Depending on your fitness goals, you might be required to focus on fitness and nutrition, as you one day will learn that you cannot outwork your diet (unless you have all day to train). Eating food that is less than healthful is not going to give you the nutrients to continue longer workouts or strenuous workdays. If you try, you will find that you will lose muscle, be susceptible to illness more often and/or not have the ability to perform at your optimum levels. Here is why it is important to consider scheduling, planning and preparing both training programs and a nutritious food plan:
1. If it is in the schedule, it exists: Whether you are focusing on your fitness training or your diet and nutrition, it helps to get it done when you have blocked out a section of the day to do it. Whether it is training first thing in the morning, at lunch for 30 minutes or after work, make time for you as if it was a business appointment. Same goes for planning your meals. Take some time on the weekend and plan your food for the week whether you pre-cook and package it or you have it ready to cook when it is meal time.
2. Eat healthy meals with more vigor: Spend money on good food, take time to prepare it and you likely will be more motivated to eat it quickly before it spoils and not sabotage your plan by eating junk food.
3. Save time and money: Buy food on sale in bulk, prepare that food ahead of time and you likely will save money in the long run, especially compared to when you have no idea what to eat so you order pizza or go out to eat instead. In the end, you will save money and time during the week.
4. Less waste of food (aka money): By pre-cooking and storing food in the freezer or refrigerator, you will store perishable foods for the workweek and not have them rot or go stale.
5. Less cleanup/less cooking: Cooking a pre-packaged meal is as easy as walking in the kitchen after a long day and turning on the microwave. You make less of a mess and spend less time having to clean the kitchen during the busiest times of the workweek.
6. Less tempted to eat out/fast food: If you have taken the time and effort to prepare these meals – which you should like anyway -- you will be much less tempted to eat junk food during the week and more likely to fight the impulses to stop at a drive-through on the way home.
7. Prepared meals can be more balanced: With proper attention going into purchasing, preparing and storing meals ready to eat for the week, you will find you are more likely to have a healthier balance than if you did not plan accordingly. Placing fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats into a storage container for lunch or dinner will keep you on track better than winging it each day.
8. Don't forget healthy snacks, too: Fruits, almonds, beef jerky (no MSG) and boiled eggs are easy snacks if the hunger pangs start to get to you. If you find yourself fading and losing focus or energy between meals, a few more calories will help you. If you are trying to reduce caffeine levels, the aforementioned foods can help you with increasing your fuel for more energy. However, there is nothing wrong with a low or no-calorie caffeine source, such as unsweetened tea or lightly sweetened coffee, if that is your thing.
9. Supplements or food?: There is a difference between supplement nutrition and food nutrition. Pay attention to the nutrition facts on the back of your protein powder of choice. If there are other ingredients or some "proprietary blend," you will be using supplements. However, if you have pure protein powder, it actually is considered a food and regulated differently. There is a difference between nutrition facts and supplement facts on the back of the container. One will state NUTRITION FACTS, and the other will have SUPPLEMENT FACTS, where it discloses the amount of protein, carbs, fat calories and other nutrients in the powder.
10. And most importantly, better nutrition: You are more likely to prepare foods with better nutritional value when packaging your own meals. By considering balanced nutrition in your meal planning, you have a great chance of sticking to the schedule. As stated above and as with fitness training, if it is not in the schedule -- it does not exist.
Many temptations exist to eat less healthy food when in restaurants or at food courts. Some people prefer cheat days once a week. I personally find them setbacks, as we are all human and are tempted to try "just one" (name favorite indulgence). When a food plan is working well for you, don't feel like you have to have a cheat day just because it is Saturday. If you don't want to eat pizza, don't eat it. Stick to your plan another week before you feel you really want or need a cheat day.
Losing weight as we age is difficult, and it becomes more difficult after you get into your 30s and 40s. When you start making good choices, they soon become habits. This daily persistence soon will become discipline, and that is the secret tool to any fitness or food plan.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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