This blog entry aims to serve two purposes, and that’s to elucidate two of the biggest misconceptions about nutrition
a) your diet has to be “perfect” and
b) that you have to spend a lot of time prepping your food.
I don’t think either could be farther from the truth, so I wanted to write down for you today’s menu and provide not just the calories and macros and micros etc, but also the time it takes me to get everything ready – and how I do it with minimal effort.
Don’t get me wrong, I love food and I love eating – but I’d rather get in and get out of the kitchen as quickly as I can, and pack as much flavour into my meals as possible without spending a lot of time on it. Efficiency and nutrient density are my jam right now.
The below is an “average” day for me, I don’t tend to deviate from the foods listed here, and some meals are the same every day because I love them so much. If you’re struggling with consistency, having just a couple of go-to meals that you love / look forward to and are a maintstay of your daily intake can make a HUGE difference.
It will minimise the stress of staying on plan at the same time as encouraging positivity and motivation to stick with it.
Little things added up over time result in big changes.
So if you want big changes, change little things!
Please note that the below menu is also somewhere between a slow hypertrophy / lean gains and a maintenance phase.
I don’t eat exactly like this year round, my carb intake will go up and down (not protein or fat so much) depending upon my training block. So some months I’ll be super low fat and high carb as I am here, and yet others I’ll be lower carb and moderate proteins and fats. The same diet doesn’t cover every training scenario, goal or circumstance – it has to change in accordance with your goals, training block or the purpose you’re using it for.
Two eggs on gluten free toast: 275 cals, 5 minutes prep.
Supplements: Multi, Vitamin D, Fish oil
I eat this every day without fail. As long as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, I will eat this for breakfast. I don’t like eating a huge meal as soon as I wake up and I really like eggs and I really like toast… so yeah..
Why the gluten free toast? Because the particular brand I eat is really low fat (and my fats are only 20% of my macros) and when you toast it, it gets a nice biscuity texture.
MEAL 2 – PRE WORKOUT SNACK
An apple, 1/2 a serve of vegan protein, PB2 and a square of dark chocolate: 285 cals, 5 minutes prep
I can’t work out either on an empty stomach or on a huge amount of food, so this is a go-to snack before a training session. If I am a bit hungrier I might exchange the apple for some oats and add some berries.
This combo of fats / proteins / carbs keeps my blood sugar steady so that I can lift for up to 90 minutes without losing stamina or strength.
MEAL 3 – POST WORKOUT
Lean meat, baked sweet potato, baked veggies, double serve of muesli and dairy free milk: 630 cals, 0-10 minutes prep
To prep this meal, I literally throw everything into the oven on baking trays for about 40 minutes to an hour. (I actually go across the road to the gym while this is cooking and it’s ready for me when I get back!) You can make up to 5-6 meals this way, and you could also add veggies to the oven so that you’ve prepped those at the same time.
I load up most of my carbs into this meal, so I’ll have a double serve of muesli with some Like Milk (vegan milk substitute) as well.
Depending on the day I may have this meal as a pre-workout, as I might eat meal 1 any time between 5.30 and 7.30am, go to work and return home at 12pm. On days this happens I move the extra carbs to whatever meal I eat after the workout – again, to load this meal up with more calories and carbs. Meal 3 and Meal 4 are usually the biggest volume and biggest calorie meals.
MEAL 4 – MID TO LATE AFTERNOON
Quorn or tofu, white rice, veggies: 0-10 minutes prep
When I boil up rice, same as with the meat and potato, I will make up 4-5 serves of it and keep it in the fridge. If I use pre-cooked veggies or a salad, this meal may only take me 2 minutes to put together before it’s ready, or it might already be cooked and just needs assembly.
If this is my post workout I’ll move the extra carbs (muesli, oats or fruit) here, and have a snack between this meal and meal 5.
MEAL 5 – BEFORE BED
Rice cereal, vegan protein, a punnet of berries, peanut butter: 5 minutes prep
This is the “500 calories of pure joy” recipe I posted the other day, except I’m now exchanging oats for rice cereal so that my fibre intake isn’t off the charts (sometimes I get 70g per day, which may have some nutrients binding to the fibre and through without absorbtion.)
All I need to do to get this together is literally microwave the oats or rice for up to 3 minutes, then put everything else on top. This is typically eaten once I get back from PT’s at work, so between 7 and sometimes 8.30pm. (If I have a late client I like to take this with me so I eat it at work.
OVERALL SUMMARY OF NUTRIENT DENSITY, MACROS AND TIME TAKEN
So over the course of an average day, I’ve eaten 5 times but spent maybe 25-30 minutes cooking, max. A lot of these meals lend themselves well to pre-preparation and although they are simple, they’re pretty tasty and most of the meals are comprised of whole, nutritious foods.
Current macros are 2,350 with over 300g of carbs, up to 65g fat and 160-170g protein.
On days I train I might drop my carbs down but it depends on my appetite and how many sessions I do at work. For each hour I’m working I typically do 2 thousand steps, so my NEAT is high on most days whether I’m training or not.
Eating in this way and taking a multi-vitamin, I hit 95% of my daily RDI targets and get PLENTY of essential nutrients for active, recreational athletes such as Vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, iron, Vitamin C, calcium etc. As mentioned, when I am not eating at maintenance it’s typically carbohydrate intake which goes down, so reducing things like rice and muesli when I’m cutting don’t actually affect my nutrient density that much.
SOME KEY TIPS;
– Try keeping a few meals in your diet consistent / things that you eat every day constant. It can really help with creating good eating habits and retaining a sense of routine.
– Don’t feel that you have to cut out bread, chocolate, cereals etc. If your calories allow for it, these foods can be kept in without any issues. Only when you get down really low would you have to exchange them for higher nutrient density options.
– ENJOY YOUR FOOD. If you don’t like what you’re eating, you won’t stick with it. When I write diet plans for clients I always ask them a million questions first – “what do you like eating,” “what do you eat now?,” “do you prefer sweet or savory,” and most importantly – “how much TIME do you have to prepare your food, and is it easier if you have more convenient options available for you?” Eating well is hard enough without adding extra hoops to jump through, and forcing yourself to eat shit you don’t enjoy.
– Prep your food in bulk, definitely. But don’t feel that your success is dependent upon setting out identical meals every day in identically presented containers. Have a bunch of food pre-cooked in your fridge or things to use in your pantry that you can mix and match. This way you get variety and convenience but without too much boredom and repetition. Keep one or two meals the same (and make them ones you fucking LOVE eating) and then allow yourself flexibility during the times of day you will be most busy or most likely to want to experiment with food.
DO YOU NEED HELP TO SET UP THE RIGHT DIET?
Here’s a couple of my credentials / qualifications;
Sports Nutrition Specialist Certification from the ISSN
Advanced Coaching Academy – Applied Nutrition and Supplementation
Precision Nutrition Level 1, and
Over 10 years of self-study, research and experience with helping clients to manipulate their diet to suit their goals.
I have worked with general population clients and helped them to lose over 40kg, I’ve helped marathon runners, crossfitters and powerlifters get ready for competition, and coached women from their twenties to their forties and fifties to get super lean for a fitness and bodybuilding competition.