Let’s Get This Out of the Way
One of the biggest misunderstandings is that eating healthy will automatically get us to our goal. Howver, eating healthy means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Eating healthy also doesn't note how many calories we may be eating, which as you'll see, plays a huge role in weight gain, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Eating healthy does NOT inherently mean you’re eating for Fat Loss nor does it inherently mean you’re eating for Muscle Gain.
Healthy Eating CAN be those two things, but it’s important we define what healthy eating is, and then we will talk about how to eat for the different goals.
So What Is Healthy Eating?
Healthy eating can be defined as a diet primarily composed of eating nutrient-dense whole foods in portions that keep your bodyweight in a healthy range. What’s a healthy range? That’s a conversation between you and your doctor, but we’re sure you have an idea of what that means for you.
Why nutrient-dense whole foods? Whole foods have more of the nutrients that keep our bodily functions working properly. They fill us up more, making it harder to overeat, harder to gain unwanted weight, and improve our health on a variety of metrics.
As we mentioned, different goals require different strategies, but we need to nail down some fundamentals that go across all goals:
- You need to prioritize whole foods - as stated above.
- You need to understand what calories are - even if you don’t plan on tracking or logging them, it’s important to understand what they are and the role they play in our nutrition.
- You absolutely need to be self-accountable - no amount of money you pay any coach will matter if you don’t hold yourself accountable to your nutrition as it relates to your goals. You are the only one in control of what and how you eat.
- This will take time and work - Even if your goal is body composition (the goal that requires the most work) but you are new to all of this, it may benefit you to start with the first few strategies to build your habits slowly. Everyone is different, so don’t be discouraged if it takes you some trial and error.
Different Nutrition Strategies for Different Goals
Health and Wellness
What is it?
A Health and Wellness goal is one that focuses on having more energy, feeling better day to day, and making your doctor happy with the different markers they measure (things like cholesterol, blood pressure, resting heart rate, etc). When training and eating for this goal, you’ll see some progress in the following ones as well (you’ll get stronger and your body composition will change). However, if you want to continue seeing progress with those two, you’ll have to eventually train and eat for those specifically, which we will go over later in this post.
How do we eat for it?
Eating for Health and Wellness is simple on paper - we need to eat mainly whole foods and eat portions that keep us in a healthy weight range. While simple on paper, it can be difficult for people to implement. For some, a change in lifestyle will be necessary in order to stay on track - changes we will go over in a bit. But first, let’s look at our Hang Loose Hand Portion Guide to understand the different categories on our plate, and the portions in which we want to eat them.
There are four main groups on our plate - Protein, Veggies, Carbs and Fats. Each have a place, but we want to portion them correctly. For protein, we use our palm to measure. For veggies, our fist. We cup our hand for carbs and we use our thumb size for fats. The great thing about this method is that our hands are proportional to our body and always with us.
Women can start with 1 portion of each for their 3 meals, and men can start with 2.
If you need more food because you are larger in stature, extremely active (12,000 steps a day on average or more), and/or trying to gain muscle, then you’ll want to start by adding ½-1 portion of carbs and/or ½-1 thumbful of fat.
If you need less food because you are smaller in stature, not very active (5,000 steps a day on average or less), and/or trying to lose fat, then you’ll want to start by removing ½-1 portion of carbs and/or ½-1 thumbful of fat.
For some, this might come easy. Others might have to make some adjustments to their lifestyle. Preparing your own meals instead of eating out or ordering food will be the biggest one for most. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy meals out, but the more you do, the less control you have over how much oils, butter, and other calorie-dense ingredients are added to your food.
Strength and Performance
What is it?
Strength and Performance goals are pretty self-explanatory. If your goal is to increase strength, or perform at a certain task (runners, rock climbers, athletes, etc) then this is for you!
Not much changes from how we eat compared to our friends working on a health and wellness goal. The only thing that we may want to implement to help our performance is something we call Logging and Lookbacks. This is a great way to stay accountable to yourself without having to track calories or macronutrients.
Logging and Lookbacks consists of us simply logging the food we eat and drinks we consume each day in our notes, and describing their portion to the best of our ability. Then, we lookback on the week and compare our notes to how we felt during our workouts, our weigh-ins (if that applies to you) and overall digestion. When we do this, we can easily understand what foods/meals might be throwing us off our performance and goals.
What is it?
Body Composition is categorized by either losing fat or gaining muscle (and in some cases, both). It’s the goal that requires the most work, and for many, the most lifestyle change. It can take a lot of time to adopt new habits to support this goal, so don’t get discouraged. Consistency, even when you go off track at times, is your biggest ally in this.
Because this is the goal that requires the most work and understanding, we’ve split the topics of it into three separate blog posts.
First up, is Calories And Macros 101.
In this article, we go over the basics of what a calorie actually is, how the amount you eat determines whether or not you will gain weight, lose weight, or maintain weight, and how the calories we eat are split into our three main macronutrients - protein, carbs, and fats.
At the end of the day, when it comes to hitting your goals long-term, we need to focus on finding a nutrition plan/diet that fits your lifestyle, and not the other way around. Sure, quick and aggressive plans can work, but they will always lead to results that only last for a short time and rebound even more aggressively. This article will teach you how to read nutrition labels, calculate macros, and use apps like MyFitnessPal.
Lastly for our Body Composition goal, is our Best Practices, Tools, Tips And Tricks For Flexible Dieting.
In this post, we’re going to go over our favorite apps for tracking, the tools needed to be successful, how to properly use a food scale, common mistakes made while tracking, the downsides of tracking, and lastly, how to stop tracking and still maintain progress.
There you have it! Our Nutrition Overview. We understand that this information is a lot. But it is a necessary starting point for you to understand how nutrition plays a role in our goals. Remember, the biggest thing is going to be consistently working hard at getting better with our nutrition. You will slip up. There will be times where it gets frustrating. And you will fall off track. What matters most is continually trying to fo better, asking great questions, and not giving up.