Are you ready to tighten up your nutrition? Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Dialing in your nutrition can be incredibly overwhelming, so we’ve got you a basic step by step process below. Keep in mind that everyone’s needs are different, but what we’ve given should be something to get started with.
- Get your training in line. The common adage is that “abs are made in the kitchen”, and that is certainly true. However, a successful diet is always accompanied by effective physical training, and we’ve found that it’s always best to start with the exercise, not the diet. Well balanced nutrition is a 24 hour per day/7 day per week job, and it takes a lot of discipline. Training, on the other hand, takes 4-5 hours per week, and requires less discipline to stick to. Plus, the self-esteem boost you will get from sticking to a training plan will give you the confidence you need to stick to a nutrition plan. So take our word for it, and get yourself in the habit of exercising before you tackle nutrition.
- Figure What Happened Last Time. This is the first, and arguably most important, step in the nutrition process. You have to know why you haven’t been successful in the past if you want to have any chance of being successful in the future. Was it stress eating? Lack of family/friends support? No knowledge regarding what’s healthy, and what’s not? This is the time to be brutally honest with yourself. And whatever you do, don’t believe the time/money bullshit. The “I don’t’ have time” or “I don’t have money” excuses aren’t going to fly. People poorer and people busier than you are able to eat healthy, and so can you. And if you’ve never tried to improve your nutrition, ask yourself why. Figure out what has changed, and don’t forget it. That will be the factor that keeps your motivation and discipline intact.
- Next, cut out the sweet drinks: Soda, diet soda, Gatorade, juice, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, etc. all need to go. These drinks are packed with added sugars and are sabotaging your efforts. You don’t need them. Ever. Before you move on to step 3, give yourself at least 6 weeks with no sugar drinks if you consume at least 1 per day. This is about the amount of time it’s going to take to break the dependence. And remember, organic sugar is still sugar, so don’t let that “Organic, non-GMO” label tempt you. Sugary drinks are unhealthy because of the amount of sugar, not because they’re from a GMO or non-organic source.
- Now that the sugar drinks are gone, you need to reduce the sugar in your food. This doesn’t mean no sugar, this just means that you need a healthy level of added sugar in your food. If you’re active (and you need to be…), a good number to shoot for is 40-50 grams of added sugar per day. Fortunately, food manufacturers are starting to differentiate between added and non-added sugar on their labels, so it’s easier to see what you’re eating. Like Step 2, give this 4-6 weeks before you move on to step 4.
- You should be 2 months into the process now, and seeing results. If you’re happy with the results, stick with what you’re doing. If you’re making noticeable process, stick to what you’re doing. However, if you’re not seeing results, you may need to turn up the dial a bit more. Now that you’ve got the sugary crap out of your diet, you need to start recording your food and measuring your macros. Macros is short for macronutrients, which are lipids (fats), carbs, and protein. The ratio of these can vary based on many factors, so the best place to start is 1/3 of each. To measure these, you can get one of the many free apps for your phone that allow you to log everything you eat, and tell you what you’ve eaten at the end of the day. Adjust what you eat to get your macros at an even 1/3 split between the 3. Remember, you have to stick to the first steps as well, which means at this point you have eliminated all sugary drinks, you’re eating no more than 40 grams of added sugar per day, and your macros are evenly divided between the 3.
- If after a few weeks of counting macros it still isn’t working, then you need to consult with a nutritionist. At this point you need some very individualized attention, and that is beyond the scope of this article.
Getting your nutrition in line is hard. It requires constant discipline, and you will find that much of your friend/family group is less than supportive. Ignore the naysayers, and stay true to your path. No matter how hard and stressful nutrition is, the benefits will always be worth the effort.