10 Nutritional “Laws” to Abide By for a Lean and Athletic Body

Recently I came across an article by Chris Shugart on t-nation.com entitled “One-Rule Diets That Work Every Time”. 

In it Chris outlines 4 rules that if you follow even just one of them, you can see major improvements in your physique, health and performance. While I’m not one for nutritional extremes, as I think that most of us work best by establishing habits that allow for moderation, when “rules” are followed with no exception you will see results.

Chris’ article inspired me to bring to you this article where I will outline 10 nutritional “laws,” like rules, but I think “laws” sounds better than rules. 

And if you are like my wife and her family, rules don’t mean much. In fact, when they hear the word “rule” they have a little voice in their head which tells them to do exactly the opposite of what the rule says. But they abide by the law, for the most part, so laws is what we will go with 🙂 

So here are 10 laws, that when you follow (even a couple of them to start) you will experience great progress with your health, performance and physique. 

Law #1 Build your meals around your protein.

Protein. 

We’ve all heard that protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to our health, performance and aesthetic goals. And looking at the science, I’d say that’s a fair statement. 

Now, maybe we don’t all need to be guzzling three protein shakes daily and lugging around a cooler full of chicken breast, ground beef and venison (deer meat…for all of you city folk), but making sure you consume a sufficient amount of protein daily is key for progress, muscle gain and fat loss.

In fact, studies show that simply by consuming more quality protein, you can experience muscle gain, and fat loss, without changing your training or other daily habits… sounds pretty good, right? 

So the easiest way to make sure you get enough protein is to build your meals around your protein source.  

This means first choosing what your protein will be for a given meal. Some of the best options are: 

Eggs

Chicken

Beef/Steak

Bison

Venison

Fish

Greek Yogurt

Cottage Cheese

Protein Powder

This by no means is an exhaustive list of available protein sources, but it is a good start. Some other, less “optimal” protein sources include: 

Nuts

Seeds

Cheese

Beans/legumes

While these sources do contain protein, the amount of protein per calorie is not that great. That doesn’t mean that you can’t add them to your meals, just that they are not the best sources to build your meals around. 

Once you have your protein source you can then begin to add in the rest of your meal…your veggies, healthy fats and carbs. But the main point here is to ensure that you have a quality protein source as the nucleus of each and every meal.

Then…

Law #2 Eat your protein first, then your healthy fats, then veggies and lastly, your carbs. 

It has been shown that you can experience positive results by tweaking the order in which you eat the components of your meal. 

adapted from elitelifestylecuisine.com

 

By consuming your protein, healthy fats and veggies before your first bite of carbs can help decrease post meal blood glucose levels, increase satiation and take advantage of the thermic effect of food.

Basically, by consuming your carbs last you will create a better insulin response, which is great for body composition shifts (less fat storage) and overall health. 

You will also increase your feeling of fullness as protein and fats are more satiating macronutrients when compared to carbs. And when you eat your veggies they create a bigger volume response in the stomach, again signaling to your brain that your are full. Both of these result in a lower likeliness of you overeating…good when you are going for fat loss. 

Lastly, protein in particular has a higher thermic effect than the other macronutrients. In other words, it takes more energy (calories) to break down protein and use/store it than both fat and carbs. 

So by consuming your meals in this order you will not only be less likely to overeat (especially on the carbs which are typically the hardest to eat moderately), but you are also taking advantage of some positive physiological responses. 

Law #3 Drink only zero calorie drinks.

This one is pretty straight forward. 

You should be drinking liquids all day long. Staying hydrated is a key component of a healthy, high performing and good looking body. But if those liquids you are drinking contain a significant amount of calories (most likely from added sugar), it will be very tough for you to stay within a conducive caloric range for your fat loss goals. 

Even if fat loss is not a goal, and lets say you are going for mass gain, consuming beverages that contain calories is typically not the best approach. Again, this is because most of the calories come from added sugar. Added sugar in excess, which can easily be achieved on regular soda, juice or sports drink, is no good for your health and performance. 

