Of the scores of questions we receive here on a weekly basis, one of the most prevailing relates to diet. We’ve got readers from all walks of life wondering, consistently inquiring about what type of diet plan is right for them and their goals. What types of foods are best to eat? When is the best time to eat? How much should be eaten…and how does this relate to a specific goal? The questions are endless, so I felt it was due time that I put together the defacto Share It Fitness guidebook on healthy eating. This is your blueprint, your Bible if you will, on how to incorporate a complementary diet plan into all else that you’re doing. Whether you’re one of our faithful FitPlanners or just following along with some of our free workout programs on the blog, this dietary guidebook will serve as your new best friend. It has been created with the assumption you are active, already following one of our workout programs, and are in good general health.
We created this program with the help of two of our dietitian friends. We had them careful vet all of them information found within this guide, so rest a little easier knowing this isn’t another bro-science, Frankenstein creation that has been thrown together with little thought.
We’re going to get right into it, starting with the most basic tips on how to start eating to maximize your gains.
The Official Share It Fitness Nutritional Guidebook
Ask yourself a question; why do you eat what you eat? Convenience? Affordability? Availability? Personal tastes? For most of us, our diet is a combination of the above. Unfortunately, the most available, cheapest, most convenient, and usually most tasty foods are seldom the best for us. As a result, we (the collective we) stuff ourselves with horrible options then sit back and wonder why we aren’t making gains fast enough..or at all. We wonder why we feel sluggish, slow, and have no energy to complete that late-afternoon workout. We insist we simply can’t build muscle or burn fat like those “other” people because our genetics are riding the short bus. First off, stop it. Stop the excuses. Stop the self-pity. Stop everything you have been doing. If you want to really change your diet, health, and body, it’s time to do something differently. Repeating the same old cycle isn’t getting you anywhere, so this time, I want you to try something different. With the help of this guidebook, I want you to approach your soon-to-be improved eating habits as a lifestyle change, NOT a diet.
Diets don’t work. Sure, some may deliver pretty impressive short-term benefits, but you aren’t looking for a life of yo-yo dieting, are you? You want something that can be seamlessly incorporated into your life and doesn’t seem like a chore to adhere to (I’m looking at you, Paleo diet).
The information you’re going to find in this guidebook isn’t mind-blowing. I’m not giving you some top-secret dietary formula that’s going to have you dropping weight and looking like a Victoria’s Secret model in just 4 weeks. I’m not making those kind of promises. What I am promising you however, is an absolutely simple way to immediately improve your diet, show you how to start eating FOR your gains, all the while making this the most enjoyable and probably last “diet plan” you’ll ever try. Remember, this isn’t a diet – this is a lifestyle change. Understand that and success with this approach will be yours.
Let’s talk about macronutrients, shall we? When I say macronutrient, I’m referring to the Big 3 – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. These are the three driving forces of your bodily functions and what allow you to live and also work out, at a high level. Cut back on any of the above three and you’re going to suffer, albeit in different ways. Bottom line, you’re going to want to incorporate enough of the above nutrients in your diet, so you can perform to the best of your abilities.
It bears mentioning that I am proceeding under the assumption that you are actively working out or using one of our many workouts or FitPlan. The nutritional needs for a healthy, active person differ greatly from those of a couch potato – go figure. The following approach is what I’ve personally been using for a while now, and has worked wonders for myself and dozens of my own clients. This approach is a guideline – I don’t want you to feel like you’ve got to actively count out grams of protein, carbs, and fat, each and every day. At first, this may be helpful, but over time, it will become second nature and you’ll already know what and how much your consuming. Okay, so enough about that, on to the golden macronutrient ratio….
45% protein/30% carbs/25% fat
But wait a minute, should we assume that “golden” ratio is just that? Actually, no. Apologies for misleading you slightly. As we know, some of us are naturally thin. Some of us are more broad. Others are able to naturally hold on to muscle and low levels of body fat quite effortlessly. Since this is a general nutritional guideline, I’m giving you general advice. You know your own body type. Check out the below ratios for specific body types….
