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How To Eat (including vegetables!)

Introduction and context:  in one form or another, for years I've been sending this essay to my personal training clients soon after we meet. It's changed many times over the years. I went through a bulletproof coffee - add-fat-to-everything phase, but that's over with (too many calories, didn't matter what calories they were). I've lived on and off ketogenic plans. I've been Zone; I've lived strict Paleo for long periods of time. Over the years I've dieted like a competitive bodybuilder. For a few years I ate much more food, while powerlifting and toying with strongman. The last few years I've maintained the lightest bodyweight of my adult life, I'm relatively lean (11-12%), still pretty strong on a good day, and healthy!

The bottom line is, too much good food is often as bad for a human as eating fake, unhealthy, crap food. Most of what I say here is common sense - at least it is to me. I believe your body, your metabolism, and your health will agree with me.

What could be more important than your health? In my world, fitness and health go hand-in-hand, one supporting the other. Whatever your situation, losing body-fat and gaining lean tissue are necessary for enhanced health and fitness. Appearing fit without being healthy is a house of cards that won’t last long. Altering the conditions causing inflammation in your body, deposits in your arteries and heart, fat inside and surrounding your organs, outside on your body - all of this combines to make your health and metabolism what they are. All of this is within your control.

Perhaps you’ve worked out for years, on and off; sometimes making progress, often not getting anywhere. How frustrating to go to the gym and see no results. I’ll help you make sense of the eating side of your life - how it affects and is changed by your workouts, how what you eat makes the biggest difference not only in how much progress you make from working out, but whether you even get anywhere at all. 

In a nutshell, to borrow from Albert Einstein, if you do the same thing over and over and over, at any time expecting a different result, it’s the road to insanity. Walking through the doors of any gym isn’t magical all by itself, but it can lead to dramatic changes in your life. Eat “edible food-like products” rather than real food and no positive changes will take place with your health or body. I can help you learn to use real food to lose body-fat, gain some lean tissue, ramp up your metabolism, and reach your goals. chicken hot dogs added to the vegetables - extra protein and flavor

This is important:  Consume protein with each meal or snack. The amino acids in protein are essential to rebuilding your body each day, and the only material you can create lean muscle tissue with. Man or woman, you need protein each meal. Protein comes from meat, protein powder and eggs. Many other foods have some protein (peanut and almond butter, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, bacon), but they also contain varying amounts of carbohydrates and fats and often sugar, so it’s best not to consider them a protein source.

If you have bodyfat to lose, do your best not to mix carbohydrates, other than vegetables, with fat when you eat. Have your meals basically consist of protein/fat or protein/carbs, and don't mix too much fat with carbs. Vegetables sauteed or stir-fried in small amounts of coconut oil or butter or lard or bacon fat is a great mixture. This is essential and healthy saturated fat. Adding fat to grains or other empty carbohydrates can be a metabolic disaster, guaranteed to add body-fat inside and out.

Did you know you have hard, visceral fat surrounding your internal organs? In a healthy individual this is about 20% of their total body fat. Drinking soda and sweetened fluids, besides potentially causing fatty liver disease, accelerates the deposit of this dangerous fat on your internal organs. In other words, you can slowly strangle the operation of your body from the inside out. Subcutaneous fat is beneath your skin, and probably what you think of when worrying about your body fat levels.

Like many things in life, a little of something that’s healthy isn’t necessarily great for you in massive quantities. Fat is a good example. Healthy saturated fat such as coconut oil is wonderful; so is macadamia nut oil, so is extra virgin olive oil, so is the fat from grass-fed meat, and organic bacon. But they are all different; olive oil is omega-6; coconut oil is omega-3 and safe to cook with. At a heat above its smoking point, olive oil's monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) break down. These nourishing substances face oxidation due to the oil's instability at high temperatures; they can be cancerous. When in doubt, cook with coconut oil or pastured butter or lard. a half dozen scrambled eggs with a couple cups of vegetables

Begin your day with protein and a bit of fat. Yes, no matter what you’ve heard from marketers over the years, eggs and sausage or bacon is a great breakfast. The dietary cholesterol in egg yolks is good for you; for almost every human, it has no effect on your cholesterol levels. Half the protein is in the yolk, as well as many micro-nutrients. For most people, eating breakfast within a half hour of awakening revs up the metabolism and enables your body to begin breaking down body-fat and using those calories for energy. If you load up on carbohydrates at breakfast you don’t allow this fat-burning mechanism to begin, your blood sugar spikes, and within two or three hours your energy levels have dipped and you’re hungry once more. Very hungry. Eat a bowl or two of cereal for breakfast and tell me how tired you become in late morning, and how crazy your hunger is by lunch time.

