Some of the most common questions I get asked in the gym is around food and which foods are the best/should they be eating to hit their goals.
It's a great question as there are so many foods, recipes and combinations out there it's difficult to know what's ideal and what's not for our goals.
Can I eat bread? What about carbs overall? Are protein bars any good for me?
These are all common questions people have and you well may have them too. Let's look into this a bit more.
First thing to think about is choose your goal. While there are a vast array of goals we have have, the main ones are either to lose weight (Or body fat should I say) or gain muscle. Focus on one for the best results rather than chop and change between the two.
Secondly, now that you've chosen your goal we need to look at the amount of calories you need to be eating. We won't go deep into calories today as that's not the purpose of this article, but for argument's sake let's say your body uses 2000 calories in a day (That's a nice round number). Therefore to lose weight let's set our target to 1500 calories and to gain muscle let's set our target to 2500 calories.
Thirdly, let's look at the exact foods.
So while the number of calories we eat is the single most important factor (There was study done in America where a professor ate just McDonald's, but controlled his calories and he lost the desired amount of weight), choosing the right foods is very important to make sure we are ABLE to hit the number of calories and not go over or under the target amount.
I always say that diet you can most easily stick to is the one you're doing right now. Why? Because that is how you normally eat! So if we can aim to make changes to our diet, but still stay as close to our current eating habits as possible then it will be easy to follow. With me so far?
With this in mind, here are a few short points about choosing the right foods for you:
- Protein is more important than you think. It helps build, repair and retain our muscles so it's super important for both weight loss and muscle building people!
Aim to get a good helping of protein with each of your meals for the previously mentioned reasons and (More specifically for weight loss people) it actually makes you feel more full compared to carbs and fats.
Great protein sources are lean meats, eggs, fish, dairy products and protein powder.
- Volume of food is a massive thing to consider. Let's take a typical salad. There's a lot of volume of food (and fibre, which also makes you feel more full) and not a lot of calories.
Therefore, this would be a great lunch idea for someone trying to lose weight, but probably not so much for a muscle building person as they may struggle to get in the required calories if they're filling themselves up with salads.
- Gram for gram, fats contain more than double the calories compared to protein and carbs. Something that contains 25g protein, 0g carbs and 0g fats will have 100 calories.
Something that contains 0g protein, 0g carbs and 25g fats will contain 225 calories. That's a big difference! Muscle building people who feel they are struggling to get in the amount of calories they need will benefit a lot eating foods with more fats in, which of course means that people who are trying to lose weight will do well to cut down on foods that are high in fat.
High fat foods include nuts, oils, avocados, dairy (again) and fast food.
Do you see the common trend here? The trick with choosing the right foods to eat for you is to pick ones that will help you best hit your overall calorie target. In a weird way, food is more or less just a numbers games (In a very literal sense) - it's just about find the right ways to hit those numbers consistently!
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