I get a lot of questions...probably at least one question about nutrition and/or training each day, but more realistically more like 4-5/day.
As I was answering one question recently, I realized that MOST of the time, I’m answering the same couple of questions and always with the same answer.
Today, I decided to formally and officially answer all the questions I commonly receive so that you have the answers laid out for you. Some of them you’ve likely questioned yourself, while others you may not have realized. That’s why today I’m laying it all out there. I also hope this brings to light how transparent I am as a coach. I love getting clients and having people sign on for coaching...believe me! That being said, I honestly want anyone and everyone to have access to the knowledge that I do in case they want to give it a shot themselves. Money should NOT be the sole reason behind finding the right nutrition plan. The only thing that I provide for clients exclusively is the frequent communication, experience, and the accountability. Now this isn’t to discredit me as a coach. These three things are in fact the secret to being successful on any diet.
These questions are most often asked by my clients who have just started working with me...so if you’ve just started a nutrition plan, these questions are 100% for you so you can still stay successful.
The reason behind this “blog” is to provide [much needed] clar-e-ty on nutrition and training.
Without further ado, here is the Clar-e-ty Frequently Asked Questions.
#1. What should aim I hit first...macros or calories?
Macros first, calories will follow. This is for those that already have a macro/calorie prescription. When you’re initially deciding your calories and macros, calories are the first thing to calculate and then macros. However, if you have your prescription and simply logging your food, then you will focus on macros.
Each macro has a certain number of calories per gram of serving. For protein, this is 4 cals/g. For carbs, this is the same 4 cals/g. For fats, this number is a bit higher at 9cals/g.
When you track macros, the calories will follow. With tracking apps and even labels, there is going to be inherent error, so the calories won’t always line up, but really they are because you hit your macros.
The only time you’d worry about calories was if you weren’t tracking all macros...say for a special event/party/date night, vacation, or diet break. Sometimes I’ll have clients track just protein and calories...which means basically they can choose whatever amount of fats and carbs they want as long as calories are in the right +/- 50-100cal ballpark.
#2. How many meals/day?
It doesn’t matter. It all comes down to the totals. You, hypothetically, could eat all your macros and calories in one sitting. Now, I wouldn’t recommend it because that’s going to probably lead to some serious gut issues.
I find that 4 meals/day works best. A breakfast, lunch and dinner with an extra pre- or post-workout meal thrown in there (depending on time). This helps combat frequent hunger, cravings and binges. It also reduced the quantity at each meal, which I find many people struggle with once they’re actually eating enough.
If your schedule doesn’t allow for 4 separate meals, then you can condense into 3 or rely on a snack or protein/carb shake around your workout.
If you find that you’re still hungry frequently or that you struggle with the volume at your meals, then increase the number of meals to 5 or 6.
#3. When should my last meal of the day be?
I’d say at least 2 hours before bed...not because you’re more likely to gain weight eating close to bed, but because eating too close to bed will prevent you from getting as restful of a sleep. But really, it’s up to you and will have no impact on your weight, unless it’s a bit of water retention from going to sleep earlier.
#4. How do I hit my protein goal?
Divide your protein prescription (either body-weight or target body-weight) by the number of meals you plan to eat that day. That’s the number of grams of protein you should eat at each meal. This is why typically I recommend following a 4-meal plan...because it does reduce the amount of protein needed at each meal.
Protein is tough to eat...I get it. It’s not as enjoyable as carbs or fats because it doesn’t offer the same emotional reward. That being said, protein is probably the most underrated macronutrient and is often times the most under-consumed. It’s crucial you eat at least your body weight in grams of protein to reap allllll the fun benefits.
Secret ways to load up on protein:
Post-workout protein shake
Soups and stews!!!
Protein pastas/quinoa/black beans
If you eat eggs, add in some egg whites as filler (literally free protein...no fats or carbs) **Note that I’m not saying, “no egg yolks” just fill in for some volume and protein with egg whites.
