When thinking about how to get bigger, stronger or leaner, most of us focus on our training and all the work that needs to be done at the gym. But what most don’t realize is that the gym is only a part of what goes into achieving their ideal health and body. Fail to approach your nutrition with the same level of consistency and dedication and you are setting yourself up for frustration and – eventually – failure. After all, the body is like a house in construction, and you can’t build it without raw materials. So whether your goal is to gain muscle, get stronger or get lean, these five tips can greatly impact your physique.
1. USE A FOOD SCALE
Some might look at this and think it’s too obsessive. They will think you are one of those fitness addicts who counts calories every day on their phone apps and goes crazy if the numbers aren’t perfect. The truth is, a food scale is an invaluable tool that makes tracking how much you are eating every day a lot easier. Once you are used to seeing the portions and having an idea about them, you can stop using the scale as often. But initially this is a great way to know how much you are consuming and if you are eating enough or not eating as much as you should
BONUS TIP: Weigh your foods after they’ve been cooked … except for oatmeal, which you should measure dry.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR KITCHEN IS STOCKED
You need to have everything on your plan in your kitchen, ready to be cooked if not prepared in advance. You know what body parts you will be training that day, right? Do you know if you have enough sweet potatoes in the kitchen for your pre-workout carb source? Do you know what your post-workout meal is going to look like, and will you have it ready to eat within an hour after training? These are things you need to consider in order to plan for optimal gains. Preparation is the key to success.
3. BE SMART ON A BUDGET
Eating on a budget is a necessity for some, but does that budget allow you to make the best choices? Opting for cheaper, low-quality foods can come with a price. Yes, calories are calories, but it’s often what comes with those calories that can make all the difference. Some of those cheaper foods contain high levels of preservatives and chemicals that you can’t even pronounce, and those options won’t help you with your health even if they do fit your macros for the day. Reaching goals isn’t only about how you look – it’s also about how your feel and how your body is functioning on the inside. Do your homework, compare labels and make sure you are getting quality food, not a chemical bag. If you are looking to keep costs down, head to Costco or Sam’s Club, where you can buy in bulk and save money without slowly harming your body from the inside.
4. COOK IN BULK
Not everyone has the luxury of cooking fresh meals every day. Working 8-10 hour days and getting in your training means preparing meals in advance, typically 3-5 days ahead of time. It can be slow and tedious, but being prepared is one of the most important keys to keeping your nutrition on track. Some may look at you and think you’re getting ready to feed a family of five for the next few days, but that’s what it takes! It will be slow and tedious at first, but once you get the hang of cooking in bulk it will become habit, and you won’t be disappointed in the results. If budget isn't that important to you, look into local food prep companies that have already all the meals prepared, this saves a lot of money and you don't have to measure your calories as most of these companies offer their macro labels for you to see what you are buying.
5. MIX IT UP
One of the main reasons people cheat on their diet is because they get bored of eating the same thing over and over again. Even the most disciplined among us get tired of eating meal after meal of chicken, rice and broccoli. To keep things interesting, be sure to pick up a variety of protein and carb sources. Having that variety will help avoid that instant burst of wanting to order pizza or Chinese from your phone.