We’ve all heard the phrase before, clean eating. It immediately elicits mental images of eating nothing but carrots, V8 juice, no red meat, and carbs are the enemy. But what does clean eating really mean?
Make good decisions
Clean eating doesn’t mean you have to cut any one thing out of your diet. If you’ve read my original blog posts you know I’m all about moderation. Clean eating starts with a conscious decision to eat healthier, and a basic understanding of food in general. For example what foods are high in carbs, what foods are high in protein, what foods are high in fat. The second part comes from understanding the body and the way it works.
The Body in general
I say “in general” because everyone’s body is different and genetics play a large part in what your diet should look like. But here is a basic break down of the three basic sources of energy, how your body uses them, and how you can better monitor them.
- Carbohydrates – Your body NEEDS carbs, plain and simple. They are the first tier of fuel for your body. If your body has no available carbohydrates to burn, it will turn to the fat for energy, and then the protein (muscle). The biggest mistake people make is when they eat carbs. A high carb meal should be consumed on a day with rigorous activity, as your body will need all the energy it can get. In order to avoid putting on unwanted weight, avoid high carb meals on non-active days and for dinner. A high carb meal before your body goes into a rest state is one of the reasons people put on so much weight. Look for a leaner, lighter dinner such as salad with a lean meat such as chicken or fish.
- Protein – Protein is the basic building blocks for all muscle, they aid in muscle repair after a work out or exercise session. There are two types of protein, whey and casein. Whey is a fast digesting protein and often used immediately after a work out to aid in muscle recovery. Casein protein is a slower digesting protein and best used for when the body will go a long period of time with no other sources of protein (such as night time).
- Fats – Woah woah woah…fats? Those are bad right? Yes and no. Your body needs fat, but just like anything else too much of it is bad. Your body uses fat to protect your organs, keep you insulated, and absorb certain fat soluble vitamins. Around 20-35% of your daily caloric intake should come from fats. Great sources are milk, greek yogurt, and avocados.
Understanding what your body needs will better help you plan your meals ahead of time. Planning is the key component in a solid diet. Going to the store to “browse” for dinner is never a good idea. Do your best to plan ahead, sit down on a Sunday and look on the internet, cook books, and wherever else you can find ideas from in order to know what you need from the store. Don’t be afraid to make recipes your own, if it’s an awesome enchilada recipe but you’re a vegetarian, just sub some beans for meat and call it a day.
Eating for your goals
Now that you have a better understanding of what the three macro-nutrients are and what they do, you are better armed to create your meal plans to suit your personal goals. Someone looking to add lean muscle mass (such as myself) would have a high protein, high carb diet. Someone looking to lose a few pounds might cut back on carbs in the latter half of the day. Here is an example of what my meals look like on a training day.
- Breakfast – Oatmeal (carbs for energy) with two hard boiled eggs (protein)
- Snack – Banana (potassium to keep muscles from cramping)
- Lunch – Whole grain bread (slow digesting carbs for sustained energy) with Tuna (protein for muscle recovery)
- Snack – Protein shake with milk for calories, fat, and muscle recovery
- Second Lunch – Brown rice (carbs to replace energy burned from workout) with chicken stir fry (protein)
- Snack – Greek Yogurt (fat)
- Dinner – Fish and bean enchiladas on whole wheat tortillas (had this last night, fish and beans were great source of protein and tasted great, whole wheat tortillas for carbs before dinner since I’m trying to GAIN weight).
The sources vary, but the macro nutrients are the same. Understanding what your body needs to accomplish your goals of weight loss/gain are key.
I am by no means a body builder, and never will be for one simple reason; I have a killer sweet tooth. I love cookies, I love ice cream, and I LOVE cake. If you can eliminate your sweet tooth cravings all together, I applaud you. However, if you are like me you will learn how to shop so that you can satisfy your sweet tooth on the go without going over board and ruining your entire weeks worth of diet. My personal favorite is to go out and buy a package of chips ahoy cookies. This allows me to grab one, maybe two cookies here and there when I feel the need to eat something sweet without going crazy. However, there is never more than one sweet thing at a time readily available to me. I provide myself with the ability to “cheat” on my diet, but within a strict set of parameters to keep me from ruining everything I’ve done all week. I also allow myself the weekend to eat my burgers, drink my beers, but I understand that whatever I do on the weekend, it’s back to the grindstone come Monday morning. It gives me something to look forward to, a reward for doing well all week.
A summary of Clean Eating
As always, knowledge and moderation is the key. At first you won’t know what to cook, you’ll hear clean eating and immediately picture a tasteless salad (yuck). Go out and buy a cook book to help you learn, inspire you, and guide your trips to the shopping mart. No one expects you to give up sweets and eat like a body builder or bikini model (unless of course you are one). Healthy eating, just like living a healthy lifestyle starts with knowledge, which then leads to better decision making, which then leads to a cleaner, happier, healthier lifestyle. Remember it’s a process not an overnight success. Within the next week or two I will be posting some of my favorite “clean eating” recipes so keep an eye out and remember clean eating and exercise is the first step to staying strong, staying healthy, and staying happy. Don’t forget to leave comments and subscribe so you don’t miss the next posts and the up coming recipe ideas!