When it comes to getting healthy, looking and feeling better with nutrition it is much simpler than most people would imagine.
As a society we have a habit of making things more complicated than they need to be, nutrition is no different.
Simplicity is something that I discuss on a regular basis with my clients to help them stay on the path towards their goals, and avoid all the diet noise.
It is easy to get caught up in the health and fitness industry’s next big superfood or supplement, but the basics are where everyone makes 98% of their progress, myself included!
People can debate until the cows come home about what macronutrient ratios are best for fat loss or how many calories people need per day, but thing like calories and macros don’t matter unless someone has the basics down.
Calories and macronutrients are important factors for people who have higher athletic or aesthetics goals such as a bodybuilder or mma athlete. For the average person though this is overkill.
Rest assured you can put the food scale away and stop researching the best mobile calorie counter for now.
Celebrate A Win Everyday
I like to keep nutrition as simple as possible, and make sure people have an opportunity to celebrate a win everyday.
These wins don’t need to be monumental, but the opportunity to win needs to be there for people to feel good about their efforts. When it comes down to it people value instant gratification.
Take for example someone who wants to lose fat, but keeps eating cupcakes. They value the instant gratification of a sweet taste more than they value fat loss.
However if you can interrupt that pattern and have a new way to achieve gratification with a healthier habit we can satisfy the gratification we all desire, but with a better alternative.
These wins could be two extra glasses of water or having an extra serving of vegetables at dinner. When you compound these habits over the course of weeks, months and years they add up significantly.
Where To Start
I like to look at how much water someone is drinking daily and then how much protein they are having at meals, these are a good starting point for helping people to feel and perform better.
Next up we address the sources and a quality of fat they are eating and their vegetable consumption at meals.
Starchy carbohydrate recommendations are made based on the level of activity and metabolic health of that person.
Some people do not tolerate starchy carbohydrates very well, and as a result their consumption be be better suited around workouts, and skipped other days.
While a scale isn’t necessary it is valuable to have a measuring tool to gauge portion sizes. What gets measured get managed.
Don’t worry the measuring tool I’m referring to is free and is attached to your wrists; your hands. Specifically your fist, palm and thumb are what are going to be using.
Rule Of Palm, Fist and Thumb
I know that sounds like a kung fu movie title, but this is how we are going to judge the portions sizes that are go on your plate.
Base each meal around 1-2 palm sized portions of protein:
Men aim for 2 palm sized portions of protein per meal
Women should aim for 1 palm sized portion per meal
Protein Sources: grass fed beef, wild caught salmon, 3-4 eggs, pastured chicken , lamb/bison, grass fed steak, turkey.
2 closed fist portions of non starchy vegetables:
Men: 2 closed fist portions at meals
Women: 2 closed fist portions at meals
Vegetables: kale, spinach, collards, onions, mushrooms, garlic, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, carrots, purple cabbage. Pick whichever ones you like, this is just an example!
1-2 thumb sized portions of fat for cooking and flavor:
Men: 2 thumb sized portions at meals
Women:1 thumb sized portion at meals
Cooking oils and fats: grass fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, red palm oil, tallow or lard.
Cold use oils: macadamia oil, avocado oil or olive oil.
Nuts and seeds ½ open cupped hand:
Eat nuts and seeds like a condiment, small portions.
I wouldn’t go beyond one serving per meal. There are much more nutrient dense foods that should be the focus of a meal.
The best options are organic and raw: walnuts, almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, cashews.
For fruit use ½ - 1 closed fist sized portion:
I would keep fruit at one serving per meal, unless post workout then carbs can be higher.
Local in season fruit is preferred:This will vary depending on your region but the best choices are: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, marionberries, boysenberries, melon, apples.
Starchy vegetables or rice (pre or post workout) add 1-2 closed fist portion to your plate:
Men: 2 closed fist portions
Women: 1 closed fist portion
Natural sources of starch: sweet potatoes, yams, taro root, winter squash, acorn squash, white potatoes, plantains. Harder charging athletes who have a high volume of training could benefit from some white rice.
Pro Tip: Do yourself a favor and find Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, they are typically found at most asian food stores. They are white/grey on the outside and purple on the inside, they taste like birthday cake.
Earn your carbs for fat loss:
If fat loss is your primary goal it is a good idea to save your starchy carbohydrates for the post workout window or meal.
If you have trained hard today your body will be able to use denser carbohydrates more efficiently, and there is far less chance that those carbs will go into fat storage.
On days where you do not train or just do some conditioning skip the dense carbohydrates and organize your meals around protein, fat and vegetables for a boost in fat loss.
The Numbers Breakdown
These measurements are for the number driven folks or those who want to track their numbers for higher athletics goals.
Some people do benefit from a short period of tracking numbers until they get a good grip on the portions, and can eyeball moving forward.
Palm sized portion of protein (4 oz) = 25 Grams
Non starch based vegetables = No need to measure these!
Thumb sized fats and oils (1 tbsp) = 15-20 Grams
Closed palm portion of fruit (1 cup) = 25 Grams
Fist sized portion of starchy vegetables(8 oz) = 50 Grams
Baseball sized rice portion cooked (½ cup uncooked) = 70 Grams
Nuts/seeds ½ open handful (golfball sized) = 15- 20 Grams
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These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.