Naturally skinny – 35% protein/40% carbs/25% fat
Naturally thicker – 35% protein/25% carbs/40% fat
Naturally muscular and athletic – see the above ratio you lucky S.O.B
Getting a good grip on your macronutrients is actually pretty easy once you learn to start reading nutrition labels. Over time, you’ll remember that an egg has 6 grams of protein. An 8 ounce chicken breast has 28 grams of protein. A handful of walnuts has 20 grams of fat. A slice of whole-wheat bread has 12 grams of carbs. It’s second nature at this point, and it will be for you too. Just check out those nutrition labels, write it down (it helps with memorization), and over time, you’ll know exactly how many macronutrients you’re taking in.
With any new diet or workout program, expectations need to be managed. When expectations are allowed to run rampant, it becomes increasingly easy to get burnt out, disappointed, and fall of the wagon if things don’t go exactly how you expect. After hearing about reader after reader revert back to their old ways, it became clear that so many were failing because they simply never received adequate mental training prior to starting their endeavor. So what do I mean, mental training? Well for starter’s, you’ve got to learn to think in an entirely new way.
As Americans, when we want things, we expect them 2 minutes ago. Patience is mostly certainly not a virtue most of us have attained. This problem is compounded when our friend tells us about how she lost 10 pounds in 10 days following some faddy new carb-less diet. All we focus on is the fact she’s lost serious weight, not the fact she’s been miserable and is only a few days away from falling off the wagon because she’s set herself up with a diet plan that assures she cannot maintain it long-term.
Most people bounce between diets, never actually settling on anything because they’re all after that elusive magic bullet. I think the average person goes on 20+ diets over the course of their lives…or some crazy number like that. But here’s a little food for thought – if any of those latest and trendy new diets actually worked long-term, why are people still bouncing around every time a new one comes out? The answer? Because they don’t work…long-term at least.
I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again, you want a LIFESTYLE change….not a DIET. And vanity aside, you should be eating to do more than just lose weight and look good, right? Things like cancer, heart disease, diabetes….it’s safe to assume you want to avoid those right? These should be the ultimate reasons why you’re changing the way you eat. Sure it’s nice to look hot in that Miley Cryus Halloween costume when you’re 20 something…but when your 40, 50, 60, 70-something, you don’t want to spend your life in and out of hospitals or running from one doctor appointment to the next. Think long-term. Think for your health, along with your physique, and you’ll find adopting this dietary lifestyle change will become much easier and more enjoyable for you to implement.
IV. The Other Big 3
Of course, it’s about so much more than the number of carbs, protein, and fat you’re eating each day. If you’re carbs are strictly coming by way of sugar, even if you’re maintaining your specific ratio, you’re going to fail. If your fats are all coming from that greasy In-N’-Out burger, I hope you have a good cardiologist on speed dial. There are certain things you’ll want more/less of in your diet, because not only will they help you stay healthier, they’ll also help you reach your aesthetic goals faster too. Let’s check out the “other” big three and see how they can help or hurt your progress.
Sugar – The white devil. Perhaps one of the worst things on Earth, yet so readily available. Sugar has absolutely no purpose in your diet. That’s not to say you need to get all crazy and avoid any drop of it, but be smart about your sugar intake. Gatorade, Yoplait yogurt, ketchup, and tons of other everyday foods we don’t associate with “bad for you”, are chock full of sugar. Sugar is going to spike your insulin faster than you can say diabetes, as well as give cancerous tumors fuel for growth (tumors thrive in sugary environments). Another thing to note, just because fruit is natural and full of healthy antioxidants, doesn’t mean the sugar found in it is good for you. Too much fruit can absolutely, positively, make you fat. I’ve seen it dozens of times over and it’s time people began realizing this for themselves.
Fiber – Fiber is a good thing. It’s something most people don’t get enough of but it’s absolutely vital to maintaining a slim waistline and healthy body. Fiber in your diet is actually going to help remove fat from your system. Not only that it helps fight heart disease, improves blood flow, lowers cholesterol, increases feelings of fullness, and reduces overeating. Simply put, eat more fiber.
Good Fats – Good fats are vital for your brain development and function, prevention of certain types of cancers, as well as protein function. For many years, people avoided fats, both good and bad, like the plague. Instead, they turned to stuff created in a laboratory, thinking they were doing something great for their bodies. What we later found out was the stuff these scientists were putting together in a test tube was even worse than the stuff people were avoiding. Simply put, fats are vital as they help proteins do their job, fight cancer, and improve your overall mental function. Of course, there are good fats and bad fats, and picking wisely is extremely important. Good fats come from things like nuts, coconut oil/milk, avocado, and fish. Bad fats come from things like processed cakes/cookies, french fries, and fast food hamburgers. It shouldn’t be too hard to make the right choice when it comes to fat, right?
