As health and fitness minded individuals, we know the importance of the food we put into our bodies every day. Food provides the energy we need to perform and recover from our workouts, and how we eat can make our break our efforts in the gym. In fact, many experts believe (and I agree based on personal experience) that the way you eat will determine 80% of the results you obtain from your workout and nutrition program. It only makes sense though; Lots of people go to the gym everyday for weeks, months, and even years. Unfortunately, many of these people look exactly the same year after year, and some even gain weight despite following a regular exercise program. Those who get into shape and stay in shape know how vitally important it is to pay close attention to what they eat. This is why they spend weekends cooking meals for the week and then lug their coolers around everywhere they go to make sure they are never caught without something to eat.
So what happens when you have to travel and don't have a chance to cook all of your meals, when you didn't have time to cook, or when you realize your chicken has gone bad after too many days in the fridge? I think we have all been in a situation where we have to eat at a restaurant or even fast food. We all know that fast food is not the healthiest choice there is, and after the movie SuperSize Me people are literally scared to death to eat fast food! Well, if you eat supersized meals plus ice cream and milkshakes everyday like the guy in the documentary, then you certainly will cause damage to your health and your waistline. However, with a little knowledge and common sense, as well as the variety of food choices offered by most restaurants today, it is actually pretty easy to eat healthy on the go, even at fast food joints. The main factor involved in losing body fat is consuming fewer calories than you are burning each day. The primary (nutritional) factor in building/maintaining muscle mass is protein intake. So, if you just control your calories and eat enough protein you can stay (get) into pretty good shape. When you look at it this way it is easy to see how it is possible to fit restaurant and fast food into a healthy lifestyle. In fact, unless you are getting ready for a bodybuilding or fitness competition, I see no reason that you cannot eat out at restaurants as often as you like and still reach all of your health and fitness goals. That is as long as you make intelligent choices.
So, what types of things should we be looking for when eating out? Remember, high protein and calorie control, which leads to choices like grilled chicken, beef, and fish, along with vegetables, which are usually very low in calories, fibrous, filling, and full of vitamins and minerals. Baked or sweet potatoes (plain), and rice are also good carbohydrate choices, as long as the calories in these items fit into your nutrition plan. Have some water or a diet soda to wash it all down and you are set. A simple way to save a good bit of calories and unnecessary fat is by simply asking your server to have the cook prepare your steak or chicken and vegetables without butter or oils.
My first choice when I am on the road and need a healthy meal is LongHorn Steakhouse. I know that I can get a delicious piece of steak, chicken or salmon with a fresh mix of vegetables, and a plain sweet potato, which is lower on the Glycemic Index than regular potatoes, and contains more vitamins and minerals as well. I have a great relationship with my local LongHorn since I go there so often, and they know to cook my vegetables and potato plain and to hold the bread. It makes it great because I can go whenever I want and let someone else cook for me for a change instead of spending all my free time in the kitchen. It makes it much easier when you become a "regular" of a restaurant since the staff knows how you like your food and you don't have to explain it in detail each time. I know many bodybuilders and fitness-minded people that eat at their favourite steakhouse 3-5 times a week and some even every day.
So, what do I do if I can't make it to a LongHorn or another sit down restaurant and fast food is my only choice? I am going to try to find a Subway or a Chick-fil-A. I believe these are two of the best choices when it comes to fast food. In fact, when I was travelling to small cities in Alabama all the time with my former job, I would eat Subway or Chick-fil-A just about every day. My favourite choice at Subway is the foot long Roasted Chicken sandwich on wheat bread with no cheese, lots of veggies and some spicy mustard. This sandwich packs about 50 grams of protein, less than five grams of fat, and around 650 calories. The six inch sandwich is around 325 calories, and the best part is they are big and very filling!
We all know Jared, who lost like 300 lbs on the Subway diet. Is there really something that special about Subway sandwiches? The reason that Jared was able to loss all of the weight was because he found a diet he could live with, he believed in it, and he stuck to it until he reached his goal. Also, whether Jared was aware of this or not, Subway sandwiches (the 6 grams of fat or less variety) have relatively few calories for how big of a sandwich it is. For example, a foot long turkey sub with all of the vegetables and no cheese has less than 600 calories. It is pretty easy to see how someone could not feel hungry on a diet of 3 of these foot long subs a day, which does not even total 1800 calories a day.
At Chick-fil-A I will go for two char grilled chicken sandwiches which offers 56 grams of protein and only 7 grams of fat and 550 calories. Sure, it's more expensive than the meal deal with fries, but well worth it for the nutritional difference. Another easy tip to save about 30 calories and three grams of fat per sandwich is to ask for "no butter" on your bun. Most people do not even realize they spread a small amount of butter on the buns.
This all goes back to "calories burned vs. calories consumed." I'm not saying you should eat fast food everyday, and I admit that bread is definitely not your best carb source. My point is that it is possible to eat relatively healthy and not ruin your workout and nutrition plan even if you have to eat out. So next time you find yourself on the road with nothing to eat or if you just can't stand to cook another meal, make a smart choice and let someone else do the cooking for you.