3 Ways to Get Your Eating Back on Track

In this article, I’m going to share three strategies I use to fix my client’s broken diet and help them eat better.

You will learn how I troubleshoot meal plans or diets that don’t work.

You also will get real, actionable strategies you can implement right away to improve your eating. (Feel free to share this with someone you know who’s trying to do the same).

And finally, you are going to get a cool infographic that summarizes this article. CLICK HERE to get it right away: 3 Ways to Get Your Eating Back on Track (infographic)

 

CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD: Nutrition + Fitness for Busy Professionals (infographic)

 

3 Steps to Fix a Broken Diet

Before I get into the “meat” of this post (pretend it’s jackfruit if you are vegan), I must address one thing.

Since I’ve become a nutrition coach, back in 2013, I don’t have the liberty to slang slogans or “bro coach” you with buzzwords. I’m sure you’ve heard some of them:

  • “Just stop eating bread.”
  • “Only eat things from the earth.”
  • “Watch out for fats.”

I DO NOT have a quick, get fit pitch for you.

Advice like that is not enough to help people change their eating and maintain the results they seek.

My clients are real people. While sound bites sound good to say, I actually spend more time asking questions and listening to my clients.

I am a real coach. I’m careful how I work with people because it takes patience transform and empathy along the way.

When’s the last time a personal trainer listened to:

  • Your needs
  • What you want to accomplish
  • How you live

You know…What’s most important to you.

The proper approach to nutrition, for an individual, means creating a diet that is uniquely based on your lifestyle and goals.

To help my clients, I need to be able to:

  • Observe your progress
  • Correct the course

You MUST realize this: Every single diet will stop working sooner or later. All diets work, initially, if you do – and then it will break.

When your diet breaks, it’s important that you know how to fix it. Here’s why:

Every diet system is going to stop working at some point. No matter how great it seems initially, that diet will break.

In this article, I’m giving you three steps to take when your diet breaks. I’ll also give you some insight on how to assess your diet when you think it’s stopped working.

And if you want – you can do this all by yourself.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach. This is an example of a framework they teach, and I use with my clients. I will NOT give you food rules. I DO NOT follow one diet philosophy or another.

This is a framework you can use to evaluate your eating.

So, if you are a new vegan, cool. Be a better vegan. If Paleo works for you, keep it up, man. That’s great too. If you are just looking for a better way to eat healthily, I hope this cuts through some of the bullshit for you and you can get to it.

 

ambrosewb-graph-nutrient defencicies

 

Often, you struggle with how they feel and look because your physiology is not working the way it should.

Right now, hormonal imbalances are talked about a lot, but it’s more often dietary deficiency: not getting the right nutrients, in the proper amounts, to get the best results.

Dietary deficiencies, therefore, are the first red flag that something’s wrong.

Dietary deficiencies are more common than you think

Most likely, you have one whether you know it or not. Regardless of how good you think your diet is.

The biggest problem when you are deficient in critical nutrients is your physiology does not function optimally. When your body is not working correctly, you don’t feel too good.

Here’s a couple of studies to back this up:

In this study, Food Alone May Not Provide Sufficient Micronutrients for Preventing Deficiency, 70 diets were analyzed (20 of them were athletes) and 100% of them were deficient in at least three vital nutrients.

These were the most common deficiencies:

  • Iodine
  • vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • vitamin E
  • calcium

Another study, Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans, showed 1 in 3 Americans is on a diet at any given time. Three popular diets, Atkins for Life diet, The South Beach Diet, the DASH diet, were evaluated and all were likely to be deficient in micronutrients.

These six were the most common:

  • vitamin B7
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E
  • Chromium
  • Iodine
  • molybdenum

Now that you know this is a common issue, what’s the first step?

Identifying Deficiencies

When you don’t get the essential nutrients, you need nothing about you is at it’s best. Everything from your appetite and energy to strength and endurance and even your mood is affected.

This is why you might feel horrible after going vegan, eating raw foods, or trying Paleo.

Eating healthy without identifying your red flags, in the beginning, can be a problem later on.

My recommendation: identify your deficiencies and eliminate each one.

Common Deficiencies Among My Coaching Clients

Here are the most common deficiencies I see with new clients:

  • essential fatty acids (95% of the population is deficient)
  • protein (particularly in women and in men with low appetites)
  • vitamins and minerals
  • water (low-level dehydration)

If you want to analyze your diet, you can:

  • See a dietitian (for about $100-$150)
  • Use an online food log like the MyFitnessPal app

Correcting Deficiencies: Where to Begin

When I get a new client, I give them a survey asking them what they’re eating. After that, I can help them:

  • Consume more essential fats (I usually more fish, oil, or flax seeds)
  • Eat more protein-dense foods (their preference)
  • Eat a variety of foods rich in minerals and vitamins
  • Drink my hydrating fluids

While you can get an advanced screening, it’s not needed to start feeling better.

