If possible, get a personal trainer. They are very helpful for not only learning how to use the equipment, but some may offer nutrition advice. When working out by myself at home, I never pushed myself as hard as my trainer has, which is why I never saw results on my own. They can also act as a “gym buddy” if you’re scared to go to the gym alone, its make a great training wheel for others who are scared to go. A personal trainer will have the tools to help you expedite your results. If you can’t get a personal trainer, YouTube has a lot of videos showing how to use equipment and example workouts. Some gyms will have employees who are qualified to show you how to use equipment too!

If you are still intimidated by going to the gym, keep in mind that it is filled with likeminded individuals who most likely have similar goals. They, too, have faced their worries and doubts about going for the first or second time. Remember to have fun with it! I hope these little tidbits help you feel more prepared for the gym, whether its your first, second, fifth, tenth or hundredth time. [The exercise tips will be the depth of my fitness “advice,” I am not a professional, I am not qualified to assist with working out.]

Photo by Leon Ardho on Pexels.com

What is your experience with gyms? Are you just starting out, pretty experienced? Is there anything that is holding you back after reading this? Let me know!

People Who Track Daily Food Intake Have a Better Chance of Losing Weight

If I could pick one eating habit to consistently stick with, it would be tracking food intake. No, not counting calories. When someone tracks their intake, they are looking at the bigger picture. Macronutrients, micronutrients, fiber, water, where the calories come from (not how many). When you start a fitness journey, one of the first steps is to log everything you eat. Portions have increased over the years, so what we think is one serving, might be two or three servings. “If you’re not counting calories, why does it matter? Wouldn’t it be a good thing to eat two or three servings of fruits or vegetables at once?” If you have specific body composition goals, you need to take the “calories in vs. calories out” equation into consideration, but what I have in mind is volume of food. This is what I have learned about myself while trying to “deal with” over eating.

“Eat more, lose weight!” They said. Cool, I’ll make my meals from mostly calorie-dilute foods. For me, eating large volumes of food with not enough calories led me to eat more food because I can’t trick my body into thinking I’m eating more nutrients than I’m giving it. Even though more servings of healthy foods can be a good thing, make sure you are feeding yourself vitamins, minerals, fiber, and not just water. After failing my attempt at learning how to eat calorie-dilute foods, I started tracking what I ate on a normal day. By serving size and weight, I was eating way too much. I was eating twice or three times the serving size of everything. I practiced portion control while tracking what I was eating – I hit my daily nutrient goals with less food. I’m not saying you need to eat less, I’m saying you need to look at what nutrients you’re putting in because you might not be lacking the vitamins that you *think* you are. For me, one example was Vitamin C. I took a vitamin C supplement daily until I learned, through tracking my food intake, that bell pepper has the daily amount of vitamin C! When you see what’s going in, you can adjust your food intake to the almost perfect amount your body needs to do what you need it to. Tracking what you eat can help you lose weight because you can see how much food it really takes to feel full. It helps you be more mindful about what goes in your body.

I have a printable weekly planner template that is perfect for getting started with tracking food. I have been using it for several weeks and it has helped me immensely! It has a weekly agenda to write down foods, a grocery shopping page that breaks down different food groups. It does have items like “meat” and “dairy,” I just write in my fake meats and dairy alternatives. It even comes with a recipe template, so you can have a reference for an awesome dish you made! The best part? You can print out as many copies of each page as you want!

Have you tried tracking food intake? Let me know!