I've been getting quite a few questions regarding my diet, in conjunction with my workout routine, so I thought I'd talk about that for a sec (give y'all a break from TxSC posts!). I knew that I'd need to be mindful of what I ate in order to see the results of working out. For most of my life I've just eaten whatever I wanted, and my metabolism let me do that, but I also never felt like I saw big results of any workouts, even when I was on the basketball team and ran track and field in high school. At the beginning of the year I decided I wanted to make a shift towards eating a more local, plant based diet, and to be more mindful of what I was putting in my body overall, not as a weight loss effort, but as an effort to be healthy and nourish my body in a good way. I read a few books and watched some documentaries and it gave me the push I needed to put the effort into being intentional about what I put in my body, rather than just eating whatever. I haven't ever been much of a fan of fast food, especially since starting college, so I didn't really have to give up fast food, or junk food like chips and soda since I wasn't eating it to begin with. I've been trying to eat less meat, which has been difficult because, well, I like it. But something I've decided is that if I'm going to eat meat I'll do my best to eat local meat that was raised in a humane and healthy way. We've got some great resources here in Tacoma in order to do that, at the Farmer's Markets, the Tacoma Food Co-Op, and Tacoma Boys. Our CSA share is only for produce and eggs, so we've definitely be eating more veggies and less meat simply because meat is rarely in the house. Nowadays the most meat I eat is consumed when we go out to eat.
In terms of my "diet," I prefer to think about eating as nourishing my body. The word "diet," while perfectly fine as a word on its own, has so many knee-jerk reactions and brings with it too many preconceived ideas, so I prefer not to use it. "Nourishing my body" is much more descriptive to me of what I'm seeking to do when I eat. When I think about it in that way, I can't over or under eat, and I also have to be intentional about what I eat. So, for instance, instead of saying, "oh I have 1,500 calories I can eat today" and then using those calories to eat Doritos and Diet Coke, which will do a terrible job of nourishing my body, I not only have to think about the amount of food I put in, but the quality of that food as well. And really, you need to be nourishing your body when you're doing an intense workout program. You have to give your body what it needs to repair itself and fuel you through your workouts.
It can be confusing to figure out what exactly you need to fuel your body. How many calories do I eat? Do I pay attention to the nutrition info on packaging? How often/when do I eat? I used Insanity's Nutrition Guide as a reference for some things, but for others I tried to use a more common sense approach. The Insanity Nutrition Guide gives meal plans and such which you can follow super strictly if you want, but I felt like it made more sense for our life and budget to eat in a way that was similar to those meal plans but fit better for what we typically like to eat. I used their calorie calculator to figure out a ballpark for what I should shoot for when determining my daily calorie intake. For women they suggest this formula: 655 + (4.35 x your weight in lbs) + (4.7 x Height in inches)- (4.7 x Age in years) Then you take that number and multiply it by a number based on your activity level (1.2 for sedentary, 1.375 for lightly active, 1.55 for moderately active, 1.7 for very active, and 1.9 for extremely active). Then you can add or subtract 500 calories from that number depending on whether you're looking to gain or lose weight. I'm sure there are many ways to calculate what your daily calorie intake should be, and I'm certainly not a dietician, but I found that I personally felt that I could definitely nourish my body based on that formula.
I tried to eat about 5 small meals throughout the day, in order to keep my metabolism up. I'm not doing that very strictly these days, especially with traveling and not having a regular schedule, but when I was going through the full 2 month Insanity program, I was pretty good at eating 5 smaller meals a day, rather than 3 big ones (or even just one or two... ). I found it was very helpful to use an app like Lose It! or My Fitness Pal in order to track meals and know what I was consuming throughout the day. Again, I'm not currently doing that, but I really liked that method of keeping track of things. My phone is with me almost all the time, so it made it easy to enter my meal info, even when I was out.
In terms of what exactly I eat, that's where I get super practical. Reading In Defense of Food really solidified this idea in my mind. One of the things he mentions in the book is that you should eat food. Like real food. Fruits, veggies, stuff like that. Not stuff in boxes that has been made with chemicals or in a plant and has nutrition info on the side. One of his good rules of thumb was that if your great grandma wouldn't recognize it, don't eat it. Another "rule"? If it makes health claims, avoid it. Real, whole, healthy food doesn't need to make health claims, it's just good for you because it's what your body was made to eat. I try to keep that in mind when eating. There are a lot of diets out there, like Paleo, that somewhat also follow this type of philosophy. Going back to our roots before there were diet and food "trends." I try to ignore the fact that my great grandma and ancestors ate lots of seal and whale fat... probably not the "real" food that will get the results I'm looking for. Although, if I'm trying to stay warm in the Aleutians, those definitely are the results I'd look for. Bring on the whale blubber! I digress...
A lot of work out nutrition guides recommend avoiding alcohol if you're trying to tone up or lose weight, simply because, even though it doesn't feel like it, alcohol has a ton of empty calories in it. I tried my best to cut back on alcohol when I was doing Insanity really hard, but one of my favorite quality time things that Dan & I do is to walk to a favorite watering hole and chat over a drink or two, so I wasn't super crazy about cutting out drinking completely. Again, just being mindful and intentional. Alcohol isn't great for the body anyway, and drinking before doing any kind of work out is an awful idea. I accidentally had a beer before a workout once and I felt so lethargic and lazy and could barely make it through my workout. Yuck.
Anyway, to sum things up, I'll do this bullet point style:
Eat to fuel your body. Nourish it.
Figure out the amount of calories you require to nourish your body.
Use those calories to eat real whole foods.
Eat them frequently and in smaller quantities.