So I’ve occasionally been receiving emails from people wanting to know what my own specific diet looks like. I get this in person from time to time as well. My favorite is during holidays and other family-gathering-type situations. It’s more like I’m on a nutrition game show then, except the only real “prize” is finally getting out of the conversation. Fun times.
Anyway, I figured I’d break down my own diet meal-by-meal for those interested in what/how I eat, and also for those who are looking for a general example of what a healthy diet looks like. Be sure to check out the couple of notes at the end for some clarifications on some things. Here we go…
Meal #1: “Pre-Workout Meal” and “Breakfast”
Since I workout in the morning, this first meal ends up being both my breakfast AND my pre-workout meal. So basically, this is one of the most important times of the day for me to eat some protein. I’d say 99.9% of the time my protein source for this meal is eggs/egg whites. Sometimes hard boiled, sometimes an omelet. Eggs/egg whites are a cheap, simple and fairly high quality source of protein. Plus they are an actual breakfast food which is nice if you care about eating breakfast foods during breakfast.
The other almost equally important nutrient for me to eat during this meal is carbs. There is quite a bit of research backing up the benefits of consuming a protein and carb meal pre-workout (more details on that will follow in a future article). My carb source of choice during this meal is usually oatmeal or whole grain toast or something similar. Much better than a typical breakfast carb source (junky, sugary cereal or pastry) for sure.
And then, water. Lots of water.
Meal #2: “Post-Workout Meal”
Interesting fact about this meal… it’s the only meal of my day that takes place while I’m driving. That may sound odd, but really, it’s not. In fact, it may be ideal. This is my post-workout meal, and pretty much all of the research you find and all of the nutrition experts you listen to will say the same thing. Immediately following a workout, one of the most beneficial things you can do is have a fast digesting protein and carb meal. (I’ll get into all of the specifics of “why” in that same future article I mentioned above. For now just know it’s a really good idea.)
Now, for most people, any good protein and carb source you come up with would be alright here. Something like some chicken (protein) and a baked potato (carbs) would make a good post-workout meal. Now, you may have noticed my use of the word “immediately” when describing the timing of this post-workout meal. This is because at this time, your body wants/need nutrients, and it wants/needs them as quickly as possible. Having this meal within the first 60 minutes after your workout is a good maximum to shoot for. 30 minutes would be even better.
However, I (and many others) take this one step further. I have my “meal” about 5 minutes after my workout… on the car ride home from the gym. Again, it probably still sounds a bit odd. Trust me, it’s not. The reason why is that my post-workout meal really isn’t a “meal” at all. It’s a drink. It’s my post-workout shake.
Just like the example meal mentioned above, this shake is still nothing but protein and carbs (and water). The protein source is whey protein powder (yup, a protein supplement). Whey is a very fast-absorbing protein which makes it the ideal source of protein for your post-workout meal.
The carb source is dextrose. It may sound like another supplement, but it’s not. Dextrose is actually just a type of sugar. Hang on, I know what you’re thinking. “Wouldn’t a sugar such as dextrose be like the worst possible type of carb you could eat? I could swear I’ve seen you recommend limiting higher glycemic carbs like sugar and consuming lower glycemic carbs instead? Are you just a liar?” Nope, I’m not. I swear.
Avoiding so-called “bad” carbs that lack nutritional value and eating mostly (if not all) “good” carbs in their place is still a terrific idea. Well, except one specific time of the day… post-workout. What makes simple carbs (like dextrose) so bad is the speed at which they get digested by the body. These carbs are digested very quickly compared to foods like beans or vegetables. The slower the digestion, the better effect it has on our blood insulin levels. This is why 99% of the time you want to avoid sugary and/or highly processed junk.
That other tiny percentage of time is immediately following your workout, which is the only time of the day when your body may actually benefit from a faster digesting carb. So, I combine whey (fast digesting protein) with dextrose (fast digesting carb) inside a bottle, add a bunch of water and drink it on my ride home from the gym. This meal may be the one that requires the most explaining, but it’s my quickest and easiest meal of the day.
Meal #3: “Lunch”
Next up is what most people would probably refer to as “lunch” (I personally like the sound of “Meal #3″ better). This meal takes place about 1-2 hours after my previous meal. I’m only mentioning this because none of my other meals are this close together. The main reason why this meal comes a bit sooner than the others is that again, due to the workout, the body is still in a state where nutrients are its best friend. So, combined with the fact that the previous meal was just a shake and not a big filling solid food meal, I eat this next meal just 1-2 hours later. Small difference, but I figured I should mention it.
Getting to the meal itself, I’d say 9 times out of 10 this meal is grilled chicken, brown rice, and some sort of vegetable. For me personally (someone who has always been a naturally boring eater), this is my perfect meal. I could eat it all day long.
And to drink… water.
Meal #4: “The Meal After Lunch & Before Dinner”
There’s nothing too special about this one, so “the meal after lunch & before dinner” is about the best meal nickname I could come up with here. In the simplest terms, this meal is a protein source, a carb source, and for the first real time of the day… fat.
The protein source of this meal, mostly just for convenience purposes, tends to be a protein shake (or sometimes tuna fish). As for carbs, it will usually be potatoes. And for fat, usually almonds. Just the typical basic meal a boring eater like me prefers.
Actually, the drink is pretty fancy. It’s water. (There’s a little diet sarcasm for ya.)
