Diet is one of those topics that seems to create a stir whenever you discuss it. People become bullish in their beliefs, and end up swearing by a single way of eating simply because it worked well for them on an individual level.
But I am here to tell you that eating a healthy diet does not have to be complex.
And no, before you ask, you don't have to cut out all carbs. There is no need to go low-fat. You don't have to go vegan or keto -- and you certainly don't have to go carnivore.
Nope, all you have to do is make some simple changes and reap the rewards.
1. Eat A Serve of Veggies with Most Meals
I would have liked to title this one “eat veggies with every meal”, but I appreciate that steaming up a bowl of greens first thing in the morning is not the most appealing thought for a large portion of the population.
However, you should aim to eat a serve of veggies with most of your meals.
Vegetables are full of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function effectively on a daily basis. These nutrients are the ones that ensure your health, keep your immune system strong, and prevent you from getting sick.
Although this is far from “sexy” eating enough vegetables can ensure you remain in tip-top shape year round -- which is imperative to making gains.
Moreover, they also have some serious merit if your goal is fat loss related.
Despite being full of vitamins and minerals, vegetables actually contain very little energy. This means that you can eat them in seriously large quantities without causing a substantial increase in your energy intake.
In this manner they are the perfect tool to keep yourself feeling full during a diet.
2. Eat Protein With Every Meal
Now, this one I do suggest you try and stick to for every meal (and even some snacks).
Protein ultimately acts as the building blocks for your entire body. You use them to repair damaged tissue, recover from exercise, build enzymes, and to even produce new bone and connective tissue.
In short, protein is important.
And even more so if you're regularly participating in weight training (which, if you are reading this, I assume you are).
Every time you train in the gym you place stress on your muscles. This stress tells your body to adapt, and become bigger and stronger. However, for this process to occur, your body needs to have adequate protein available to manage the repair and growth of new muscle tissue.
And if you don't have adequate protein available?
You leave gains on the table.
With this in mind, you should be striving to get in around 1.6 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. For example, if you weigh 80 kilos, this would come out to a daily protein intake of between 128 and 144 grams of protein .
As an added bonus, I should also mention that protein is very satiating. This means that it makes you feel fuller for longer . As such, by eating protein at regular intervals throughout the day, you are going to be less prone to snacking -- which is a game changer for fat loss.
I do appreciate that many may struggle to eat this much protein on a daily basis -- which is why protein powders are such a useful supplement. By offering up around 30 grams of protein per serve (and with very few calories), they are a great choice.
3. Minimise Your Intake of Processed Carbs
The modern western diet is full to the brim with breads, pastas, cereals, and junk food.
Although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with these foods, it is important to note that they don’t really offer much on the terms of nutritional value. In short, they contain very few vitamins and minerals, and a lot of energy.
From a pure health perspective, this means that if the bulk of your diet is composed of processed carbohydrates, you are going to be consuming very minimal nutrients. Over time this can have a negative effect on your health.
Moreover, because processed carbohydrates are not all that filling (especially compared to protein), they are easy to overeat . This means that limiting your intake of foods can also make weight management easier.
4. Drink More Water
The human body is approximately 70% water -- which means ensuring adequate water intake is pretty damn important.
To keep it simple, your body functions better when it is hydrated . You feel better, you have more energy, and you will be less susceptible to disease and illness.
Water is good for you.
Most people simply do not drink enough water on a daily basis. In fact, there is even some evidence to suggest that some people mistake their thirst signals for hunger signals, and over eat as a result .
The positive here is that there is a very simple solution to this common problem -- drink more water.
A great way to ensure hydration throughout the day is to start your day with a 500ml glass of water as soon as you wake up. Then, during the day, have access to a water bottle that contains at least one litre of water, and aim to drink all of it before you get home from work.
Finally, have another 500ml glass with dinner and -- BOOM -- you have just consumed 8 glasses of water throughout the day's duration.
This offers a simple way to maintain your hydration status throughout the day and optimise your health in the process.
5. Don't Let Your Diet Rule Your Life
Our final point is less of a practical tip and more to a mindset thing -- but that doesn't make it any less important.
When it comes to diet, too many people into this whole “health and fitness” thing take it a little too seriously. They never stray from the plan, rarely eat out, and end up basing their entire life around their diet.
While this might be the healthiest way to eat, I would argue it is an unhealthy way to live your life.
With this in mind, I am a firm believer that you should aim to eat well about 90 percent of the time. This is still going to be more than adequate to ensure you reach your training related goals, while giving you a little bit of room to actually enjoy life.
This other 10 percent should be spent on things like going out for dinner with your friends and family. It could take the form of a small desert after dinner, or a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant with your partner.
Hell, it could even be a pie and sausage roll at the footy on a Saturday -- how you choose to use it doesn't really matter.
What matters is that you use it to boost the quality of your life without feeling guilty about it.
As important as eating well is, it should never impact your life or happiness in a negative way. If you find yourself keeping away from social situations or avoiding things that you enjoy just because you are worried it will ruin your diet, then it is time to make a change.
Take that 10 percent and enjoy it.
Eating well doesn't have to be complex.
In fact, by implementing the five simple tips in this article you can optimise your diet and enjoy your life in the process -- which is a win-win if I have ever seen one.
- Morton, Robert W., et al. "A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults." British journal of sports medicine 52.6 (2018): 376-384.
- Paddon-Jones, Douglas, et al. "Protein, weight management, and satiety." The American journal of clinical nutrition 87.5 (2008): 1558S-1561S.
- Hall, Kevin D., et al. "Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: an inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake." Cell metabolism 30.1 (2019): 67-77.
- Popkin, Barry M., Kristen E. D'Anci, and Irwin H. Rosenberg. "Water, hydration, and health." Nutrition reviews 68.8 (2010): 439-458.
- McKiernan, Fiona, et al. "Thirst-drinking, hunger-eating; tight coupling?." Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109.3 (2009): 486-490.