My clients typically lose body fat and increase their lean muscle mass, while feeling motivated because of their getting stronger.

Proper Nutrient Intake is Powerful

There are many examples, but here, I’ll use two: prisoners and children.

The British Journal of Psychiatry showed how powerful a fish oil and multivitamin supplement was to prison inmates:

  • 35% reduction in aggressive and violent behavior
  • 26% decreases in antisocial behavior

In another paper published in Nutrition, Reviews children were given a fish oil and a multivitamin. The results: an improvement in both behavior and test scores.

Pretty powerful, right? More well-behaved inmates and smarter kids.

It goes to show we can’t be our best without proper nutrition.

Step 2: Adjust Food Amount and Food Type

Once nutrient deficiencies are corrected, it’s time to adjust food amount. Please note: I actively avoid calorie counting.

Short-term food journals work well with dietary awareness tools. But calorie counting can actually backfire.

The two more significant issues are:

  1. food amount (or calorie intake); and
  2. food composition (which provides for macronutrient breakdown).

How Much Should You Eat? Food Tracking?

When coaching a client, I don’t recommend too much. No databases, e-books, spreadsheets or websites to plan meals.

I obviously know calories, or food intake, matters. I’m just not a fan of counting calories.

Here’s why:

Counting calories does not train your internal cues of appetite and hunger. Learning to listen to your body is the better way to build long-term habits for success. This can only be achieved with coaching or practice.

Calorie counting makes it hard to enjoy eating. Initially, anyone can treat food like points. Eventually, this system falls apart.

And it’s not that accurate. There are many reasons for this:

  • Differences in food preparation
  • Differences in food quality
  • Incorrect labeling
  • Laboratory errors

Even the nutrient database kept by the USDA can be off by as much as 25%.

So, when you add it all up (and add in how boring it is), calorie counting is not worth it.

Control Your Calories Without Counting

Note: The following portion guide assumes you eat 3-4 meals a day.  You will see that you can use your hand for portion control. Your palm measures protein, your fist for veggies, your cupped hand for carbs, and your thumb for fats.

For example, men might begin by eating:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods;
  • 2 fists of vegetables;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods; and
  • 2 thumbs of fat dense foods.

And women might begin by eating:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods;
  • 1 fist of vegetables;
  • 1 cupped handful of carb dense foods; and
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods.

After I help clients see how this looks on a plate, we can begin adjusting portion sizes based on individual’s body and goals.

For example:

If I had a woman who wants to add mass fast, they would get 2 palms of protein dense foods at every meal, and we might toss in another thumb of fat or cupped handful of carbs.

But a woman who wants to lose fat might cut down to about 1 palm of protein, ½  thumb of fat, and a ½  cupped handful of carbs, eaten slowly and mindfully to “80% full”.

Just like any meal plan – this a template. Templates are good starting points. Since you can’t know how your body will react, you have to be flexible and ready to adjust.

You should adjust based on these factors:

  • Activity level
  • Fullness
  • Hunger
  • Progress (based on your goals)

Start with the template and ask yourself this question every two weeks: “How’s this working for me?”

For more on this idea, you should check out this infographic: Nutrition and Fitness for Busy Professionals by clicking below.

 

CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD: Nutrition + Fitness for Busy Professionals (infographic)

 

Food Composition (macronutrients)

Most people start here. But now you know eliminating nutrient deficiencies and getting your portions under control is another way.

90% of you can stop there. You can feel and look good with these simple, easy steps.

Remember: small steps lead to significant change.

But if you want more because you are already mastering these first two steps and you have specific goals you are struggling to reach – you should think about food composition.

Here’s a simple shortcut to eating right for your body type.

There are three general categories (or somatotypes):

  1. I types (ectomorphs),
  2. V types (mesomorphs), and
  3. O types (endomorphs).

Here’s a male example of each body type:

ambrsoewb-bodytypes

 

Here’s a female example of each body type:

ambrosewb-women-bodytypes

 

Nutrition Recommendations Based on Somatotypes

“I Type”

I types (ectomorphs) are thin, with little body fat, and have a hard time gaining muscle.

  • Their engine speed is set to “high revving.”
  • They tolerate carbs well.
  • They’re high energy.

I types do best with a high carbohydrate diet, along with a moderate protein and lower fat intake.

So here’s my recommendation:

  • more healthy carbs (55%)
  • less fat (20%)
  • moderate amount of protein (25%)

Don’t get too worried about the math; just think “more carbs and less fat.”

Here’s what that might look like for I type men:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods;
  • 2 fists of vegetables;
  • 3 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods;
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods.

 

I type women begin by eating:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods;
  • 1 fist of vegetables;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods;
  • 0.5 thumb of fat dense foods.

