What you think of when you hear the words "meal plan" (a list of meals to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner) probably won't work.
Instead, let’s start by eliminating nutritional deficiencies.
No one ever wants to believe they have nutritional deficiencies, but you probably have one or more nutritional deficiencies (seriously - more than 80 percent of the population has at least one).
Until nutritional deficiencies are removed, the body simply won’t function properly, making any health or fitness goal a lot harder.
So, to eliminate deficiencies, your first order of business is to get:
a bit more protein,
ample vitamins and minerals,
sufficient healthy fats, and
Once nutritional deficiencies are addressed, you can start to focus on things like food quality and portions. This process isn’t slow; it’s systematic. It focuses on the things that are in your way, right now. Once those things are eliminated, progress happens fast.
“What’s the best diet to follow?”
There is no “best diet”.
Why? All dietary protocols have their pros and cons. What works best for one person won’t work best for another. Also: A diet that has worked best for someone in the past, won’t necessarily be what works best for them moving forward.
We want to help you find the approach to eating that works best for you right now, whether it be Paleo or vegan, high-carb or low-carb, tight budget or unlimited funds — or some blend of all of these.
The truth is, the human body is amazingly adaptable to a vast array of diets, so the best diet is the one that:
matches your unique physiology,
includes foods you enjoy enough to follow consistently, and
is realistic in terms of life logistics and budget.
Indeed, you can get lean, strong, and healthy on a plant-based or a meat-based diet. You can improve your health with organic, free-range foods... and with conventional foods.
“Is counting calories important for weight loss?”
Counting calories is often complex, time consuming, and full of errors. The good news: There is a better way.
Weight management is a simple equation: Eat more than you burn, and you gain weight. Eat less and you lose weight.
But the physiology behind “calories in, calories out” is actually much more complex and dynamic than most people realize. Plus, it’s highly imprecise; we estimate that there’s typically an error of up to 25 percent on the ‘calories in’ side, and on the ‘calories out’ side.
Beyond that, counting calories is an external system. To really win at calorie control, you'll need to tune in on your internal hunger signals.
For these reasons, and more, we tell our clients that for most people, counting calories is a lot of work for very little benefit.
Instead of calorie counting, we recommend a hand-measure system for portion sizes. Here how it works:
Your palm determines your protein portions.
Your fist determines your veggie portions.
Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
Your thumb determines your fat portions.
This system counts your calories for you, and gets your macronutrients lined up too, without having to do any annoying food-label math.
Plus, your hands are portable—they go wherever you go, making portion-sizing very convenient. In addition, your hands are generally scaled to your size—the bigger you are, the bigger your hands, so the more food you need and the more food you get.
“Should I avoid carbs?”
No! Let’s make sure you’re getting the right kind of carbs.
When we ask almost any of our clients what they need to do to lose a few pounds, they’ll usually say, “Cut back on carbs."
However, most clients would do best eating a moderate amount of quality carbs—veggies, whole grains (when tolerated), fruit, sweet potatoes, beans and legumes, etc. (We emphasize moderate, of course).
For men, this usually means about 1-2 cupped handfuls per meal. And women, about 1 cupped handful per meal.
Of course, individual needs differ, based on your size, activity level, goals, and genetics.
Bottom line, carbs are not inherently fattening, especially in whole food sources. Getting adequate carbs can help most clients exercise harder and recover better, optimizing progress.
Yep, this is a controversial position to take. But it works. And while avoiding carbs may facilitate rapid weight loss initially, we’ve found that it’s not practical (or necessary) for long-term success for most people.
“Should I avoid grains?”
No; most people trying to stay lean do best with a reasonable amount of whole grains.
From our perspective, grains aren’t as evil as they’ve been made out to be... at the same time, they aren’t a "superfood" either.
While you don’t need to eat grains, unless you have celiac disease, there is absolutely no need to avoid them.
Most people follow a better, more health-promoting diet if they’re allowed grains in reasonable amounts, along with a wide array of other non-grain carb sources like veggies, fruit, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, etc...
