Today, I’m literally opening my email inbox to you.
The emphasis my coaching service puts on empowering you through education to be the best version of yourself, means I spend a lot of time going super in-depth answering your questions, and there’s definitely a trend for the most frequent questions clients need help with.
Because I want to give you more education, here are my answers to the four most common questions I get asked by online clients (pulled straight from my inbox).
If you want realistic strategies applicable to every day life, this is the blog for you.
This is THE most common question I get.
To get sustainable results, it’s crucial that you learn how to manage your nutrition when you’re traveling or busy. Because in the past, these were the times you “fell off the wagon”. It doesn’t make sense to wait until you’re “not busy” to hire a coach – until you learn to manage the busy times you would normally lose your progress, you’ll constantly find yourself starting over.
Holidays coming up? Lots of travel for your job? Perfect, let’s get to work. I’ll teach you exactly how to manage fitness, so no matter what life throws your way, you’ll know how to maintain a lean, strong body.
Yeah I could go off about this for a long time… but anyways, here are my recommendations:
1. Implement Intermittent Fasting
The biggest problem you’ll run into while traveling or on vacation?
There’s a lack of low energy-density foods around you. Between eating most of your meals at gas stations and restaurants, the calories add up quickly.
One of the easiest tools to help manage this is following something like the classic 16|8 fasting strategy… which is a cooler way to say…
“Don’t eat your first meal until noon.”
Now, fasting isn’t fat loss magic – you won’t suddenly burn more fat using this approach. But, it seems to be easier for most of us to skip breakfast and “save up” calories for later in the day, than it is to eat tiny meals throughout the day, and hope.
Especially if your food options are poor (9 times out of 10 they will be for breakfast on the road), you’re better just not eating until you have more quality options available (traditionally lunch & dinner have more protein-rich options).
2. Consider The Emotional Value Of Meals
Every meal you eat you take a certain amount of “emotional value” from. Some meals are about more than just the food – the people, places and context give the meal a certain psychological benefit. These meals are high in emotional value. (E.g. I was just talking to a client about her sister’s upcoming wedding dinner being a meal of high emotional value.)
Meals that are high in emotional value, are likely worth the trade-off of not eating 100% on plan, for the sheer amount of enjoyment you get out of it. (Also, don’t get to carried away with this concept – if you’re like me, it’s easy to rationalize why every meal is high in emotional value.)
It’s easy to say “screw it, I’m traveling” and eat a ton of calories with every meal… when really, you would have enjoyed that meal just as much with a chicken salad.
Be strategic with your calorie splurges, save them for high-value meals.
Touching back on intermittent fasting, breakfast is typically the lowest emotional value meal of the day. We’re tired, grumpy, and really don’t even think much about what we’re eating. So when traveling or on vacation, it often makes sense to skip breakfast altogether, so you can get more value out of your later meals.
3. Focus on Protein + Calories Only
Traveling is a stressful thing for most people.
Shit, vacation is stressful for some people. As the father of 9 kids, I’m pretty sure vacations were the most stressful events of the year for my poor dad as we grew up.
Point is, during times you as a client are going to be extremely stressed, the best thing we can do is simplify.
This means if you’re tracking macros, for the duration of your trip we focus on protein and calories only. Changing our approach like this for a few days won’t hurt your results, and it’s much easier to manage in situations where you have very little control of your food.
4. Stock Up On Protein
I would highly recommend having the spot you’re staying at stocked up with lots of lean protein sources (the hardest thing to come by on the road).
Not only will this help you hit your protein goal daily, but also better manage eating at restaurants better. A strategy I’ve often implemented with clients & myself – eating a serving of lean protein right before you go out. If you’re ravenous, the odds of blowing your calories out are much higher. Having a bit of protein in your belly will satiate you, in turn giving you much more willpower to handle your meals out.
It’s also smart to stock up on fruit. The combo of the fiber from the fruit + the lean protein sources from above will keep you full, and make it easier to avoid more calorie-dense snacks.
5. Choose Foods & Meals With The Fewest Ingredients When Eating Out
A less complex meal is easier to track accurately. Identify options on the menu with the fewest possible ingredients, and roll with one of those. The fewer ingredients your meal has, the more room for error you’re removing. I already have an entire blog on The Best Strategies For Tracking Your Macros At Restaurants And Social Events, so I won’t go to in-depth here.