“V Type”

V types (mesomorphs) are medium-sized in bone structure. Think they athletic body type. When active, these people have a good amount of lean mass.

  • Their bodies are designed to be robust machines.
  • They tend to be testosterone and growth hormone dominant.
  • They can typically gain muscle and stay lean easily.

A mixed diet is usually the best for V types, with a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

So I recommend a nutrient distribution like this:

  • 40% carbohydrate
  • 30% protein
  • 30% fat

Again, don’t get bogged down in numbers. Think “balance.”

Here’s what that might look like for V type men:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods;
  • 2 fists of vegetables;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods;
  • 2 thumb of fat dense food.

V type women begin by eating:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods;
  • 1 fist of vegetables;
  • 1 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods;
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods.

“O Type”

O types (endomorphs) have a more massive bone structure can carry higher amounts of fat and muscle mass.

  • Their engine speed is set to “idle.”
  • They’re naturally less active.
  • They typically have a slower metabolic rate and don’t tolerate carbs as well.

Correctly timing a low intake of carbs (generally after exercise) with higher fat and protein intakes work best.

So I recommend:

  • more fat (40%) and protein (35%)
  • less carbohydrate (25%)

Here’s what that might look like for O type men:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods;
  • 2 fists of vegetables;
  • 1 cupped handful of carb dense foods;
  • 3 thumbs of fat dense foods.

O type women begin by eating:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods;
  • 1 fist of vegetables;
  • 0.5 cupped handful of dense carb foods;
  • 2 thumbs of fat dense foods.

 

How to Stay in Shape When You're Busy (infographic)

 

Step 3: Fine Tune the Details

Once deficiencies are corrected and you’re eating the right types of food in the proper amounts, everything else is just a minor detail.

So far we’ve covered the following steps:

  • Recognize red flags and eliminate nutrient deficiencies.
  • Control your calories instead of counting calories.
  • Adjust food composition based on your body type.

What’s left:

  • Meal frequency
  • Calorie/carb cycling
  • Workout nutrition

Here’s what that might look like for I type men:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods;
  • 2 fists of vegetables;
  • 3 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods;
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods.

How Often Should You Eat?

As long as we eat the proper foods in the right amounts, meal frequency is a personal preference. You can eat smaller meals often or large meals less frequently.

The old way of thinking was: small meals were good for your appetite, hormones, and metabolism. But a 2011 review suggests the right foods in the right amounts matters more.

So, ask yourself, “How’s your meal frequency working for you?”

You can get a few smaller meals throughout the day or a couple of larger meals instead.

The choice is yours.

Should You Cycle Calories or Carbs?

For some people, this strategy can work. It can help you lose weight or build muscle, as well as seeing your abs or setting a personal record.

Just as the name implies, carb cycling is merely eating more carbohydrates on some days and eating fewer carbohydrates on other days.

Carbohydrates (more than protein or fats) seem to influence body composition and how you feel the most.

Here’s how you do it…

  • On the days you lift weights — add starchy carbs to your baseline diet.
  • On the days you’re not lifting weights — eat a baseline diet of mostly protein, vegetables and healthy fats with minimal carbs.

That’s it. You don’t have to measure your food to the gram. Use this basic guideline: lower carbs on low activity days and higher carbs on higher activity days.

You MUST remember this: eliminating deficiencies, calorie intake control, and eating for your body type – consistently – come firsts. If you don’t master these basics, this strategy probably won’t work for you.

What Should You Eat Before, During, or After You Exercise?

Workout nutrition matters for elite athletes training specifically for maximal muscle adaptation and training with high intensity and volume (potentially multiple times every day).

For those individuals…

  • 1-2 hours before  — Eat an appropriate meal as outlined above
  • During — Have water, a branched-chain amino acid drink (5-15 grams mixed in 1 liter of water), or a protein plus carbohydrate drink.
  • 1-2 hours after — Eat an appropriate meal as outlined above

For everyone else, looking to feel good and look better, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I eliminated deficiencies?
  • Do I have my total food intake in check?
  • Am I eating right for my body type?

And are you doing these things consistently every day?

If you are doing this and you still want a little more, keep your regular eating schedule and add a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplement (5-15 grams) to a liter of water and drink it while you train.

Summary

If you are feeling like your eating is on track, but you don’t know what to do — I hope this will help you.

It’s something new. Remember: changes to your diet only work if you do.

Don’t forget:

  • Recognize red flags and eliminate nutrient deficiencies.
  • Control your calories instead of counting calories.
  • Adjust food composition based on your body type.
  • Consider your activity level.
  • Observe your progress and adjust your intake as needed.
  • Be consistent before adding any new strategies.

These strategies work for beginners to athletes. The key is to start at the beginning and build from there, in sequence.

 

CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD: Nutrition + Fitness for Busy Professionals (infographic)
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