Nutrition

Food for Noobs – A Complete Beginners Guide to Nutrition, Meal Prep, and Macros.

Noobnoun, informal – a person who is inexperienced in a particular sphere or activity.

Have no idea where to start when it comes to eating healthy?  You’re in the right place!  In this article, I will break down the basics of macronutrients, making meal prep simple, and how to sustainably eat healthy.  

If you are exercising regularly, you want to maximize your efforts in the gym by properly fueling yourself.  And that is exactly how you should start looking at your body, a vehicle that needs FUEL in order to perform properly.

YOUR BODY IS A PERFORMANCE VEHICLE

A few years ago, a former colleague of mine made an interesting statement regarding nutrition.  Someone at the office had brought in a dozen donuts for some special occasion one day.  When my colleague was offered one he replied, “No thanks.  That’s like putting mud in a Ferrari.”  Douchy statement?  Why, yes it was.  True statement?  100%!

Your body is much like a high performance car.  You need to get regular tune ups and give it the fuel it needs so you can rev your engine to the max.  If you are racing your Ferrari around a track day in and day out, you will need to give it high octane fuel.  Not mud!  If you’re going to start pushing your body to the limits day in and day out, you will need to provide it with the nutrition to keep it running efficiently.

SIMPLIFY YOUR DIET

You can overthink this topic until you literally cannot make a decision.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of nutrition articles out there.  Many of which have different studies referenced, research articles, and personal experiences attached to them.  It seems like research studies are often biased, contradicting, and ever changing with their findings.

Although there are some clear cut scientific facts regarding nutrition, it can be widely confusing.  Truth is, most of what we know about nutrition is an inexact science, or else there would be more clear cut answers for us.  In this article I will break things down to a very basic, sustainable, and manageable level so that you can get the ball rolling.

MACROS 101

First, you need to understand that your body needs 3 basic macro nutrients; protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Each macronutrient contains calories, which your body uses as energy.

Protein helps build and repair muscle tissue and other cells in the body.  1 gram of protein contains 4 calories.  

Carbohydrates give you an immediate energy source.  1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories.  

Fat is a secondary source of energy and helps transport fat soluble vitamins.  1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.

All three of them are equally important to your health and nutrition.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.  Next, you have to figure out which foods YOU like and want to eat.

MAKING YOUR LIST

It all starts at home when you make a list of things to buy at the grocery store.  Pick foods that you will actually eat and won’t go to waste.  I always suggest starting with picking your favorites from three types of food groups:  Protein, produce, and a form of carbohydrate.  This is for the bigger meals; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We’ll get into what snacks are good options in a bit.

Protein – Chicken, fish, eggs, red meat, and pork are the primary protein sources.  Pick at least one that you really enjoy eating.  In the beginning of your nutrition journey, stay simple and don’t overthink it.  If you can eat chicken for days on end, start off with that.

Produce – These are your fruit and vegetables.  Not everyone loves fruit and veggies as much as I do, but everyone can think of at least one fruit and one vegetable that they find tasty.  Stay basic here and just pick one or two fruits and one or two vegetables that you know you will eat.

Carbohydrate – These are pastas, rice (any kind, don’t overthink it), breads, quinoas, yams, and any other carbohydrate rich foods.  Pick one that you really like and get a bunch of it.

PREPARING YOUR FOOD

Now that you have a packed fridge and pantry, it’s time to get to work in the kitchen.  I suggest meal prepping at least 3-4 days in advance.  Personally, I meal prep for 5-6 days in advance.  This way, I always have healthy food packed up and ready to consume throughout my hectic work week.

You don’t want to get caught in a weak moment when you are starving with nothing to eat.  That is when you make poor nutrition decisions.  I will share with you my tips on how to make this as healthy and convenient as possible with real life examples.  You will need a lot of tupperware containers to store these foods in your refrigerator.

