As we roll into 2013, many of us reflect back on 2012…what we did well, what needs improvement and what we want to do differently in 2013.
So…what did you do well? In what areas can you improve? What changes do you want to make for 2013?
If you’re reading this site, I can bet that a sound nutrition plan is on the top of your list of priorities. It’s definitely on the top of mine. The problem is, where do you start? Should you go Paleo? Low-carb? Should you carb backload? Or intermittently fast?
The truth? It’s hard to know where to start. Every one of us is different and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We also have different nutrition histories, goals, priorities and dedication levels-and that’s OK. It’s really important to start where you are and make changes that you can stick with long-term. For example, if you are currently eating fast food twice a day, resolving to stick to a 100% Paleo diet from here on out probably isn’t realistic. In the same vein, if you currently follow a sound nutrition plan 90% of the time, then setting a goal of eating a serving of protein with every meal doesn’t make much sense because you probably already do that.
We really wanted to issue a 30 day challenge to our readers, but instead of choosing just one challenge, we came up with several challenges that you can choose from based on your current situation. So how do you know what’s right for you?
Read the descriptions below and figure out which category you fall into. (Keep in mind that not all statements will apply to you, but pick the level that most resembles your current eating patterns).
Level 1 Description:
You are relatively new to good nutrition. You haven’t consistently followed a good nutrition program in the past, or if you have, it’s been for less than 12 months. You feel overwhelmed with all of the conflicting nutrition information, and aren’t sure where to start. You may find it difficult to stick to a stricter eating regimen.
Level 2 Description:
You are not new to good nutrition. You have been following a good nutrition program consistently for 1-3 years with at least some success. You have mastered the basics like eating protein with every meal. You may be ready to experiment with some more advanced nutrition protocols to take your results to the next level.
Level 3 Description:
Good nutrition is a foundation of your life. You have been following a good nutrition program consistently for at least 3 years and have had a lot of success. You may or may not have experimented with more advanced nutrition protocols like intermittent fasting or carb backloading.
So which level seems most applicable to you and your nutrition history? Based on your answer, choose one of the following challenges to embark on for the next 30 days to get the best results of your life.
Level 1 Challenge:
Since you may have struggled to consistently follow a sound nutrition program in the past, keep it simple. Resolve to make the following changes each week, and allow that change to become a consistent habit. Allow these habits to build upon one another and lay the foundation for how you will eat in the future.
Week 1: Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re mostly full.
OK so this may seem like the most basic of eating principles, and it is. But you would be shocked how seldom people follow this rule! We have trained ourselves to eat at specific times, and to clean our plates, without any regard to whether we are actually hungry or not. We eat breakfast because we are “supposed” to, we get popcorn at the movies because, well, that’s what people do at the movies. We mindlessly snack on chips while watching TV. Start paying attention to when you are hungry, eat slowly and chew your food well, and stop when you are satisfied, but not stuffed. You’ll be shocked at how differently you eat when you actually slow down and eat mindfully.
Week 2: Eat a serving of protein with every meal. This can be chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, salmon, venison, high quality protein powder, whatever you want! Just eat a serving with every meal and snack. Protein will keep you satiated and help build lean sexy muscle that will re-shape your body and keep your metabolism revving all day long.
Week 3: Eat a serving of vegetables with every meal. Raw, roasted, sauteed, baked, steamed…doesn’t matter. There are so many delicious vegetables to choose from and so many ways to enjoy them, adding them to your meals should be a cinch. Make sure you choose lots of different colored veggies to ensure that you’re getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
Week 4: Eat a serving of good fats with every meal. Not only is fat delicious and filling, but it’s imperative for the absorption of many vitamins. Plus, many women don’t eat enough fat, and that leaves them unsatisfied and craving sugar. So make sure you have a serving with every meal. Some good choices are: coconut oil, pasture butter, olive oil, nuts and nut butters, avocado, fatty fish, grass-fed beef, and ghee.
Level 2 Challenges (pick 1):
You have a history of following sound nutrition principles, but it may be time for you to kick things up a notch to continue to get results. The best way that I have found to do this is to manipulate carbohydrate levels. There are several ways to do this, but I outline my two favorites in this article. Pick one and stick with it for 30 days! They are as follows:
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet –
- Keep your net carbs under ~30 grams a day, while consuming at least 1 gram of protein per lb. of body weight.