From a fat-loss perspective, your last one or two meals of the day should be protein and fat (competitive athletes working out in the evening, ignore this). You’ll lean out and keep off body-fat if you avoid carbohydrates (this includes fruit) in the evening, other than vegetables. Eat all the vegetables you wish, all the time. Seriously, you cannot logically eat too many veggies. I guarantee your body will tell you when that happens, in no uncertain terms 

Many people think vegetables should be eaten raw. Nope. Quite a few vegetables don’t fully release their nutrients until they have been heated enough to brighten in color. Spinach and broccoli are good examples. Here’s how I suggest you make it easy to get sufficient vegetables into your life:

Buy broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, kale, brussels sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes, red (or any color) peppers, and any other veggies you like. Wash and cut to your desired eating size. In a large pan get a couple of pieces of bacon cooking, slowly, cut into pieces with scissors. When the bacon is two-thirds cooked, add some coconut oil or other quality fat. Dump the vegetables in; asparagus and brussels sprouts first, mushrooms and kale second, everything else else as you wish. Saute for a while on low heat. This should fill the biggest frying pan in your kitchen to overflowing. I like to cut some kalmata olives and sundried tomatoes into small pieces and add ‘em. Throw in some capers or artichoke hearts. Use your imagination. In only a few minutes times you’ll have several days worth of individual servings of vegetables, easy to warm in a pan or microwave. 

 It's so easy to make quick meals with these vegetables as a base. Often I begin the pan with a couple of pieces of bacon or sausage, cut into little pieces, as a base. A couple cups of vegetables in a pan with a cut-up chicken breast, or 8 oz of ground beef, all cooked together (use spices with abandon), can be amazing. Or scramble four to six eggs and dump them on the vegetables. Add a bit of guacamole on top and you have a wonderful, healthy, quick meal. 

Most of the meals of my life are one form or another of this.

broken down into meals, ready for the fridge

No matter your body-fat or fitness goals, do not diet surrounding your workouts. The meals before and after your sessions are critically important. I would suggest your post-workout meal is the most important of the day. This is the meal following your “still in the gym sweating protein/carb shake.” I suggest this shake contain twice as many grams of carbs as protein (and BCAA and creatine). Many weight trainers and CrossFit and other metabolic athletes neglect post-workout carbohydrates, in my opinion. The benefits of these easily absorbed carbs in the immediate post-workout window are proven; this isn’t bro-science. It’s Science. Your body craves them, Right Now! 

Many CrossFit athletes find carbs in their pre-workout meal or shake to benefit them. Experiment to see what works best for you. If the workout ahead of you is mostly metabolic (running, rowing, double-unders, etc.), give it a shot without the extra carbs. If the session includes plenty of heavy lifting, add the carbs. A cup of white rice cooked into four or five scrambled eggs is a wonderful pre-workout meal, for example. So are rice cakes. Of course they're great after you leave the gym, too.

Your meals surrounding workouts are good times to employ whey protein powder, as opposed to casein or vegan products. Whey protein is easily and quickly absorbed, and isn’t in the stomach and intestines drawing blood away from your muscles during a workout. Include some starchy carbs (rice, potatoes) in your first post-workout meal, and as little fat as possible. This meal should be the lowest-fat-content of your meals on a workout day.

In my opinion, healthy people of all ages, no matter their fitness goals, and barring unusual health issues, will benefit from consuming a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, daily. When eating, consume the protein portion of your meal first; this lessens the chance of you getting full from carbs and not even eating the protein.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about how many times daily people should eat. Everyone is different. Everybody is a different size with varying activity levels, and hugely different lean and fat tissue levels. 

If your meals consist of decent protein sources, vegetables, good fats, and a scattering of fruits, nuts and good starches, eat within reason. Adding quality fat to your meals means you should feel full sooner, resulting in most people eating a reasonable amount of food, feeling full, and stopping. People consuming only real food, not fake food, in this way eat three to five times daily, depending upon their lifestyle, activity levels, workouts, how many meals are shakes, etc. Frankly, most people eat too much food, all the time. At a certain point, if you want to lose body-fat, get some discipline and common sense into yourself. 

Good protein is found in albacore tuna, salmon, other fish, beef, fowl, pork, protein powder, eggs. Some protein is available in cottage cheese, nuts, yogurt. Avoid most deli meats; they are often chock-full of preservatives, chemicals, flavoring agents, and contain less real meat than you might think. ready for cutting board action

Healthy omega-3 fats, essential to brain function, joint health and a host of other positives in your body, are found in fish oil, wild-caught salmon and tuna, and grass-fed meats. Healthy saturated fats are readily available in avocados, almond butter, mixed nuts (almonds and macadamia nuts to a greater degree), coconut oil and flakes.