Some solid options:
My clients tend to fall into two main groups:
1. Other coaches
2. Super busy professionals
This is a super common issue for the latter. Maybe it’s a constant stream of business dinners. Maybe their significant other isn’t quite used to this new lifestyle and way of eating. Just like everything else in nutrition, it all comes down to planning ahead. This is a situation where I’ll generally hold you accountable to planning your macros ahead of time, and emailing them to me so we can be sure you have a solid plan of attack in place.
Below is literally an email I sent to a client on this topic not long ago.
First of all, you have to realize eating meals out is less optimal for your progress. Many aren’t really “optional” (e.g. work dinners), but also realize the more you eat out, the more room you’re bringing in for tracking error.
That said, let’s figure out how to best manage this.
So – since I’m here to educate you on how to do this on your own in the future, this is going to be a collaboration, not just me telling you “eat this”.
Generally the best strategy here is to split this up into 4 meals, or 3 meals and a snack.
Ok, so I’m going to lay out rough sample days here – I want YOU to come back through, and plug in your foods in specific portions and what foods you think you’d like best at each meal. I would say the best thing you could do would be to take the template I’m giving you here, and plug it in to MyFitnessPal.
^That would look something like: “Ok, so I know I need a protein source here that = about 30g protein, I’ll plug in ____ (greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or whatever protein sounds appealing at that meal).
So you would:
1. Plan out all of your proteins for each meal FIRST. Adjust the portion-sizes as needed OR add another protein sources as needed to get 25-40g at each meal.
2. From there, you’ll see “Ok, now that I’ve for sure hit my protein goal, I have ____ calories to fill with carbs and fats (it’ll likely be 700-900 on weekdays).” From here, add in carb sources and fat sources as desired with each meal, and adjust portion sizes as needed to make it work with your calorie goal.
I know this is more work for both of us than if I just gave you a meal plan, but this is teaching you how to do this for a lifetime.
I’ve also provided sample templates for each day below – I want you to take these, along with the instructions above, make them your own, and then shoot ’em back to me. I’ll give you my feedback from there.
Weekday where you have no work lunches/dinners:
Here, since you don’t really need to “save up” calories for anything, you can have more carbs and fats with each meal. This also means you can work in more foods that are a combination of protein + fat, protein + carbs, etc.
The below foods are purely example, and shouldn’t be followed exactly. Plug in your food choices that fit the examples.
Protein: Something like 2-3 eggs + cottage cheese or greek yogurt (~25-40g protein)
Carb: Fruit of your choice. Something like an apple or banana and some berries. (Or you can save this for a snack later.)
Fat: You’ll get plenty from your eggs here.
Protein: Something like Salmon or turkey meatballs (~25-40g protein)
Carb: Potato OR sweet potato (~30-40g carbs)
From here, I would add in veggies & condiments for another 10-20g carb
Protein: Something like lean ground beef/turkey/chicken, or a lean steak (~25-40g protein) (Think: things like turkey meatballs)
Fat: avocado, olive oil, etc.
Add in things like peppers, onions, salsa, etc. for another 10-20g carb.
You could do something like – Greek yogurt or cottage cheese (~20g protein)
Cheese stick or almonds
Weekdays with work lunches or dinners and/or potentially dinner with significant other’s family:
Here, to “save up” more calories, we basically want to focus on eating leaner protein sources (ones that are primarily protein), so you’ll notice in the example below, we drop a lot of the fats, and reduce carb source sizes as well.
Here I would opt for something like an egg white omelet with spinach & salsa, paired with a non-fat greek yogurt with a bit of fruit mixed in. This will still give you your protein goal, but you’re saving a lot of calories via fat, and eating less overall carbs.
Here, I would do something like a chicken or ground turkey stir-fry. The protein source is obviously your meat. Lots of stir fry veggies will help keep you full, and you can realistically add in a smaller serving of a carb source and be fine here.
This is your work or at your significant others, or your work dinner – not entirely under your control, so just focus on smart choices and prioritizing protein. Using our strategy, you have lots of calories saved up from the rest of the day.
Something like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
You’ll really start to see a trend here – the most important thing is simply having someone to hold you accountable to planning ahead. The strategy here is very similar to the one used above.
