Beginner’s Guide to Fitness Nutrition

Get started on solid footing with these quick tips and meal plan.

You’ve made the choice to take control of your diet to build muscle and get healthy. So now what?

So much conflicting advice exists when it comes to sports and fitness nutrition. A magazine or website will tell you that you need to reduce your protein intake in favor of carbohydrates, then another article comes along telling you the exact opposite.

In my experience, there are some simple guidelines that can lead you through the confusion. Three to start with:

  1. Steer clear of any diet that tells you to focus on one food group and discard another completely.

    Instead, create a well balanced diet by choosing a variety of foods from all of the food groups. The key isn’t avoiding certain foods, it’s the proportions you have of each group. Fat intake should be kept low, while the bulk of your calories come from healthy proteins (chicken, turkey, lean steak, fish, and eggs) and carbohydrates, including whole grains and vegetables.

    For a general guideline, think about aiming for 40 percent to 50 percent protein, 30 percent to 40 percent carbs, and 10 to 20 percent or less fat on a daily basis.

  2. Don’t beat yourself up over food setbacks.

    The thing is, eating “clean” isn’t easy. After a while, it does get less challenging (and you even begin to crave healthy foods, trust me) but that doesn’t mean you aren’t tempted. Have a few slices of pizza? Cake? A bowl of ice cream? The key is, don’t obsess over it. Move on. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, because over time, if you get back on track, it’ll all even out. A slip-up here or there is definitely not enough to sabotage you in the quest for your physique goals.

  3. If you’re trying to lose weight, you should monitor your sodium intake, trying to stay under 2,300 mg per day.

    It’s not easy in a world where the average serving of Chinese food has that much sodium in one dish, and pretty much everything packaged contains excess sodium. It admittedly may be difficult at first for you — salt adds flavor, and people tend to crave it — but wean yourself off slowly if necessary, over the course of a few weeks.

    For those who’d like a little extra kick start, the following sample diet is built for a 175-pound to-200-pound male new to training who is seeking to add lean muscle mass. You can use it directly for a few weeks to a month, or at least as a guide to create your own diet that includes your favorite (healthy) foods.

    Meal 1: Breakfast

    • 6 egg whites, cooked
    • 1 cup instant oatmeal
    • ½ cup red raspberries
    • 2 medium (7-inch) bananas
    • ½ cup white potato/home fries

    Meal 2: Snack

    • 1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread
    • ½ cup raw carrots
    • 1 protein shake (mixed with water, 35 grams protein)

    Meal 3: Lunch

    • 1 cup instant white rice, cooked
    • 1 medium (2 ¾ diameter) apple
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 3 ounces canned tuna in water

    Meal 4: Snack

    • 1 cup almonds

    Meal 5: Dinner

    • ½ cup cooked broccoli
    • ½ lean sirloin steak, broiled or baked
    • 1 cup instant white rice

    Meal 6: Snack

    • 1 medium (7-inch) banana
    • 1 protein shake (mixed with water, 35 grams protein)
    • 4 grams flax seeds

Daily Totals: 2,673 calories, 192 g protein, 69 g fat, 321 g carbs

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