Remember, it’s the ability to follow a diet consistently over time that provides the greatest results, and unless you’re intolerant, there’s no good reason to totally exclude certain foods... especially foods you enjoy!
“What (and when) should I eat around my workouts?”
It depends on your goals. Let’s talk about those… then we can come up with specific recommendations for you.
Most of our clients are best served by eating good quality whole foods in reasonable amounts, without having to focus on specific workout nutrition products or protocols.
Eat a normal, balanced meal 1-2 hours before and after exercise. This will provide adequate protein and carbs to both fuel the workout and maximize recovery/adaption.
However, endurance athletes, bodybuilders, or those looking to maximize muscle gain could add a protein and carbohydrate drink during their workout. We usually recommend about 15g of protein and 30g of carbohydrate per hour of exercise.
Physique competitors, as well as people trying to maximize fat loss, could add branched chain amino acids (BCAA's) during their workout. We usually recommend 5-10g of BCAA per hour of exercise.
"Should I drink less alcohol?"
Is this a serious question?
We're not telling you not to drink.
There’s a lot of confusion about whether drinking is good for you or not. That’s mainly because the news media likes to play up new studies revealing the possible cardiovascular benefits of alcohol.
But the truth is, no one really knows who will benefit from light to moderate alcohol consumption. Meanwhile, any level of drinking (even “moderate”) comes with health risks that should be considered.
Heavy drinking — more than 7 drinks a week for women and more than 14 per week for men — increases the risk for a long list of health problems involving the heart, brain, immunity, hormones, liver, and metabolism.
But even light to moderate drinking can affect sleep, appetite, and decision making — which absolutely can have a negative impact on your health and fitness goals.
Still, drinking is an undeniable part of our culture, and when enjoyed reasonably it can be delicious and fun.
Cheat with drinks, OR with food... just don't get wasted and end up going to the drive thru at 2 AM!
"Does the Paleo Diet live up to the hype?”
The Paleo Diet is one of the most popular nutrition approaches right now. There’s no doubt that it works for many people. However, the reason it works has little to do with the story the Paleo proponents tell (evolutionary adaptation, inflammation, etc.).
Paleo works for a lot of people because it emphasizes mostly whole-food sources of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.
Paleo is starting to incorporate more high-quality carbs, grass-fed dairy, and other things that used to be “off limits” — but the diet can still be too restrictive for some folks.
In the end, Paleo likely gets more right than wrong, but for most, it’s unnecessary to follow such a strict dietary ideology. Take the good from the paleo approach and get rid of the silly stuff.
"How should I eat to get a six-pack?”
First let’s explore whether a six-pack is worth the trade-offs.
To answer this one, we first have to know if visible abs are really what you want. (And if you're prepared to do what it takes.)
Getting ripped abs is a much bigger undertaking than most people realize. There are definite benefits to getting that lean (<10 percent for most men, and <20 percent for most women), but there are trade-offs, too.
Alcohol, processed foods, and desserts all need to be severely limited if you’re trying to show off a washboard stomach. Social situations often become difficult. You'll be made to feel like a weirdo when eating out at restaurants. Other interests and hobbies (going out with friends) may need to decrease.
If you REALLY WANT TO GET A SIX-PACK in the healthiest possible way, you'll need to follow these principles 90-95 percent of the time:
Eat protein and vegetables at every meal.
Include healthy fats at most meals.
Eat a small amount of carbs post-workout only.
Limit carbs at all other meals.
Exercise intensely 4-5 times per week.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
Now, you'll need to have an honest conversation with yourself about whether you want that six-pack badly enough (like Sarah does)... or if you’d rather settle for moderately lean and healthy, without giving up so many of life's simple pleasures (Calvin's favorite approach).
If you're anything like us... it's been challenging so far, and we're just a few days in! Remember, your will power and discipline will keep getting stronger with practice and patience - JUST KEEP TRYING!
Live long and strong,
Calvin and Sarah