Author: Mike Leng, Unorthodox Nutrition
If you've got an interest in fitness, you'll know that diet and nutrition play a part in your performance and your ability to hit goals, but where do you start? Many people I speak with are overwhelmed by the amount of information, suggestions, and diet plans available, so in this blog I'm going to take things back to basics and show you the right type of foods to eat to get your macro-nutrients - protein, carbs and fat.
While this may seem pretty basic, it is what you eat and when that can make a real difference to your training and the results that you require, so it's good to understand the fundamentals.
Again, I must point out that this is a BASIC overview and the full scope of foods and nutrient timing go well beyond the scope of this article. I highly recommend speaking to your coach or nutritional coach (not steroid Steve with the uber guns in the gym) about what would be best for you.
Before we start looking at what some of the best foods are, I just want to touch on the area of food intolerances. Not everybody is meant to eat all types of foods, some people can’t handle dairy very well, and others can have problems processing different types of protein. Anybody can encounter an intolerance, the main signs are upset stomach, cramps, loose stools, and gas. If you encounter any of these as part of your new diet plan I recommend eliminating dairy, then eliminating anything new in your diet. If you have intolerance then you are not absorbing all of the nutrients from the food so there isn’t much point in eating it. I always recommend that everyone should adding in a pro-biotic to their diet (1 with your first meal) to help aid with digestion.
I’m now going to give you a run down of the best sources of food within each macro-nutrient group and the best time to ingest them based on your goals. Again this is a rough guide as every single person is different and each has different needs. No one person is ever the same and some people can get away with and benefit from some food sources that others do not. The quantities to eat will vary depending on your fitness goals and training requirements, as your calorie requirement can vary significantly.
Ok, so the food sources.
Chicken Breasts – One of the best forms of lean protein that is low in calories, great to eat for any meal.
Turkey – As above but even leaner. Slightly more expensive but has a better macro-nutrient profile.
Fish – People should eat more fish, at least twice a week. High in protein and predatory fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon, swordfish) also have an amazing Omega profile which is great for health and fat loss. Oily fish can be high in calories so factor this in.
Eggs – High in protein and good fats. They don’t raise cholesterol. Great for breakfast, don’t fear the yoke!
Red Meat – the leaner the better as it is high in calories. Best consumed in the off season or when you are trying to add good quality muscle. Great after a hard training session. Go for grass fed if you can as it is higher in omega 3 and 9.
Pork – a bit leaner and lower in calories than red meat (beef and lamb) but still higher than chicken, fish or turkey. Best when trying to build muscle as an alternative.
Cottage cheese – a great slow releasing protein, ideal before bed or as a snack. Try mixing chocolate whey protein or pineapple with it to give it a sweet kick.
Rice – Brown is best. Make sure it’s actually brown rice and not just white rice been dyed (always check ingredient labels). White is ok if you are building muscle as long as it’s after a hard training session as they are faster acting but it is not ideal.
Sweet potatoes – A great carb source that is again, best after a training session but if your macros allow it, they are great for any meal. Taste great as mash or chips. A slow releasing carb source.
Oats – A great source, ideal for breakfast as they are slow releasing or in shakes. Make sure the label ONLY says 100% steel cut oats. If they contain anything else leave them on the shelf. You don’t need the extra calories and sugars that lurk in some brands.
Fruits – There is a lot of focus on fruits at the moment due to the fact that they are quite high in sugar (fructose). I feel as though fruits still have a place in a healthy nutrition plan. Have them at breakfast and after training and aim for plenty of different coloured fruits (more nutrients).
Green Veggies – These are amazing! Eat as many as possible with every meal. Far too many great benefits to list
Fats have gotten a bad rap for a few years now. Fat is not bad. I repeat FAT IS NOT BAD! Fats are great for many things from correct hormone production to fat loss. The right type of fats should be included in most meals that are lacking carbohydrates. However they are high in calories compared to the other macros so watch the amounts that you are eating. The following is a great place to start.
Nuts – great source of protein and great as a snack. Cashews and Almonds are the way to go.
Peanut butter – Not that vile Sunpat rubbish, but PB that has only 100% nuts as the ingredient is amazing. Not does it just have a great fat content but it also contains protein. Winner!!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) – a fantastic dressing for salad and veggies. Just don’t cook with it as it loses all its good qualities when it’s heated. For cooking use coconut oil.
Avocados – great in salads and on their own as a snack. Also great on chicken and fish as homemade guacamole! They don’t keep when they are opened so eat them the same day.
Fish Oil – a great supplement that EVERY person should be taking. Take at least twice a day with meals.
So there we have a general list of great foods that you can start making a good quality nutrition plan with.
Join me at my nutrition seminar at Performance 360 on 17th Feb to learn more about marco-nutrients where I will talk through everything you need to know to help get you on the right track including losing weight, gaining weight, what to eat around training and much much more.