I get tons of questions from clients and fellow gym goers about what they should eat at any given time of day- before working out, after working out, when they’re craving sweets, etc. I’m laying it all out for you here to take away the nutrition confusion once and for all. Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain or just a healthier lifestyle, you can follow these guidelines and just simply be mindful of your portions. If you need some help knowing how much to eat for a fat loss goal, grab my free #simplesanesuccessful Fat Loss Nutrition Guide.
I’m a huge believer that what you eat for breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day, both nutritionally and mentally, so make it a point to start your day off on the right foot. When we wake up from sleep, our bodies have been without food for anywhere from 8-12 hours depending on when you ate your last meal and when you wake up in the morning. At this point in time, your body is pretty much begging for a good meal- not just a coffee with milk, or a yogurt or banana on the fly, but a real deal meal. A good combo of carbs, protein and fat will set your day off on the right foot.
Our brains essentially run off of carbohydrates and our blood sugar is low first thing in the morning so it’s time to carb up. Oats, toast, high fiber whole grain cereal or a serving of fruit are all great options.
Since staying full for a few hours is always plus, adding protein is always good idea. Eggs (scrambled, hardboiled, whichever way you like ‘em), Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or protein powder will fit the bill for this one.
Now it’s time to add the fats. This will not only boost the nutrient consumption and absorption of the meal, but let’s face it…fat is YUM. Nut butters, nuts, oils like coconut oil, butter or avocado are all good choices here.
Lunch & Dinner
You’ll have to do a little thinking here. For both of these meals you can reflect on your day so far and look ahead as to what you have planned.
Always prioritize protein and veggies at both meals then plan your starches and fats accordingly. If you’re going out to dinner and know you’ll have wine and/or heavier foods than normal, keep starches and fats low at lunch sticking to a big salad with protein or a stir-fry with chicken. If you have a carby lunch like a sandwich or a burrito bowl, keep starches low at dinner.
You can really never go wrong with protein and veggies for a snack. Protein will help keep you full and the veggies will add a ton of nutrients and fiber to keep you full for longer.
Try a couple string cheeses with veggies, some cottage cheese and mangoes or pineapple or a protein shake with some greens powder mixed in for extra nutrients.
Seriously…do not skip this meal or snack! Going into a workout without fueling your body properly can result in lightheadedness and decrease in overall energy leading to a less than stellar workout.
Choose a source of carbohydrates that will hang with you for a while. That means things like fruit (a banana is my fave pre-workout snack), whole grain breads, oatmeal or fruit & yogurt. These foods will keep your blood sugar stable and steady to supply you with lots of energy. Avoid foods that are high in fat because these tend to take a long time to leave our stomachs which would make you feel weighed down and sluggish during your workout.
After a workout, blood is circulating through your body rapid fire so it’s essential to fuel yourself properly since the blood will be carrying nutrients to your broken down muscles. Protein and carbs are the main focus for post-workout fuel because muscle fibers are broken down during exercise and the protein will help build them back up.
Any solid protein and carbohydrate combo will work for post-workout. Try a protein shake with a piece or fruit, some Greek yogurt with fruit or eggs and toast. Veggies are always a plus, too!
If you’re “starving” at night and “need” something to eat
This is where you’ll need to do some reflection on your day while keeping your goals in mind. First if you feel desperate for food and you NEED IT NOW, chances are you’re experiencing an emotional reaction and you need to do a little introspection to figure out why you’re looking for comfort from food.
On the other hand, if your stomach is rumbling and you’re truly physically hungry, take a look back at your day. Have you eaten your fill of carbs or fat? If yes, build a snack around protein and try something like a protein shake. If you could stand to have a little more carbs in your day, make an open-faced sandwich with protein and veg, have a banana and peanut butter or some cottage cheese with jelly mixed in (it’s good I swear!).
If you’re craving something sweet
I like to suggest a couple pieces of some good chocolate. I’ll usually grab two dark chocolate peanut butter cups after lunch for a little something sweet. It’s enough to curb my sweets craving but not enough to throw me off from achieving my goals. A scoop of Nutella, some unsweetened dried fruit or even some gum can sometimes do the trick.
If you’re craving something salty
A handful of salted nuts is probably the best choice here. While nuts are high in fat, they’ll also help you stay full and satiated, give you that crunchy texture and there’s enough salt on those bad boys to squash that craving immediately. Popcorn (light on the butter, please), sea salt & cucumbers or some carrots & ranch dressing for dipping (no need to go light here, just watch your portions) are also good choices.