Meal #5: “Dinner”
This meal starts with a record setting amount of vegetables. Seriously. I’m one of those weird people that just really likes vegetables, so similar to the way some people would load up their plate with dessert items, I load up my plate with vegetables. The vegetables in question will usually go one of two ways. Sometimes (probably the majority) it’s a giant salad containing everything I can fit in it (romaine lettuce, celery, red pepper, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.). When it is a salad, I use a pretty good amount of olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing, thus adding some more quality fat to this meal. When it’s not a salad, I’ll usually go with a huge broccoli and string bean combination with some oil and garlic.
From there we go to the protein source. This will be anything from chicken, to turkey, to a lean cut of meat.
Depending on a bunch of factors (the rest of my diet, my goals at the time, etc.), I may also throw in some almonds or walnuts during this meal to add some more fat to my diet. Currently I am doing this. Sometimes I’ll even buy sliced almonds and throw them in my salad. This is about as fancy as I get with my diet.
Then I drink a whole bunch of soda!! I go nuts! Bottle after bottle, can after can. Soda, soda and more soda! Alright, you caught me. More water.
Meal #6: “The Last Meal Of The Day”
A few hours after dinner, and about 30-60 minutes before I’m in my bed sleeping, I have my last meal of the day. As you can discern from that sentence, I laugh in the face of the “if you eat late at night it all turns into fat!!!” myth. Silly myths.
Anyway, as for the meal itself, it’s some more protein and some more fat. The protein source is usually something leftover from the meal before (dinner). I try to purposely make enough of the protein source (chicken, turkey, etc.) so that I have a little bit left over for the next meal. If that plan fails (it usually doesn’t, unless I’m not eating at home), plan B is usually casein protein powder.
I’ll then have some more nuts (almonds or walnuts usually) because I want to make sure there is some fat in this meal for a specific reason (besides just reaching my ideal daily fat intake, which is always reason #1).
Earlier I mentioned my post-workout shake, which was a combination of fast digesting protein and carbs. The reason for the fast digesting foods is that right after my workout is when I want these nutrients absorbed by my body as quickly as possible. For this meal, I want to do the exact opposite.
Since this is going to be the last meal I eat for the next 8 or so hours (while sleeping), I want to help keep these nutrients available for a longer, more drawn out period of time. That’s one of the reasons I try to have some fat in this meal. Fat slows down digestion.
Oh, and due to the “30-60 minutes before bed” timing of this meal… there is no water.
Other Notes About My Diet
- All of the above is what takes place on a typical day that I workout on. When I don’t, a few things change (most notably there is no more post-workout shake). However, since I have 4 workout days and 3 non-workout days, the diet I decided to describe is the one from a typical workout day since it is the type of day that makes up the majority of my week. Plus, I thought it was more interesting than my non-workout day diet.
- This diet is right for me, my body, my metabolism, my activity level and my goals. For you, it might suck. For this reason, I purposely left out the specifics of quantities and how many calories and grams of protein, fat, carbs, etc. I consume. It really shouldn’t be of much interest to anyone because of what I just mentioned. The diet might cause me to maintain weight, and it might cause you to gain 2lbs per week. See what I mean? The food choices and the reasons for those choices are what you should take something away from. It pretty much fits perfectly with every type of expert-recommended guideline for eating a healthy, balanced diet along with other additions that are specific to me and my current goals.
- Speaking of which, for anyone who is interested, I will mention that I am currently gaining about 0.5lbs per week with this diet, as it fits with my current goals (increasing muscle/strength). Of course, this is just a matter adjusting calorie intake. If I wanted to lose weight or just maintain my weight as is, everything I mentioned above would stay EXACTLY the same. The only real change would be a slight decrease in total calories consumed.
- As I mentioned, I use protein powder. In addition to that, the only other supplements I take are a multivitamin, fish oil, calcium, vitamin D and creatine.
Why My Diet Is Pretty Darn Good
- First and foremost, weight control. The total calorie intake is what it needs to be in order for my weight to do what I want it to do.
- Second, there is balance. My (and your) body requires significant amounts of protein, carbs and fat to function properly, and I am consuming good amounts of all 3.
- Third, quality. There is not a single junky item in my typical daily diet. No trans fat. A sane amount of saturated fat. Low sodium, sugar and cholesterol. High in the good stuff. Those 3 aforementioned nutrients are coming from high quality sources. Protein comes from eggs, chicken, turkey, lean cuts of meat, fish and a protein supplement. Carbs come from fruits and vegetables, brown rice, potatoes, oatmeal and other whole grains. Fat comes from almonds and/or walnuts, olive oil and a fish oil supplement.
- Fourth, personal preferences and goal related adjustments. What I mentioned above is what’s most important for consuming a healthy diet. Things like the number of meals I eat, the timing and frequency of those meals, the specific food choices I made, and total amounts of calories, protein, fat and carbs are adjustments made to suit my personal needs and preferences. You should do the same. For example, if you’d rather eat 3 meals instead of 6, do that. If you hate almonds but love peanuts, eat peanuts instead of almonds. This sort of stuff is pretty important, as eating is a pretty big part of your life. If you hate a part of your diet, it’s just going to make it hard for you to stick to it. What I mean is, this is what is best for me. You should always do everything in the way that is best for you.
- Basically, my diet contains a lot of what it should, little to none of what it shouldn’t, the total calorie and nutrient intake is just right, and it’s all put together in a way that suits me and keeps me happy. And this, my friends, is the simple outline of what you should want your diet to be.