Overnight oats (w/ protein powder)
Collagen in coffee/tea
If you implement even just ONE of these, it will be THAT much easier to reach your protein goal.
Remember...if you’re not willing to make the necessary changes needed to be successful, like adding protein, don’t blame the plan or the program. Protein WILL build muscle (and is the only way to do so), fight cravings and hunger, increase daily expenditure, and provide numerous health benefits.
Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
It 100% depends on the individual. Most people DON’T need supplements and food should always be the first priority. IF you want to try supplements or feel that your diet is perfect and still struggling with micronutrients, inflammation, sleep, etc. then trying supplements may not be a bad idea.
Suggested supplements (by no means required!):
Fish oil (1-3g of combined EPA/DHA daily – these DO count towards macros. I recommend these)
Greens (Amazing Grass is my go-to suggested brand)
Sleep (take before bed, w/ last meal):
#6. Do my macros and calories change on rest days?
Nope. It takes between 24-48 hours for glycogen to fully replenish. If you are lifting weights, and especially if you’re doing very intense exercise (think CrossFit), you’re doing your fitness a disservice and going to really struggle with losing weight because inflammation is constantly around. This could increase cravings, increase inflammation, among other things.
Carb cycling is perfectly fine in some situations. If you’re not as concerned with your strength and performance, carb cycling may be okay with you. If you have a highly adaptive metabolism, carb cycling could be a great tool to go into a deficit without your body responding immediately.
Remember, like with any fad diet, carb cycling works for those that can easily adhere to it. It’s a great tool for weight loss for some individuals, but by no means a requirement.
My recommendation is to just eat the same amount of food each day. Most people can barely juggle one macro prescription...let alone two. If you plan to eat less food on rest days, you will likely struggle with the whole concept of flexible dieting...because usually our rest days are our fun days....when you’ll most likely be eating MORE. See the issue?
#7. Do I have to track calories and macros?
No, you do not. If tracking calories and macros is triggering emotionally or even just another source of stress, then it probably isn’t the best approach for you.
If you’ve never tracked before OR just “don’t want to” then I encourage you to give it a try. For many, it’s liberating to know how and when to fuel your body and to learn how your body responds when given different foods and different amounts. It also teaches the awareness needed for “intuitive eating.” Think of doctors...they don’t just read some books about surgery or hear other surgeons talking about it. They train. They become aware of the human body, the techniques, the individualization, the consequences, the risks, everything. They practice and practice before going on their own. Same goes with intuitive eating. You can’t be intuitive about something you’ve never done (like eating enough food).
If you choose not to track, follow the Handful Diet.
#8. Do I have to eat animal products?
Not at all!
As long as your reasons are good. Moral reasons, health and longevity reasons, you simply feel better, etc. are all great reasons. Watching a propaganda-filled documentary is not. Thinking it’s the secret to weight loss is not. Because you heard protein will kill you or at least will just destroy your kidneys is not.
Understand that IF you decide to be vegetarian or even vegan, that it is incredibly tough and needs to be for the right reasons...because you’re going to have to work MUCH harder at seeing results and ensuring you’re getting all the right micronutrients and avoiding deficiencies. This isn’t meant to scare you, but just to make sure you’re choosing this for the right reasons.
Check out a recent post I dropped about how to follow a sustainable and healthy [and non-restrictive] vegetarian diet.
#9. Can I still eat _______?
YES! No diet that restricts you or eliminates your favorite foods is the right diet. Now there is a time to limit certain foods. Say you're in the depths of a cut...probably is a time we're going to want to limit alcohol consumption and the higher, calorie-dense foods...but that's ONE scenario. The right diet is the diet that includes all the foods you love...just in the right moderation.
And there you have it...the most commonly asked questions I get on a daily basis.
Now, if I didn’t answer a question you have, make sure to drop me a message so I can answer it for you. If you're ready to take control of your diet and have all your questions answered, then apply here for online coaching with me.
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.