Basic Nutrition for Uncertain Times
So you’ve spent the last week eating pizza, pasta, Cheesy Poofs, and drinking (insert chosen adult beverage here). You’ve re-posted every meme about the “quarantine 15” and getting fatty-fat on your snacky-snacks. Well, now is the time to get serious about your nutrition. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here and you don’t want to come out of all this looking like Cartman.
All joking aside, I’m not here to talk to you about weight loss or dieting. I want you to take this opportunity to see nutrition and healthy eating as a priority and a lifestyle, not a quick fix on your way to what you think of as your “perfect” body weight or physique. It’s time to put aside your fear of weight gain and know that your body has a wonderful way of self-regulating. Now is the time to learn to listen to your body’s hunger cues and start trusting that it knows what to do. It’s time to learn the difference between hunger and boredom. Now is not the time to start some crazy, 1200-calorie diet that will only make you lose your mind. Even with low to average activity levels, most females need 1800-2000+ calories and most males need at least 2,500.
Don’t get too bogged down with calories right now. I’ve listed the most important things to consider below. The rest will take care of itself.
One of the most important things you can do for your health and fitness goals right now is to eat plenty of protein. This is the only macronutrient I personally track, and it would behoove you to do the same. In general, I recommend 0.7-1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day. Protein helps prevent muscle breakdown, improves body composition, and helps keep us satiated and full.
My go-to protein sources: boneless, skinless chicken thighs (way more flavorful than breasts, but if you prefer eating seasoned rubber, go for the breasts); ground sirloin (90% lean); ground bison (more protein and less fat per ounce than beef); ground turkey (for the love of God, don’t get the 99% lean unless ground cardboard sounds appetizing to you); eggs; tofu (does not taste like eating your couch cushions when prepared properly, I promise); beef jerky; Greek yogurt; protein shakes (quick, easy, gets the job done)
Eat plenty of healthy fats.
Eat all the fat. Fat is your best friend, and now is not the time to go on a “quarantine cut” with 25 grams of fat per day. Fat helps with satiation, nutrient absorption, reduces sugar cravings, and balances hormones (very important if you’re a lady and anxiety and stress is at its peak).
Now this is not carte blanche to go dive elbow deep into your jar of almond butter – nuts and nut butters are a great source of healthy fat, but they are also easy to overeat and can cause GI distress for many folks. Some great sources of fat include: avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, butter (grass-fed if you can get it), ghee, eggs, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), and salad dressing (Primal Kitchen & Tessamae’s are my go-to brands for prepared dressings that aren’t 75% sugar).
Eat your carbs.
In spite of our current lower levels of activity, we still need to eat carbs. You may need a bit less of them right now, but they’re still your body’s energy source of choice. If you’re cutting to a ridiculously low number (that would be anything less than 100 grams/day), you will very likely see your energy plummet and experience brain fog and lethargy. As a result, you’ll feel less motivated to move and be productive.
Focus on high-quality, whole food sources of carbohydrate right now. This is probably not the time for Pop-Tarts, Cheez-Itz, and Fruity Pebbles. Fruit, rice, beans, oats, quinoa, potatoes, and root vegetables will serve you better, and will be easier for your body to digest – a must during times of high stress.
Focus on fiber.
Feeling puffy and bloated from too much Netflix and wine? Crush some fiber. You should be looking for 25-35 grams each day, which will help you feel full and keep digestion cruising. No need for any crazy fiber powder or supplement; leafy greens, lentils, berries, avocado, and oats will keep you moving.
Obviously we’re all moving a little (or a lot) less lately. 8k-10k steps a day might be out of reach, and that’s ok. Focus on what you can do instead of what you’re not doing. Can you get outside for a 30-minute walk? Can you do some yoga on your lunch break? Remember – the hour of lifting you’re not doing in a day has less impact on your energy expenditure than that extra hour or two of Netflix you’re watching.
This one speaks for itself. Your body is 60% water, so drink that shizz. If you’ve been drinking more coffee and alcohol than the good ol’ H2O, it’s time to balance the scales. If basic water isn’t your jam, try adding some lemon, lime, cucumber, or mint, or grab some electrolyte powder to mix in for a little flavor boost (my fave linked here).
Minimize alcohol consumption.
While we’re on the subject of drinking, the alcohol you’re consuming is definitely not helping your sleep, energy levels, or body composition. In spite of helping you fall asleep faster, alcohol actually severely disrupts sleeping patterns. You’ll wake up more frequently and spend less time in restorative deep sleep, leading to elevated cortisol levels during the day. Elevated cortisol causes the body to feel hungrier and be more susceptible to sugar cravings.
I’m not saying stop drinking by any means, but consistently having more than 6-8 drinks per week is doing your body and mind a serious disservice.
Get those micronutrients.
The more color you can get on to your plate, the better. I know fresh produce may be a bit harder to find these days, but frozen fruit and vegetables are just as good! Aim for 3-4 servings of vegetables and 1-2 servings of fruit everyday.
Throw some mushrooms and spinach into your scrambled eggs and have some fruit on the side and you’ve already killed two servings before 9am. Add some frozen fruit into your protein shake, or order the vegetable pizza instead of the pepperoni. Small changes like this will be game changers in the long run.
Lastly, please keep in mind that the reality is that even if you do gain a few pounds over the next couple of weeks, it doesn’t matter. It sure beats the alternative of getting sick. You have the rest of your life to be laser-focused on your fitness goals. For now, let’s take it a day at a time and get through this together. I’m here for any advice you might need, nutrition-related or otherwise. Email me at email@example.com with any questions.
2020 03 26