V. Meal Time
Okay, so you’ve got a lot of new information at hand, but how do you put it into practical use? Well there are a few main things to be aware of here. First, you’re going to want to start preparing as many meals in your home as possible. Second, if you’re forced to eat out, because you’re a student and on a campus meal plan for instance, you’ve just got to make better choices in the dining hall. We’ll get into that, but lets first talk about how you can start preparing at least some of your own meals, and making them better and more nutritionally dense.
The absolute best way to make sure you have healthy options available is by dedicating a few hours, once a week, to making all of that week’s meals and/or snacks. It’s not hard really. I can knock out a giant pot of vegetarian chile, protein power balls, 3 pounds of chicken breast, enough steamed veggies to feed an army, and a whole wheat turkey and spinach lasagna in no more than 3 hours. And the best part? I don’t have to worry about what to cook for the remainder of the week. And since I’m smart and read nutrition labels, I know one serving of lasagna, one serving of chile, a few power balls, and a piece of chicken net me X grams of protein, X grams of fat, and X grams of carbs. I don’t need my calculator or have to constantly tally my macronutrient totals up. I’ve made these things long enough to know exactly what’s in one serving. Getting to this point is when you’re diet stops being a diet and becomes a lifestyle. A month, maybe two of doing things like this, and you will all be there too.
So my tips for you are these – invest 20 bucks into a Tupperwear set or two. Cook 4-5 meals ahead of time (I do mine on Sunday mornings). Place your individual meals in the Tupperwear, and using a stick-it note or piece of tape, write out your macronutrient totals and stick it to your Tupperwear container. Don’t worry, you’re not going to have to do this forever. Over time you’ll know without having to write it down, but for the time being, I want you to get into the habit of writing these things down. This way you’ll see exactly how much you’re eating and know how much/little you still need to eat to achieve your daily macronutrient totals.
So now that you have an idea about the nutritional guidelines we’ve set forth, and have a better understanding of how to prep your meals, you’re probably wondering what exactly you should be eating. Luckily, we’ve created a recipe e-book which I’d be more than happy to share with you. In this recipe book, I took some of the most common restaurant recipes around, and made them healthier, less expensive, and tastier for you to enjoy.
We’ve got a wide range of recipes to pick, along with costs associated with each serving. This is a wonderfully presented way of showing you exactly how much it costs to eat healthy, and how bad these food factories, i.e. chain restaurants, actually are for you.
VII. The Other Stuff
I’m going to quickly go over some other important bits of information that I’ve repeated dozens of times over on the blog, but want to include in this guidebook. Let’s take a look…
- Forget the six small meals a day stuff. If that works for you, go for it. If it doesn’t, don’t feel like you have to eat that often. Studies have shown 3 regular sized vs. 6 small meals a day doesn’t significantly affect your metabolism.
- Buy organic, free-range, grass-fed whenever possible. Yeah, I know it’s more expensive; sometimes prohibitively so. But make an effort to go organic as much as possible.
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible. The closer a good is to its natural state, the better it is going to be for you. If it comes in an individual wrapper/package, odds are it’s not going to be good for you.
- Whey protein shakes after a workout are vital. Your muscles are craving an instant punch of protein, and by making sure you’re getting an influx of whey protein within 30 minutes of ending your workout, you’re ensuring your hungry muscles get the fuel they need to grow.
- Just because it’s a salad doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Dousing anything in loads of fatty dressing, heaps of bacon, and hunks of cheese is going to skew your macronutrient total for the worse, pretty quickly.
Following the above guidelines are going to give you a tremendous advantage over any of those other faddy diets that promise big results but leave you struggling to maintain their rigid routines. We created this guidebook to give you a structured format for your cooking and eating. Follow the advice found here, implement little tweaks along the way, stick to your workouts, and in time your body will go through the types of changes you’ve been striving for your entire life. Best of luck on your journey, and as always, if you need any specific guidance, we’re only an email or comment away.