A while back Tony Gentilcore wrote a series of blog posts titled Confessions of an introverted strength coach. I will steal his headline (that he stole from a movie) for this blog post and write my own confessions. This might even become a series.
It seems to surprise people when I explain how I actually eat. You might think that all personal trainers are a calorie counting robots (think R2D2 meets Robocop) who eat to maintain a ten-pack and deep deltoid separation. Not the case.
I never want to be in a situation where I am having a nice meal and I have to worry what my clients would think if they see me now. I am open about the fact that I don’t always eat “clean” – whatever that means – I enjoy food and I enjoy having a drink or two. As long as it doesn’t affect my goals too much it’s all good.
I am not the one to post on Facebook: “Bad mofo trainer J-Dog eating clean, staying lean! #ilovedrychicken #readytogetoiledupforsummer #canyouseemypancreas”. I try to be authentic and transparent about what I do to remove the barrier between me and the people I coach. We are both here and we are both open about what’s going on, no secrets. In my humble opinion fitness industry is struggling to make a bigger impact because we trainers place ourselves on a high pedestal thinking we are better than the rest. Couldn’t be further from the truth.
Like I’ve said before, you have all the answers, coaches job is to help you find them.
I don’t stress over my eating but I do plan what I am going to eat. This might sound like a lot of work but it’s not. Funny enough, it actually gives me more freedom. When you have a lot of structure it’s easier to move different pieces around it without everything falling to pieces. I’ve a said it a million times but planning is the key to everything. It is no different when it comes to having healthy eating habits.
I’ve done this health and fitness thing for a while and I used to count calories and obsesses over food. As annoying and unhealthy (for my mental health) as it was at the time, it did push me to form a healthy relationship with food that I have now. It made me realize that there has to be another way.
As I used to weigh my food for such a long time I can now eye ball my portions without even thinking about it. Over time I transferred the scale to hand measures and now I rarely even do that. I can now look at a portion of food and see whether it’s too much, not enough or just right. I know my body well enough to know how it reacts to different ratios of macro nutrients (protein/carbs/fat). I know that meals with only protein and fat won’t keep me as full compared to higher carbohydrate meal.
So for me to have a healthy relationship with food I had to follow the rules for a while before I could go and break them.
Before diving into my eating habits a word on my current goals and training. I want to maintain my weight and avoid replacing muscle for fat (I don’t measure this, it’s more of “am I happy with how I look” – thing). And to get stronger in single arm overhead press and work towards front lever.
I currently train four days a week. Two of the sessions are quite low volume, easy-ish and the other two are more intense and higher volume. On top of that I do some random mobility work when I feel like it and go for a one longer walk each week, at least on most weeks. This is more to clear my head than anything else.
All in all this is the least training volume that I have ever done. None of this is set in stone though. I might train five times one week and the next might be three sessions. As long as I hit my target number of sessions every four weeks it doesn’t matter.
So finally we get to the actual diet part. Word of advice: don’t take these eating habits and think that this is the answer for all your problems. It’s not. It is only what works for me, for now. I also have few things going for me such as a really good carbohydrate tolerance and constantly being on my feet for at least four days a week.
I want to share my eating habits with you for you to see that I eat a fairly relaxed diet. And you can get there too. As my motto goes: work smart, not hard.
All the measurements are guesstimates, sometimes it’s a bit more, sometimes it’s a bit less. Where it says “carrot” it’s not always carrot. It can be any vegetable we have around the house. When it says “coffee” I actually mean “scotch”…. Just kidding.
Frittata with 3 eggs, two cups of spinach/kale (uncooked measure), 150 grams sweet potato, 100 grams of pumpkin – I cook this in a batch of four serves on Monday night. I have the frittata with handful of macadamia nuts, 1 carrot, 1 mandarin or other fruit.
*If I have a really busy morning I pre-make a smoothie with a scoop of brown rice protein powder, banana, two fistfuls of spinach/kale, cacao powder, 100ml coconut milk or handfuls of nuts + water.
Snack – sometimes in the mid morning sometimes in the late afternoon, depending what time I train:
1 banana or other piece of fruit, handful of almonds or other nuts.
120 grams of meat – usually chicken, 2-4 potatoes, 2 cups of vegetables. Some sort of spices.
Lunch 2: – Some days I skip this meal (or the one above) if I have a really hectic day at work.
150 grams of cooked lentils – usually mixed with tomato sauce and spices for a poor man’s bolognese, 200 grams of brown or white rice, 2 cups of vegetables. I might throw in some nuts too. Or not.
This can be anything depending on what we feel like having/feel like cooking. Some of the stuff we had last week (my portion sizes, my wife eats smaller quantities):
– 3 large turkey meatballs made with zucchini + stir-fried green beans and asparagus mixed with lemon and capers. I also had a Moon-cake that I got from one of my clients. It was delicious. And definitely too much cake on one sitting.
