Nutrition – Balancing the 80% with Life
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Losing weight is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition! You’ll never reach your goals until you fix your diet.” However cliché, it’s true. Nutrition is one the elements we have the most control over in our training. Thus, knowing what’s going into our body as fuel is essential! Yet, there needs to be a balance between living a busy life full of training, school, work, etc. and keeping up with our food intake. So, I’ve written a few tips that I adhere to personally in order to find that balance!
1. Follow your macros
Ok, ok. Before you roll your eyes and close your browser window writing me off as another meathead crossfitter, hear me out. Macronutrients are the three major groups of nutrients your body takes in: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. ALL three are equally important, yet are taken in by different amounts. As an example, my macros are typically as follows: 50% of my daily intake is from carbs, 30% from fat, and 20% from protein. Each individual athlete’s intake will be varied, however, usually the percentage of distribution is similar.
You may be asking, “but what about calories?” With macros, you have a general idea of where your calorie intake should be, however, it’s not about calories. If you’re trying to take in 2200 calories a day but don’t know in what way those calories are being taken in, you could be screwing yourself over. You can’t just each 2200 calories of one nutrient; there has to be a balance.
So right now you’re probably thinking, “But Ashley, I don’t know what my macros are suppose to be!” Lucky for you, there are an abundance of professionals who understand how to calculate that for you! I personally have a nutritionist that calculates my macros for me, which I follow consistently, and who I also am accountable to for weigh-ins and picture updates. However, you don't need a nutrition coach to control your intake. There are also several macro calculators online that you can use, as well! Your macros will more than likely be based on your biological gender, age, height, weight, level of activity, and your goals (weight loss/gain/maintenance).
2. Track your macro intake daily
So now you have your macros that you should be following to meet your goals. How do you keep track? There are several apps that you can use to track your nutrition right on your phone! I personally use MyFitnessPal; it’s free and very simple to use. However, depending on how accurate you want to track your intake, you may have to by the premium version. The free app does not allow you to fully customize your macros and instead gives you a general format to follow. Because I know the amount in grams of each nutrient my body requires, I look on the “Nutrition” tab of the daily food log and follow my intake that way; however, using premium allows you to track them more precisely. You can scan foods into the app directly from their bar codes, which is extremely convenient, and you can select restaurant menus to add food directly from their site! Yet, sometimes the amount of food options in their database are overwhelming and depending on the food, inaccurate. So use your best judgment when using the app!
Another app is MyMacros+. This particular app is $3.00 in the app store, yet is worth the few bucks! You can still scan in foods with barcodes and add foods from restaurant menus, yet it is more accurate and has a ton of more features! If you’re extremely serious about the accuracy of your tracking, I would suggest this app!
3. Use a food scale
One of my favorite Christmas presents this past year was my food scale. It’s super simple to use and CHEAP! Most scales you can get at WalMart for $10 bucks and it’s completely worth the investment. Scanning bar codes and using measuring cups can only get you so far. My food scale has increased the accuracy of my tracking tenfold. It can be tedious but is worth it in the long haul! Just be sure to know how to accurately measure the food your measuring (grams or ounces). I use my app as a guide.
4. Despite all this, don’t be “THAT” girl
So you’ve got your macros, your app, and your food scale. Each day you’re tracking your nutrition and feeling good! Yay! Celebrate your dedication and discipline! But don’t forget, you are still a functioning human being with a social life, friends, and other purposes in your life that need tending too. A very small portion of the world are elite athletes that are paid to train and control each aspect of their bodies – yet, even these athletes take breaks as well. It is completely acceptable – and in my opinion, healthy – to not count your macros every day. I usually take off one day a week and holidays. For example, if I’m going out to a nice dinner with my friends or family or if I’m going to someone’s house where they’re gracious enough to feed me because I’m a poor college student, I will NOT whip out my food scale and MyFitnessPal and track my food. ENJOY YOUR LIFE, FRIENDS! You are more than your nutrition and fitness. You are a unique individual with amazing qualities. Take care of yourself and your life first!
5. Your mental health is just as important!!
I hope thus far, this post has been informative and encouraging! However, because I’m me, I have to leave you with a mental health plug and my two cents as to how your mentality fits in with training and nutrition. Ladies, if you start to catch yourself paying a little too much attention to your nutrition or becoming even a little obsessed with tracking, give yourself a break. You know how to feed yourself well, so do that for a few days or weeks and give yourself a breather. This often happens to me. Because I’m so competitive, my nutrition can sometimes become a competition with myself: to eat less calories, to eat less of a certain macro, etc. Whatever it is, it’s to beat myself from the day prior. This is NOT a healthy mindset towards food or eating. Food is FUEL and should be treated as such. You need more some days and less others, but your happiness and overall health comes long before a six pack.
Head down. Eyes forward. Focus on you, darling, and do what’s best for YOUR overall health!