Hey y’all! I’m back to the Lysse on Fitness series to talk about nutrition! If you’re behind on the series make sure to check out the intro post, the post about matching your method to your goal, and the most recent post about creating a workout schedule that fits your lifestyle.
I never paid attention to my nutrition until I stopped rowing in my second year of college. I grew up in a home where every homemade meal had a vegetable, I never ate white loaf bread, my mom bought a lot of organic products, and there were certain sugary cereals I was never allowed to have. Though I probably had fast food 1-2 times a week (thanks to late sports practices), Pop-tarts (Wildberry) are my favorite and Oreos we apart of my nightly dessert. I had balance.
I also had an obnoxiously active lifestyle and a fast metabolism, so I was able to continue this lifestyle up until I stopped rowing. Then I had to comes to terms with the fact that you can’t always eat whatever you want, both for weight reasons and health reasons.
This summer, I started getting more interested in nutrition when I started learning about macronutrients: protein, carb, and fat and flexible dieting. Flexible dieting or “If it Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) is a “diet” that allows you to eat what you want as long as it fits into the number of macros you have for that day. So, instead of counting calories, you count the individual macros from protein, carb, and fat. For example, you could choose to eat a donut, but it is going to take up more carb and fat macros than eating vegetables would so in return you have fewer macros for the rest of the day. It does make your diet more flexible in comparison to completely cutting out certain types of food. There are not good and bad foods, just foods that may or may not fit into your macros at the time.
There are many calculators out that can help you calculate your macros and therefore help you reach your individual goals of gaining weight, losing weight, or maintaining weight. Try this one from IIFYM.com and this one from Katy Hearn Fitness. I recommend using both calculators and averaging the results out or take the results that you think you can adhere to the best. Please remember that this is a calculator and you are a human with a lot of variabilities. In order to get the best set of macros, you need to be working with a coach who can attend to the individual differences we all have. The calculator is not a bad place to start though. I recommend sticking to one plan for 2-3 weeks before adjusting your numbers. After a while, you will start to learn your body and understand if your body reacts to higher carbs, higher fats, etc.
Alright, so you have your macros how do you track them?! Well, say hello to the app My Fitness Pal. It has a database of almost everything you would want to eat and it allows you to input the food you are eating. In order to get the most accurate log, you might think about buying a food scale and weighing out your food. I promise you this will teach you a lot about portion sizes! For some time I was weighing out everything, the grams of apple I was eating, checking if my cereal was actually 1/2 a cup instead of just pouring into the bowl and it was really eye opening. Before you are able to visual what 4oz of meat really looks like, or 45g of grapes, weighing your food is important if you want to hit your macros most accurately.
I know that sounds like a lot of work but information is power and you don’t have to do it forever. I spent all of winter break trying to adhere to my set of macros and weighing my food. It took time but in return, I learned a lot about my body. Now, I don’t weigh my food everyday and instead, I eat “intuitively.”
Intuitively eating is talked about a lot in the fitness community, but basically, I listen to my body and eat when I am hungry. Simple enough, huh? Though because I do have the experience of knowing my macros, and knowing what a portion size looks like, I am able to pay attention to these things without calculating or weighing them. For example, I know it is important to eat a high protein diet, especially for muscle growth so I focus on eating eggs, egg whites, lean meats, beans, etc particularly for breakfast and after I workout. I also know that in my day to day life I am not naturally attracted to high fat food (unless it’s fast food) so I normally don’t have to think about it too much. On the other hand, I do love me some carbs. So I do an unstructured version of carb cycling. I’ll have two days that I’ll eat high carb, then the third I’ll focus on eating more protein than normal and upping my fat a little bit. My body responds well to this and it is obvious in my physique after the third day.
Intuitive eating is sustainable, though I took a lot of steps (macro counting) to get to this point. Here are my tips for living the intuitive eating lifestyle:
- Stick to choosing good nutrient dense foods when you are alone, so you can feel good about “splurging” when with friends.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you think you over did it one day. Drink a lot of water, but don’t limit your access to food, just move on.
- Eat a high protein breakfast.
- If you are craving something, eat it in moderation.
- Eat when you notice real hunger signals (not when you’re bored), stop when you are full.
- Pay attention to your emotions and the what sources encourage you to eat/over eat. Learn to attend to those emotions differently.
- Focus on health and bettering your body