Now, I will say, the only time that may warrant taking in some liquid calorie is during an intense training, practice or competition. 

If you are an athlete and you are exerting at a high level for greater than 30-60 minutes you may want to add some quality carbs to your liquid intake. This will help replenish glycogen stores and allow you to continue to perform at a higher level as the session/practice/event continues.

Other than this exception zero calorie drinks such as water (gasp), tea and coffee are the best options…no exceptions!

Law #4 Only eat starchy carbs post training (after you complete your training).

Carbs, especially starchy carbs such as rice and potatoes, are great sources of energy and calories for intense and/or long duration physical output (training, practice, games/competitions). 

They provide the sugar (glucose) that can be quickly and easily broken down for fuel, and to replace muscle glycogen (muscle sugar) that is being depleted during activity. 

They do this by stimulating your insulin response to a greater degree, telling the body to soak up sugar in the blood and use it for energy or store it for later. This is great post training/competition. But if you do this throughout the day, especially on days you don’t have an intense/long bout of physical output, the glucose will not be stored as muscle glycogen, but more likely as adipose tissue (fat). 

Also, we have seen a host of health issues that arise when your insulin levels are constantly elevated, which results in our systems becoming less sensitive to insulin. 

All of this means that we need to monitor when we consume starchy carbs, and limit them to our post training feeding. They will be stored as useful nutrients and help us recover and restore the energy expended during training, etc., instead of being stored as excess fat tissue. 

An easy way to think about it is to “earn your starchy carbs,” meaning you shouldn’t have any unless you have “worked” for them. Now I don’t want you to think they are bad, but if your goal is to limit fat storage and achieve a leaner physique, than keeping them for post training is a good idea. 

Law #5 Make your breakfast the night before.

When the alarm blares, it is -10 degrees F and it is pitch black outside, it is hard to get motivated to construct a solid breakfast…unless you are like me and enjoy waking up because you know you get to eat 🙂 

But even then, there is no way that I am going to get up at 4:30am every morning, chop veggies, cut fruit and put together an omelet with a side of fruit. That is way to much effort, and way to early to do so. 

But, I will have an omelet with a side of fruit (or potatoes depending on if it is a training day). How??

I chop my veggies and cut my fruit the night before. Then all I have to do is throw the veggies in a pan, scramble some eggs and let them cook. Toss the cut fruit on the side once the omelet is done and boom! What would have taken me 15-20 minutes takes me 7-10. 

Or I will make a bowl of over night oats, a cottage cheese bowl with fruit and nuts or get everything out and on the counter for a shake. 

So maybe you don’t always have to make your breakfast completely the night before, but if you can get the main / most time consuming parts done first you can have quality breakfasts every single day. 

Breakfast is likely the most common meal when we grab something quick and the options are not usually the best…think cereal, processed breakfast bars, muffins, sugary yogurts, etc. 

Instead, follow the law of making your breakfast the night before and you will notice a huge improvement in your health, performance and body composition. 

Law #6 Drink 16 oz of water when ever you are feeling hunger pains, and wait 10 minutes.

When you are feeling the hunger pangs and feels like your stomach is going to collapse in on itself unless you get some food in it, what do you do? Well, most of us eat!

And that isn’t and unreasonable action. 

But, many times hunger pangs can actually be a product of being dehydrated. When you are dehydrated you may receive mixed signals on hunger…your body is telling you are thirsty but you have the sensation of hunger. 

So the next time you feel hungry, try drinking 16oz of water, and wait 10 minutes. If you still feel ravenous, go ahead and have a little something to eat…just make sure you opt for protein/healthy fats rather than processed carbohydrates!

By staying hydrated you can fight off the pangs of hunger and keep yourself from over consuming calories when you simply need water.  

Law #7 Always have salad, chicken and eggs in the fridge.

As the saying goes, if it is there you will eat it!

So if you have healthy AND easy options readily available you will be more likely to go for those instead of the unhealthy convenient options. 

