There are going to be a few generalizations in this article. We know that everybody is not the same, but we have seen some patterns that are more common than not.
Some athletes, especially newer ones, will come in to the gym not following any specific plans around their food intake. They might not have any healthy eating habits, definitely no counting, schedules, food types, etc. But with good intentions, and excitement, they will jump to following a high level plan when they aren’t used to any guidelines around their food.
Sometimes this turns out great. Other times…not so much.
If you make too much change, too soon, you shift a large amount of brainpower on food and everything surrounding it – which can be overwhelming to a beginner when life is still happening.
Because there hasn’t been enough time to build skills to handle everything that life throws, perceived failure happens. When that perceived failure happens, a lot of people believe that to mean they are failures in healthy eating when it wasn’t actually them failing, but the level of plan that failed them. If they had worked on some of the skills needed, they would see their “failures” as just events that happened due to lack in specific skills.
Even if they are deemed successful, this doesn’t usually last long – again, because life happens and the appropriate skills aren’t developed yet.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not expected to have those skills if you haven’t been taught them.
Nobody would expect to perfectly complete a movement, like the snatch, without first working on squats, mobility, and everything else building up to it.
Jumping into macro manipulation (whether by nutrition periodization or by general macros) is a lot for someone just starting out.
Instead of jumping straight into a higher-level plan, get the following down.
- Don’t count anything (you need to use your energy elsewhere) and make most meals include a lean source of protein (chicken, turkey, pork, beef, game, eggs), healthy fats (avocado, olive, olive oil, nuts, seeds, ghee, grassfed butter, nut butters, some coconut), healthy sources of carbs (all fruits, starches like oats, rice, sweet and regular potatoes, quinoa), and veggies.
- Focus on “most of the time”. Don’t waste a minute thinking you will have a perfect week. Focus on the consistency of “most of the time” rather that the perfection of “all of the time”.
If you have the above down for several weeks (months would be better) and want to level up your nutrition from here, consider the next steps. Don’t try to rush to this point. Make sure you get the above down before moving forward. As you focus energy on the above, you are building skills. Of course, it’s helpful to have coaching to make sure you’re building the right skills and the right ones in a way that stack on top of one another.
- Use simple portion control by using your hand as measurement. Generally, most meals for women should be around 1 cupped handful of a carb-dense source, 1 palm protein, 1-2 thumbs fat, and 1-2 handfuls of veggies. Most meals for men should be around 2-cupped handfuls of a carb-dense source, 2 palms protein, 2 thumbs fat, and 2 handfuls of veggies. You can adjust portions from there based on energy, fullness, satiety, hunger, activity levels, and more.
I promise you, getting the above down is so important before adjusting macros for performance if you care about the long term. We cannot stress enough to make those changes that might seem “too simple” in the beginning instead of overhauling your nutrition and making all the changes at once. Your brain and body will thank you.
We realized that sometimes it helps to have a little more guidance on what to eat without getting too detailed. Because of this, we created a healthy eating template you can use without feeling like you need to measure or weigh any food.
The truth is, if you get the above nutrition completely down and build the skills that come with doing the above consistently, you might not even need to manage your nutrition at a higher-level plan (like periodization) down the line. The key is knowing what skills are needed and how to implement them, which is why we offer 1:1 nutrition coaching in 1 and 3 month plans. Yes, you can learn through trial and error, but we get you there faster, with less pain, and with a clear direction and practices to build necessary skills.