Sugar is a greater enemy than you think it is. Under all it’s various disguises, sugar is wreaking havoc inside our bodies. Diabetes and diabetic-like conditions and inflammation, metabolic derangement, varying energy levels, plummeting blood sugar episodes, and body-fat retention are at the top of the list. Slowly dying from consistent sugar intake is what’s happening to people. Diet drinks are no better than full-on sugared versions; your body doesn’t know the difference and reacts to a Diet cola the same way it does a regular soda. Can you say fatty-liver disease? Run from anything containing high-fructose corn syrup. Read the ingredient labels on condiments and sauces and be prepared to be shocked. Insulin spikes, blood sugar highs and lows, and constant body-fat storage result from both. And by the way, fruit juice is sugar. So is white bread, and corn starch, and “natural” sugars. If you have body-fat to lose, and want to be as healthy and fit as possible, quit drinking fruit juice! all those vegetables cooked down into these two pans

Try taking all the wheat out of your life. I know, sounds difficult, doesn’t it? Those with Celiac disease have no choice other than to consume no gluten, but in my opinion, your health may benefit from discarding as much wheat as possible from your diet. Give it a try. Read labels carefully and you’ll find wheat in everything. Of course, if the food you ate didn’t have labels you’d not have to worry as much. In other words, if you buy it at the farmer’s market, or if my grandmother would have recognized it, you likely have real food in your hands. In my opinion, moving away from modern wheat may be the healthiest nutritional move you could make for yourself right now. Try for a month, eat more real food (meat, vegetables, fruit) and see if you don’t feel and look better. You could even go one step further and eliminate dairy at the same time, and see and feel what happens.

Don’t be afraid of fat. Some saturated fat is extremely good for you. Convention wisdom of the last 25-30 years scaring people away from fat was based on a flawed, biased study that made the front cover of Time magazine. Now entire categories of products based upon low-fat and no-fat eating exist. Billions of dollars are spent on no-fat junk food. Yet it’s all crap, mostly edible-food-like-substances, not real food. Pretzels don’t grow on bushes; Combos or Pop Tarts aren’t real. And our society is obese and millions of people are killing themselves, gaining body-fat much faster than at any time in recorded history, while consuming fat-free junk. Cook with coconut oil and macadamia nut oil; use butter, not margarine. Use extra-virgin olive oil on food that’s already cooked. Salad dressings of olive oil and balsamic vinegar are terrific tasting and good for you. Eat bacon, eat avocados, have sausage with your eggs. chicken hot dogs ready to be cut up and added to the pan

Just eat meat, vegetables, some fruit, some nuts, good amounts of fat. No processed food, no junk, no sugar. When you can, consume grass-fed meat and wild-caught salmon. These are chock full of healthy, essential omega-3 fats. Add vitamin D to your vitamin and mineral program, as well as some omega-3 or fish oil with meals. The Zone uses a system to determine serving sizes; Paleo encourages people to eat in a more un-regulated manner, as long as you consume the right foods. Each deserves your attention; both Zone and Paleo are effective, but different people respond to different stimulus. Zone entails more measuring and weighing and attention to detail. Paleo is more free-form. Neither is a religion though many treat them as one. Myself, the last few years I've consistently eaten more like a bodybuilder of old; lots of eggs and meat and rice and potatoes. Some rice cakes and almond butter. Lots and lots of water. One or two protein shakes daily including whey - berries (or carb powder such as Build or Vitargo or Real Food or Carbolyze immediately post-workout). 

Fish oil aids in fighting depression; lowers cholesterol, lowers triglyceride levels, reduces inflammation in the body; reduces joint pain; improves your skin quality; promotes weight loss and body fat burning; improves brain function; reduces soreness from weight training; reduces risk of heart disease; provides relief from Crohn’s Disease and Colitis; helps treat ulcers; stabilizes mood. Take your fish oil!

If you want to read reviews of the primary Paleo and Ketogenic cookbooks and reference books, I have written about many of them on my this site. Use the search bar.

I believe that logical and effective use of macro-nutrient ratios, the My Fitness Pal app, a digital food scale, and discipline, make all the difference in whether people succeed in losing body fat, changing their bodies to look the way they wish, adding lean tissue, or reaching their fitness goals. heading to the gym with several meals ready to go


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