For this reason, you should ALWAYS have eggs, baked/grilled chicken breast and salad in the fridge. You can even hard boil the eggs and have them ready to grab that way. 

When you don’t feel like cooking lunch or dinner, you can now throw a couple of handfuls of salad on a plate and then cut up a piece or two of chicken or a couple/few eggs and throw them on top. 

Add some dressing and there you go! Simple, quick and nutritious. 

Now if you wanted to do a little more work you could make chicken salad, or you could scramble the eggs and throw in some veggies. Either way you have some easy options to throw together when you don’t feel like investing a lot of time or energy into lunch or dinner. 

Law #8 When you are in a pinch, turn to protein powder first.

Above we touched upon how protein is your best nutritional friend when it comes to enhancing health, performance and body composition. 

Luckily for us, way back in the day some guys decided that it would be a good idea to make protein super easy to consume. They made it a powder that could be mixed in your preferred liquid, and then guzzled down. 

Now while I’m all for eating whole foods, sometimes you are in a pinch for time and can’t sit down to eat. This definitely isn’t ideal (see law #10), but life happens. It is your job to make an less than ideal situation just that, and not a piss poor situation. 

The best way to do this is to grab a scoop of protein powder and throw it in a shaker bottle with either water, milk or almond milk, shake it up and slug it down…or sip slowly 🙂 

It is super easy, won’t cause you to crash if you are consuming it while driving (unlike a hot bowl of soup for example), and it provides the key nutrient for your health and performance goals. 

If you need more, grab a handful of mixed nuts and a piece of fruit or carrots. Drink your shake first and then nibble on the other components of your on the go meal. 

I use MyProtein Impact Whey Protein Isolate. We typically go with the Mocha flavor, but they have tons of great flavors and the quality is outstanding.

It doesn’t get much easier, and this will keep you from grabbing some other quick “grab and go” option that is the opposite of a health and performance food…you know, pop tarts, chips, corndog, etc. 

Law #9 Check out the menu before you go to a restaurant.  

The best thing you can do before going out to eat is check the menu.

Almost every restaurant has their menu available online, and this allows you to check it out at home where you will not be influenced by the smells of the restaurant, or what other people have on their tables…if you are like me, you like to “go to the bathroom” when you get there so you can check out other’s meals. 

Instead of doing what I have been known to do, pull up the menu online and make a choice. Of course we are speaking of a choice that will be conducive to your goals. 

When you get to your table let your waiter/waitress know that you are ready to order and place your order right away. Again, this prevents you from changing your mind when you see the “Heart Attack Burger” with a side of cheesy fries pass by. 

The 5-10 minutes it takes before you arrive at the restaurant to pick out your meal can save you big time with your choice! 

Law #10 Eat only when you are sitting at the table.

Shout out to TAW athlete Nicole M. for this one! 

Nicole mentioned to me that she wanted to cut down on the grazing throughout the day, so she came up with this law, and I stole it…kind of ironic stealing a law 🙂

Just like checking the menu before going to a restaurant will help you from making a not so great decision with your meal choice, abiding by the law that you can only eat while seated at the table helps you from mindlessly snacking. 

How often do you simply grab a quick snack without even thinking about it? 

Maybe you are bored, or maybe something just sounds good. And if it is there, it is so easy to grab it and get on with your day. 

But if you know you have to sit down at the table to eat it, then it makes that snack much less appealing. 

Now I know I mentioned grabbing protein powder when you are running out the door, but in all other circumstances if you follow this law you will notice that you start to cut down on the grazing…if that is something you need to work on. 

Plus, in todays world it is not uncommon to hear of families that never sit down for a meal together. But if you abide by this law, you will start to have many more family meals. Or you will all just starve to death 🙂 

Thanks again for this one Nicole!

Don’t Break the Law

I promise you if you follow these laws you will experience great health, performance and aesthetic benefits. 

Even if you are not the model citizen and only follow a few of these laws (if you currently are not), you will see some great things happen. And then you can jump on the whole law abiding citizen thing and implement some more. 

If you found this useful, please help your friends and family members by passing this along to them!

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