Depending on your fitness goals, you might be required to focus on both fitness and nutrition, as you will one day learn that you cannot outwork your diet (unless you have all day to train). Eating food that is less than healthful is not going to give you the nutrients to continue longer workouts or strenuous work days. If you try, you will find that you will lose muscle, be susceptible to illness more often, and/or not have the ability to perform at your optimum levels. Here is why it is important to consider scheduling, planning, and preparing both training programs and a nutritious food plan:
1. If it is in the schedule, IT EXISTS - Whether you are focusing on your fitness training or your diet and nutrition, it helps to get it done when you have blocked out a section of the day to do it. Whether it is training first thing in the morning, at lunch for 30 minutes, or after work -- make time for you as if it was a business appointment. Same goes for planning your meals. Take some time on the weekend and plan your food for the week whether you pre-cook and package it or you have it ready to cook when it is meal time.
2. Eat Healthy Meals With More Vigor - Spend money on good food, take time to prepare it and you will more than likely be motivated to eat it quickly before it spoils and not sabotage your food plan by eating junk food.
3. Save time and money - Buying food on sale in bulk, prepare that food ahead of time and you will likely save money in the long run, especially compared to when you have no idea what to eat so you order pizza or go out to eat instead. In the end, you will save money and time during the week.
4. Less Waste of Food (aka money) - By pre-cooking and storing food in the freezer or refrigerator, you will be able to store perishable foods for the work week and not have it rot or go stale.
5. Less Clean Up / Less Cooking - Cooking a pre-packaged meal made previously is as easy as walking in the kitchen after a long day and turning on the microwave. You make less of a mess and spend less time having to clean the kitchen during the busiest times of the work week.
6. Less Tempted to Eat Out / Fast Food - If you have taken the time and effort to prepare these meals – that you should like anyway, you will be much less tempted to eat junk food during the week, and more likely to fight the impulses to stop at a drive through on the way home.
7. Prepared Meals Can Be More Balanced - With proper to attention going into purchasing, preparing, and storing meals ready to eat for the week, you will find you are more likely to have a healthier balance than if you did not plan accordingly. Placing fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats into a storage container for lunch or dinner will keep you on track better than winging it each day.
8. Don't Forget Healthy Snacks too - Fruits, almonds, beef jerky (no MSG), and boiled eggs are all easy foods to snack on if the hunger pangs of the day start to get to you. Perhaps mid-morning or mid-afternoon, in between meals, you find yourself starting to fade and losing focus or energy? If so, a few more calories will help you. If you are trying to reduce caffeine levels, the foods above can help you with increasing your fuel for more energy. However, there is nothing wrong with a low or no calorie caffeine source like unsweetened tea or coffee lightly sweetened, if that is your thing.
9. Supplements or Food? - There is a difference between supplement nutrition and food nutrition. Pay attention to the nutrition facts on the back your protein powder of choice. If there are other ingredients or some "proprietary blend" you will be using supplements. However, if you have pure protein powder, it is actually considered a food and regulated differently. There is a difference in Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts on the back of the containers. One will state NUTRITION FACTS and the other will have SUPPLEMENT FACTS, where it explains the amount of protein, carbs, fat calories, and other nutrients in the powder.
10. And Most importantly – Better Nutrition! - You are more likely to prepare foods with better nutrition value when packaging your own meals. By considering balanced nutrition in your meal planning, you have a great chance of sticking to the schedule. As stated above and as with fitness training, if it is not in the schedule -- it does not exist.
Closing Thoughts on Cheat Days - You may have many healthy meal options in your food court that you work near, or maybe your favorite restaurant offers a beautiful salad bar, but you also have many temptations to eat less healthful when in restaurants and multiple-option food courts. Some people prefer cheat days once a week. I personally find them setbacks as we are all human and are tempted to try "just one" (name favorite indulgence). When a food plan is working well for you, don't feel like you have to have a cheat day just because it is Saturday. If you don't want to eat pizza -- don't eat it. Stick to your plan another week before you feel you may really want / need a cheat day.
And The Secret - Losing weight as we age is difficult, and it becomes more difficult after you get into your 30-40's. When you start making good choices, they soon become habits. This daily persistence will soon become discipline, and that is the secret tool to any fitness or food plan.