  1. I bake my whole chicken breasts in a cooking sheet with olive oil for 40 minutes at 450 degrees fahrenheit.  Throw on some seasoning of your choice and call it a day.  My favorite is Mrs. Dash because there are so many different varieties.  You can find a plethora of spices and seasonings at the store.
  2. For breakfast, I will pre scramble or hard boil a bunch of eggs so I can have them ready to go in the morning for breakfast.
  3. I bake my vegetables in a cooking sheet in olive oil for 40 minutes at 450 degrees.  This makes them slightly burnt, which I love.  If you don’t like that burnt flavor, I’d bake for about 30 minutes.
  4. My go-to is white rice or protein fortified pasta for carbohydrate.  Simple, calorie dense, and something I love eating.

I know you’re probably thinking that this is some pretty boring stuff, and you would be correct.  If it’s so boring that you won’t consume it, feel free to add some sauces on top to spruce things up.  I say this with caution.  If you get carried away with certain barbecue sauces, teriyaki marinades, or pasta sauces with a lot of sugar, it can add up quick.  Be conscious about that and go easy on the sauce.  I personally like to just add low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos for flavoring.

SNACK TIME

You want to pick snacks that are easy to consume throughout the day.  We are busy creatures and we want to make sure that they are portable, easily stored in a lunch container, and not too messy to eat while on the go.  Here are some of my favorites…

  • Mixed nuts – I prefer almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
  • Fruit – My favorites are apples, bananas, and tangerines.
  • Vegetables – My go-to is cherry tomatoes, carrots, and raw bell peppers.
  • Tuna/Sardines – This can be gross if you consume alone (which I do), but they are easily flavored.  You can always mix the tuna with relish and mustard, and put some seasoning on the sardines.  Canned chicken is also a quick and easy option.
  • Protein Supplements – These can be very convenient when trying to eat healthy on the go.  The less ingredients your protein shake/bar has, the better. 

WHEN TO EAT AND HOW MUCH

With this being a BEGINNERS guide to nutrition, my suggestion is do not worry about meal timing.  Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.  Drink about a gallon of water per day.  Try your best to be mindful of your mood, energy levels, and cognitive ability.  If you notice you are feeling groggy or lethargic, it’s probably a sign that you need to drink water or eat some of your pre-made meals/snacks.  If you stick to that, you won’t have a huge problem staying full, energetic, and healthy.

SAMPLE

Here is a general sample of my day.  I use this sample often when speaking with clients about nutrition goals and it seems to be a reasonable, practical, and sustainable plan for those with busy schedules.  I am a 195 pound, 38 year old male, who exercises 4-5 days per week for 1-2 hours.  Exercise consists of weight lifting and CrossFit style workouts.  You may need to add or subtract the amount of food you are eating based on your individual body type and lifestyle.  I’d love to help you figure out what your individual needs are!

Meal 1 – 4 whole hardboiled eggs, 1 piece toast with almond butter, 1 apple.  I eat this while I am driving to work since I wake up at the ass crack of dawn.

Meal 2 – Protein shake, 1 banana, and a handful of mixed nuts.  This is a quick and easy snack for me since I work 5 hours in the morning without a break.

Meal 3 – 1 can of tuna, 1 can sardines, 1 cup black olives, 4 tangerines, and a handful of mixed nuts.

Meal 4 – 1 chicken breast, baked vegetables (as many as I can eat), 1 cup white rice.

Meal 5 – This meal varies but is usually the same as meal 4.  Sometimes I will have breakfast for dinner since that is my absolute favorite.  When I do, I’ll eat 4 scrambled eggs, 1 avocado, 2 pieces of bacon, and some sort of carbohydrate (rice or bread).

START TODAY!

This advice is not ground breaking, earth shattering, front page news.  It IS however, reasonable, realistic, and straight forward.  This approach to nutrition will set you up for LONG TERM success and prevent extreme weight fluctuation.  

This plan will get you started on the right path towards your fitness goals.  Remember, just like with anything in life, it will take time and patience for you to see results.  Give it 4-6 weeks for your body to catch up with what you’re doing to it.  I promise you will not be disappointed!

NEED SPECIFIC FITNESS GUIDANCE?

If you would like to work with me as your personal fitness coach, click HERE.  I’d love to help you!

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