- Use a ratio of 35-40% protein, 5-10% carbs, and 50-55% fat.
- Your calorie level depends on many factors, but if you have no clue where to start, eat 13-15 calories per lb. of body weight and adjust from there.
- Eat plenty of fibrous/leafy vegetables.
- Follow the above program for 7 days, then have an 8 hours ½ re-carb day every week.
- Your re-carb day should consist of tons of carbs (at least 2-3 grams per lb. of body weight if you care to count)
- Start out with less processed foods like fruit and potatoes, and monitor their effects on your body. Later, you can experiment with more processed foods like ice cream, candy, etc. and monitor what happens.
This usually works very well for clients who prefer to be “on” or “off” a “diet.” This is for the folks who despise moderation.
Carb Cycling Diet – Technically you are cycling all macronutrients with this program, but the carb levels vary the most, hence the name “carb cycling.” Basically you eat very low carbs on your non-training days, and on training days you consume a fair amount of carbs post workout. The numbers below are simply basic guidelines. You should monitor your results and adjust accordingly.
1 gram of protein/lb. of body weight
.8-1 grams of fat/lb. of body weight
< 30 grams carbs
1.25 grams of protein/lb. of body weight
.5-.6 grams of fat/lb. of body weight
1.25 grams of carbs/lb. of body weight (maybe slightly more or less depending on the intensity of the training session)
This approach generally works best with people who prefer to be able to have smaller amounts of foods they desire on a more regular basis. This is NOT good for people who cannot control themselves once they start eating carbs.
Pick one of these programs and follow it for 30 days for fast results!
Level 3 Challenges (pick 1):
You’re no newbie to good nutrition. You likely eat really well 90% of the time, and it’s going to take something serious to really challenge you! Below are 3 options that fall into the more “hardcore” category. Choose the one that you find most challenging and stick with it for at least 30 days. Heck, you’re so hardcore, you may want to try 60 days! Either way, give it a go and kick those results up a notch!
Choice 1: Whole 30 Challenge – A 30 day challenge based on the 9 factors that Dallas and Melissa Hartwig agree are vital for optimal health, this program is no joke, and it’s definitely not for the weak-willed. You’ll be eliminating all processed foods and focusing on eating nutrient dense, whole, unprocessed foods. Commit to this program 100% and we guarantee that not only will you lose body fat, but you’ll feel much better as well. Check out the book, It Starts With Food, for a host of education and a solid plan to get you on track.
Choice 2: Intermittent Fasting – If you haven’t experimented with intermittent fasting in the past, this may be the time for you to try it. There are numerous ways to intermittent fast, and it’s up to you to find what works best for you. Maybe you prefer to fast for 16 hours and eat for 8? Or maybe you like a 20:4 fast:feast ratio? Or heck, maybe you’re someone who simply likes to do a 24 or 36 hour fast once a week? Regardless of your preferred fasting method, do some research and find out what works best for you, and stick with it for a whole month. At the very least, you’ll learn what it’s like not to be a slave to food, and you’ll recognize that you won’t die if you go more than 4 hours without a meal. Eat Stop Eat is a great program to get you started.
Choice 3: Elimination Diet – Like intermittent fasting, there are many ways to do an elimination diet. You can get tested for food allergies and remove all of the foods to which you are allergic. You can pick some common allergens like wheat and dairy and remove them for 30 days before adding them back in and seeing how you feel. Or you can pick foods that make you feel sluggish or lethargic and remove them for 30 days and see if it makes a difference.
Our recommendation is this: Pick 2-3 foods that you notice may not always sit well with you, that you haven’t wanted to give up. Remove them from your diet for 30 days and see how you feel. Add them back in one at a time after 30 days and see how you feel then. You may have just discovered a food sensitivity that was hindering your progress.
Not sure what foods make you lethargic and sluggish? Here is a list of some common allergens. Pick 2-3 from this list to give up for 30 days: wheat/gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, fish, shellfish, tree nuts. After 30 days, add them back in one at a time and see how they make you feel.
There you have it! Six 30-day challenges to choose from that will be sure to bring you great results in the new year. Let us know below which one you plan to try out!