– Hungarian spicy sausage (I probably had 150 grams of it) that my wife scored from somewhere. She made it into a meal with 100 grams of rice noodles, fistful of vegetables and tomato/olive pasta sauce. It was delicious.
– 120 grams of grilled Cajun chicken breast, 3 potatoes, 2 fistfuls of steamed broccoli and asparagus. There might have been mustard too as well as a little bit of mayo.
– Quarter of small a roast chicken (I cooked it) with mustard, 3 fistfuls of steamed vegetables.
– Date night dinner at a Italian restaurant. Awesome pizza and atmosphere, check out Via Napoli if you’re in Sydney. Topped it with a small serve of gelato.
– Grilled Fennel Salmon with a shit-ton of steamed veg and a small serve of potatoes.
As you can see, some dinners are “out there” but it’s all balanced out over the week. One or two high calorie meals won’t get you “off the wagon”. There’s also more special meals such as the Hungarian sausage dish and the pizza night. These are once in a blue moon occasions.
For the sake of this blog post, I actually counted my calories and here’s what I got:
Between breakfast and lunch #2 I average at 2100 calories, roughly 100 grams of protein – 300 grams of carbs – 80 grams of fat. Dinner can be anywhere from 500 to a 1000+ calories. Again, it balances out over different days. My maintenance calories are just a shy of 3000, which would explain why my weight stays roughly the same. Some days I go over, on other days I stay under.
Some other notes on my eating/drinking:
– On Saturday night I usually have a glass or two of pinot noir or a dram or two of nice single malt scotch, straight up of course, no ice, ever! I rarely drink to get drunk, I have a drink because I love pinot and I love single malts. I also love quality beers (give me a nice porter or a hoppy pale ale over a boring lager). That being said, I probably go over three drinks a night less than four times a year and even then it’s very rarely more than four drinks. Unless I am visiting Finland that is. Most of my old mates are booze hounds. Luckily for my liver I don’t go there too often these days.
– Sometimes, when the spirit moves me, I eat ice cream. But unfortunately not often enough.
– Weekend breakfast is usually 90-120 grams of oats with sliced banana, two tablespoons of peanut butter and cinnamon –OR- 150-200 grams of rice (brown or white), 100-150 grams of lentils, sliced banana, coconut milk/cream, 1 heaped tablespoon of peanut butter, topped with cinnamon + one serve of greens powder to get my veg in.
– On weekends I usually eat breakfast – lunch – dinner with maybe a snack in there somewhere.
– Once a week I might go out for a lunch. It can be sushi, Thai, salad with protein or grilled fish with brown rice/potato mash and salad. This is more to socialize than anything else.
– I drink one or two cups of black coffee before breakfast and sometimes another cup around mid-day if it’s quiet at work or if I am at home.
– Other than coffee I drink water anywhere from 1-3 liters a day. Sometimes more sometimes less.
– I still occasionally eat something and think it’s “bad” or “wrong” or “unhealthy”. But the feelings are not as strong as they used to be. Work in progress…
– I like to try everything at least once.
Supplements that I take:
– Zinc, magnesium, methyl-guard plus, vitamin D. I had all these levels tested and I was deficient in all. I’ve felt considerably better since. I will keep re-testing them once a year or when I feel like something is off. I don’t recommend just randomly taking supplements before you check your levels.
– I use protein powder if I don’t have time to eat, this can be anywhere from 0-3 times a week and it is made into a “meal” as mentioned earlier, I use greens powder 0-3 times a week if I am not eating enough vegetables. I take creatine before training and fish oil after dinner, when I remember.
– On training days during flu seasons I take vitamin C and Arma Force from Bioceuticals to boost the immune system.
I am 190cm tall – on a good day, weigh around 83kg and according to uncle Google sit probably at 13-15% body fat based on the fact that I have a four-back – not a six-pack. Mind you, I don’t really care for either, it just is what it is.
I’ve spend a long time trying to learn to listen to my body. Sometimes I’ve failed miserably but I’ve always tried to learn from my mistakes (read more about failing and learning in here). But because of this I can “wing” my eating a little bit. I can enjoy food without making it a reward. That’s freedom and means more to me than any body fat percentage or six-pack ever would. It means being relaxed, happy and satisfied with my body. It means peace and calm. I still have work to do but I am definitely heading into the right direction. You can do the same if you are willing to have a plan. Keep at it and you will become the expert of your body. It’s definitely worth striving for.
*Fun fact not related to eating: since we are being honest here, the only thing I do differently at work compared to home is that I try to limit how much I cuss at work. Trying to be professional and all, goddammit.