Some Eating Tips That Work for Me
I know, I know. Why am I beating the “get lean” and stay lean dead horse? Well, because I wanted to share some tips that have worked for me. You may have already read my health and wellness transformation post from a year ago, and if not, please go ahead and read that first. I’ve come along way, thanks to my nutritionist wife and cycling. Along the way, there have been things that have worked and things that have not. I’m going to share what I’m doing right now to stay healthy and lean while maintaining “good legs” for cycling (aka – not starving myself).
1. This goes without saying and is largely beaten to death, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: eat whole foods for God’s sakes. Eat 3 or 4 pieces of fruit and several helpings of vegetables every single day. How do you do this? Rather, how do I do it? Simple. I bring fruit with me to work and snack on it throughout the day. An apple here and there. An orange. A banana right before I leave for the day. Whatever it takes. Have a piece of fruit whenever you start thinking about food between meals. Vegetables are a bit different for me. I generally eat my plants for dinner. Lately I’ve been making huge spinach and fresh greens salads. I’ve been throwing whatever greens I can find around the house in them, plus nuts, raisins, and some kind of cheese. For example, the other night I came home to find that we had some leftover asparagus in the fridge. Perfect! I threw a big pile of spinach in my bowl, added the asparagus and some leftover broccoli in there. Then dumped half an avocado, a handful of raisins, shredded almonds, feta cheese, and some peas. It was delicious. My rule of thumb with big hearty salads is – there are no rules. Throw whatever plants you can find in that bad boy and go to town. It’s allll good. Got some kale lying around? Throw it in. What about that sweet potato sitting over there? Hells yes. Throw that bad boy in. Nothing won’t work.
The bottom line is this: if it has a label, be wary. Read the label. If it has more than a few simple ingrediants, it’s probably not food. It’s more likely a food-like product (thanks Michael Pollan). Eat real, whole foods. Don’t accept the substitutes.
2. A tip that goes along with my first point is to experiment. Like I said in my previous nutrition blog post, there is a cornucopia of vegetables out there that are far from your typical peas and carrots. Even in your standard King Soopers fruit and vegetable aisle, you’ll find a half dozen vegetables that look strange and may have names that are difficult to pronounce. Try them out! What’s the worst that can happen? The wonderful thing is, when you do find something random you like, you now have one extra bullet in your chamber. The more foods in your repertoire, the less likely you’ll become bored and wander off into Hamburger Helper-ville.
3. Eat breakfast. I don’t give a shit what time you wake up and how quickly you have to get to work. Do yourself a favor and eat breakfast. I also don’t care about “kick-starting your metabolism” or any other faux-scientific reason to eat breakfast. The reason breakfast is important (at least to me) is that it’s another opportunity to put good, nutrient-rich food in your system. Look at it like an opportunity, not a good time to avoid calories. And when you get to work and start getting some craving, you won’t have the excuse, “well, I haven’t eaten anything yet…. so why not indulge in a couple donuts?” Don’t give yourself that out. Start the day off right and continue to build on it.
4. Drink water all day. I know you’ve probably heard this one before, but I stand by it. I drink water all day long. I have a big cup sitting on my desk that I’ll take swigs from while working. I fill it up a few times a day on average. I think water is great because I think hydration is great. Plus, it kills the boredom hunger strikes that are sometimes unavoidable at certain points throughout the day. Kill that tiny speck of hunger growing in your stomach with some water. It doesn’t stand a chance.
5. I don’t try to eat all day long, but I kinda do. I know it’s an old wives’ tale to eat 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day. Or maybe that’s just good science. I don’t know, but I do know that I inadvertently adhere to the eating throughout the day principle. Why? Because I’m constantly snacking on fruit all day. I’ll generally have a stock of apples and bananas at my desk at all times. Sometimes I’ll have a bag of nuts and raisins. Typically, every couple of hours I’ll grab something and put it down the hatch. Maybe this is good, maybe it’s bogus. But I do it and it seems to work pretty well.
6. This is one that I kinda just picked up and is geared towards endurance athletes. On the days you do a big ride, I’ve found that eating good carbs (sweet potatoes, rice, squash, whole grains) as your recovery meal is preferable to having them all in a “big dinner.” I used to just have a protein fruit smoothie after I got home from a 5 hour ride and then have a huge dinner. I think my mind is changed about that. Now when I get home from a big ride, I’ll have some good sources of carbs and protein IN REAL FOOD! Then later on I’ll have as much greens as I can for dinner. I’m not sure why this seems to be working, but it is.
Let me give you an example. After I got home from a hard 4 hour ride today, I had some pre-cooked rice and eggs all fried up in a delicious mixture. Pre-cooked meaning I cooked a few cups of rice last night. Now for dinner I’m going to have a big spinach salad with a bunch of green fixins. Again, this tip is the least tested, but it seems to be working well for me.
7. Just because I slightly disparaged protein fruit smoothies a second ago doesn’t mean they don’t have their place. Remember the eat breakfast tip? Well, a fruit smoothie is a great breakfast item. Get yourself a decent blender and start experimenting with different frozen fruits and protein mixes. Lately I’ve been using half of my whey protein mix and adding a scoop of Sunbutter. That combo is especially delicious for strawberry/banana smoothies. (Side note: Peanut butter is bullshit. Sunbutter is where it’s at).
8. Final tip: Give yourself one cheat day every week. Mine is on Fridays. And I don’t mean “cheat within reason.” I mean go ahead and go buckwild. See those donuts in the breakroom? Ravage them! I think Fridays are optimal for cheating because it’s a good set-up for a weekend of long rides. But pick whatever day of the week works best for you. The cheat day is also important because it gives you that ace up your sleeve to resist sweets throughout the week. No need to indulge on Wednesday if you’ve got Friday to look forward to.
That’s about all I can think of at the moment. Many of them you’ve heard a million times before, but unlike some of the other standard nutrition advice out there, I can vouch for these tips.