1. Start by plugging whatever you’re planning to eat/drink while out in first. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but we need a rough estimate so you know how to be smart with the rest of your day.
2. Plan the protein sources you need throughout your other meals of the day to hit your protein goal. Basically, just choose a protein source for each meal, and adjust the portion-sizes as needed or add another protein sources as needed. Be sure to hit this before you go out… you really quit caring about protein goals and whatnot once you start drinking.
3. From here, add in carb sources and fat sources as desired with each meal, and adjust portion sizes as needed to make it work with your calorie goal.
^And that’s how you plan ahead for a night out.
Any time we’re looking to “save up” more calories for later, the name of the game is focusing on eating leaner protein sources, and reducing calories via carb & fat sources.
If you need to save up a lot of calories, I’d implement a PSMF (protein-sparing modified fast) day. Here, the goal is to keep calories as low as possible, while still hitting your protein goal. Basically, you just focus on eating lean proteins and lots of veggies. So your day could look something like this:
Here, you’ll also be swapping fats for alcohol (following this strategy, you’ll have saved up a lot of calories through the day because this is a very low fat sample day). This is a good strategy because eating more carbs will help soak up the alcohol, and fat and alcohol are metabolized by the body most similarly.
That said, the biggest enemy to your fat loss here isn’t actually the alcohol, it’s drunk eating. We don’t want you drinking on an empty stomach – as soon as you get a few drinks in, you’ll lose a lot of inhibition, and (from personal experience) you’re a lot more likely to smash a whole pizza. This is where the strategy of “saving up calories” before drinking backfires.
SO, to prevent this, we want to get you eating a very satiating meal 1-2 hours before going out. I’d recommend focusing on your two most satiating foods (lean protein & fibrous carbs), while still keeping fats low to swap for alcohol.
Some solid, high-fiber foods:
Basically, this meal should be 25-40g protein from a lean source like chicken, ground beef/turkey, tuna, etc. + 25-50g carbs from high-fiber sources like potatoes, veggies, fruit, etc.
This helps you enjoy yourself in moderation. I use this every time I drink. Most of my clients do as well.
All that said, you can easily drink thousands of calories without realizing it.
The easiest thing to do – get liquor with diet soda. Crown and diet is my personal favorite. By switching to diet soda, you’re saving yourself ~100 calories per drink. A beer is also only ~100 calories, but you can drink A LOT more beer… so I’d stick with liquor. Vodka water, whiskey & water or whiskey & diet, etc.
The Lifestyle Diet – a free ebook I released is your complete guide to managing situations like this. Download it here now.
The concept of periodizing nutrition is still somewhat foreign in the nutrition coaching space – which is disappointing, because it’s an essential part of what I do with you as a client to help you acheive your leanest, strongest, and most confident self, while maintaining a healthy metabolism & hormones. A periodized approach to your nutrition equals much more sustainable results.
That said, it can yield a “why are we stopping?!” moment when I tell a fat loss client that we’re taking a diet break. Again, it all comes down on educating you as a client on why we’re doing things, so you can sustain your results in the future.
When you diet, you experience something called “metabolic adaptation”.
Your metabolism downregulates as a response to you eating fewer calories and your body getting smaller/lighter.
The longer you diet, the more pronounced all these adaptations get.
To add to all of the physiological adaptations, dieting is just very hard psychologically. Honestly, this is the biggest problem that stalls people fat loss – you’re just sick of dieting, and not able to adhere consistently enough to make progress.
Enter: Diet breaks. A great tool for adherence, and reversing many of the negative adaptations to dieting – returning the hormones leptin, ghrelin, and the thyroid hormone T3 to more normal levels. Basically, they help you “reset” your body (not entirely, but lots of benefits) and make weight loss easier, more sustainable, and healthier when you go back to dieting.
The length of a diet break can vary A LOT. Typically 10 days to 4 weeks. 10 days is the minimum amount of time it takes to most of the physiological benefits of a diet break. It often takes longer (up to 4 weeks) before you’ll feel mentally ready to diet again.
So now I really am opening my inbox up to you.
Really. This is an open invitation to shoot me any questions you have related to nutrition, training, being a better coach, etc.
I LOVE helping others, and giving, so let me help you out. Shoot me your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.