Often times when we think of eating healthy, we think only of goals for weight loss and tips for cutting back on calories. However, many individuals have goals for weight gain and an increase in muscle mass. When this is the case, proper nutrition is still key. Our priority turns to eating in a calorie surplus instead of calorie deficit. Sure, it sounds like fun to go for second servings and calorie-dense foods. However, to get the physical results we want, we have to be wise in our choices. What are the keys to healthy bulking? Let’s treat eating like training and put thought, time, and energy into fueling your body.
By: Brittney Clarizio
1. Beyond calorie counting, how can I incorporate macro-nutrition into my diet?
Macro-nutrition, or focusing on your protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake, is becoming hugely popular and seems to be popping up in verbiage everywhere I look. People are posting pictures of ice cream at 10:00 pm on Instagram, exclaiming that it fits into their macros, hurray! I love a good ice cream as much as the next girl, but like anything else, this should be in moderation.
The whole idea of a macro-based diet is really quite simple, and nothing new – it just now has a name. It is a form of “dieting” that allows you some balance by eating foods in an amount that fits into your macro nutrients. Macros are protein, carbohydrates, and fats – and the diet is based around how many macros you are allowed in a day based upon your age, weight, metabolism, and goals. This is actually an extension of what I have done for years and years, however, I urge people that although your late night Ben and Jerry’s or glazed donuts may fit into your “macros,” they may not be the most nutritious choice. Moderation and a balanced diet is key!
2. How can I tailor my nutrition to my fitness routine for maximum results?
Timing is important for tailoring nutrition to your workouts. Before exercise many people need something to properly fuel them through their workouts. Fruit is a great choice pre-workout – about an hour before. The energy is released quickly and has anti-inflammatory benefits to reduce inflammation post workout. Post-workout, it is crucial to eat protein and carbohydrates (in about a 40%:60% ratio) 30-60 minutes post workout, especially if your workout involved weight training. For example, greek yogurt + fruit and almonds are a great post-workout snack. If your workout is close to a mealtime, that’s a good time to have some lean meat, fish, or eggs + a healthy carbohydrate like sweet potato or quinoa. Consulting with a weight loss nutritionist can further help you create a healthy eating plan that works with your fitness routine.
3. Are carbohydrates the real enemy?
No! Carbohydrates are not the enemy at all. I am always in the carbohydrate cheering section trying to make people less fearful of this important macronutrient. It is the only fuel our brain uses, so if you dip too low in carbohydrates your brain will not be able to function properly. There is also a lot of confusion about what a carbohydrate actually is. When I say “carbohydrate,” people automatically think bread and cookies, but carbohydrates are in almost everything we eat! It is in vegetables, fruit, dairy, beans, and your more commonly known starches like rice and pasta. A healthy eating plan along with moderation is key. Most of these foods have a serving size of ½ cup, which looks like a hockey puck on your plate. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone eat that small of a serving of pasta! Your local nutritionist would tell you, the key is to load up half of your plate with vegetables and keep your portion of the more caloric and less nutrient-rich foods close to their recommended serving size. In addition to portion control, create a healthy eating plan by choosing foods such as sweet potatoes over regular potatoes or whole grain breads, pasta, and brown rice over their simple refined or “white” varieties.
4. Are all vegetables created equal? Are some better than others?
All vegetables are not created equal. Corn, peas, and potatoes are more like starches in their amount of carbohydrates, so think of them as your serving of carbohydrates. A vegetable’s nutrients are often attached to their colors, so variety is key. Spinach and kale are definitely a powerhouse team nutritionally, but that doesn’t mean you should restrict your vegetable choices to only those green leafy vegetables. Incorporate orange vegetables like squash (a personal FAVORITE) and carrots to get in a huge dose of vitamin A into your healthy eating plan.
5. If I’m in a crunch and have to eat fast food, what are my best options?
As a working mom, I fully understand the time crunch problem. I really believe with proper planning this problem can be very few and far between. But if you do find yourself in this scenario, choose something that allows you to be the boss of your food, and stay away from fried foods. For example, Tokyo Joe’s and Chipotle are two places that give you your nutrition info online – and you are really able to pick and choose what you want to ensure a balanced diet.
6. How do you suggest approaching meal planning and meal prepping?
Meal planning and prepping is a learned skill. Find a nutritionist to help you start simple by making a weekly plan for dinners (typically the most difficult meal of the day). Don’t start off doing new recipes, this is a difficult task and is why many people throw in the towel and think meal planning and prepping is impossible. Start with tried and true recipes you and your family loves that fit into your healthy eating plan , and keep it simple. Choose lean meats like fish, chicken, or turkey OR go meat free with beans, lentils and quinoa. Then load up on 1-2 vegetables to achieve a balanced diet. The starch is optional here, but if you do choose it do quinoa, brown rice, whole grain pasta, or sweet potatoes and batch cook for the week so you don’t have to worry about cooking these from scratch every night. Take your protein out of the freezer, if need be, the night before and put it in the fridge to thaw, that way it is ready when you get home. Crock Pot recipes are also great to work into the rotation when you become more comfortable with meal prepping – this has been my saving grace more times than I can count. “Set it and forget it,” people! If you are completely lost in the kitchen you can always find a nutritionist to help construct a meal plan to ensure a balanced diet.
7. Do juice cleanses really work?
Cleanses are a difficult topic because on one hand, our body is AMAZING and does a pretty good job of “cleansing” itself with our wonderful liver and kidneys each and every day. However, in my opinion a cleanse can serve as a jump start for many people on the path to a healthy eating plan. I prefer cleanses that teach you to incorporate healthy foods and steer clear of processed foods and sugar (other than those naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables). Look for cleanses with raw or blended vegetables with a bit of fruit, protein, and healthy fats. If you are thinking of doing a cleanse, have it approved by your dietitian or healthcare provider to assure safety, validity, and proper nutrition! Be sure to also check with your local nutritionist if you have any doubts about a cleanse.