After coaching and working with hundreds of clients the past six years, both online and in person, I’ve come to notice certain similarities and patterns that occur with most people diving into their nutrition practices. I’ve had clients that had the common bad habits which needed restructuring and I’ve had clients that didn’t have those bad habits, but had patterns that could’ve used some revamping to help them get more optimal and worthy results from their efforts. I’m going to list some of the bad habits I’ve seen most people suffer from when it comes to their eating routines and then give you some of the good habits you should start implementing (if you’re not already) this year to jump start your health and fitness progress.
Bad habit #1
Skipping breakfast. Your mother was right when she told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. By skipping breakfast, you are setting yourself up for a tough day ahead – leading to poor food choices later on in the day, low energy levels and foggy cognitive function, high spikes in insulin due to more calories being consumed at one time (leading to higher chances of fat storage), and other physiological functions being impaired.
Bad habit #2
Not eating enough vegetables. Where is all the color in your meals!? If you’re the person who only sticks to meat and potatoes, but forgets the greens and colorful veggies, you’re missing out on a ton of cancer-fighting, antioxidant rich, and health boosting vitamins and minerals. The macronutrients are important, but right up there in importance are the micronutrients as well. If you’re not eating 6-12 servings of veggies per day, you better be supplementing with a fruit/vegetable/greens supplement.
Bad habit #3
Not eating enough fat. The time where we thought fat contributed to heart disease and negative health consequences is gone. Yes, high saturated fat intake combined with high sugar intake is a recipe for disaster, but more problems will arise if you do not include healthy fats in your nutrition protocols. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats should play a big role at each of your meals. Omega-3 fatty acids coming from fish should be eaten every day. Omega-6 fatty acids coming from evening primrose oil, certain nuts, and seeds should be eaten every day. Saturated fat should be taking up about 10% of your total fat intake. Healthy fats help with hormone production, growth and repair, heart health, defense against diseases, and a host of other positive health benefits.
Bad habit #4
Not drinking enough water. Our body is nearly 70% water. A 2% dehydration will negatively impact your health and performance. You cannot lead a healthy life by not drinking water and only consuming coffee, diet soda, juices, and other liquids. Water plays pivotal roles in nutrient delivery, cell hydration, performance, normal physiological function, digestion, fat loss, and so forth. What you need to know is that you should be getting in at least a gallon of water per day; closer to 2 gallons if you are a highly active individual.
Those are some of the most common bad habits I’ve seen many people suffer from. Now, I’m going to give you some good habits you can start practicing, while slowly edging out the bad habits you routinely and unconsciously pursue.
Good habit #1
Eating more frequently. It’s common for us to eat only 3 big meals a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – but to improve body composition, eating smaller, more frequent meals has brought the most success. This is not to say you can’t lose fat and get leaner eating 3 times per day – you can… but most people overeat at each of those meals, not knowing that they are surpassing their caloric intake geared for weight loss. Regular feeding intervals stimulate the metabolism, balance out blood sugar, and help to maintain lean muscle mass, while using up fat mass for energy. Also, due to the higher calorie intake, it’d be smart to split up those macros over 5-6 meals, which will leave you less bloated, better nutrient delivery and digestibility, and less likely to store those calories as body fat.
Good habit #2
Include protein at each meal. Once I start working with a new client, I always ask them about their current eating habits. They usually have protein at the big 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner), but then they’ll just have random snacks throughout the day, such as a piece of fruit, or handful of nuts, or a veggie juice – they’re missing the protein at these feedings. Get the mindset of “snacks” out of your brain. Think meals, feeding times, and so forth. Each meal and feeding time is created equal. Protein keeps you full, has a small impact on blood sugar, helps to repair and build new muscle tissue, increases your metabolism, and will help you achieve the body you want.
Good habit #3
Start timing your nutrients. A balanced diet is great, but if you want to get your physique to the next level, learning how to time your nutrients is paramount. I’m a firm believer in nutrient timing and the research is out there holding it’s own – carbohydrates are best eaten around your workout. Include carbs in your pre and post workout meals. By eating them before, you will ensure your body has the glucose and energy it needs to power through a hard, intense workout. By consuming them after, a generous spike in insulin, combined with a high quality protein source, will jumpstart the recovery process, shuttling those nutrients directly into your muscle cells. Opt for faster digesting carbs post-workout.
Good habit #4
Healthy fats at every meal. Get some form of healthy fats in at every meal, with post-workout nutrition being the exception. If you are on a higher carb diet, your fat intake will be lower, but that doesn’t mean that it is non-existent. Gear your fat intake around the healthy oils (extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, etc.), nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), omega-3’s (fatty fish like salmon, halibut, or supplements), and other great sources of fat such as avocados, nut butters, trace saturated fat from grass-fed animal protein, and flax and seeds.
Do you recognize some of those bad habits above? Do you constantly practice one of them… or maybe even a few of them? Start correcting those bad habits and slowly implement newer, good habits that will soon take the place of the other ones. Remember, our habits shape our life.
Wishing you all the best in 2016!