This was me in University. Maybe it was that freshman fifteen, but I don’t think so. I wasn’t a drinker or a partier, I knew how to cook healthy foods, and played hockey twice a week. I even hit the gym five times a week for strength training and cardio. I ate almonds and avocados and salads and lean meats and thought I was doing everything right to have a body like the girls in the fitness magazines who told me to eat avocados.
Below is me about six months ago. I’m actually leaner now, I just haven’t had anyone take pictures of me where you can really see my body composition. I go to the gym six days a week, and I rarely do cardio. I still eat a lot of the same foods I ate in the University picture, and I probably drink close to the same amount of alcohol, so what’s the difference?
There are three main differences between what I did in university, and what I do now. Don’t feel bad if you’re doing all the things I used to do. I know what it’s like to live in a world with confusing nutrition information, and hopefully these three points bring you a dash of clarity and more than a few ounces of progress.
1. (In)Consistency in Diet
What would university Brittney do?
In summary, my diet looked crazy-different every day of the week. What I ate from Monday to Friday was often fantastic, and then I would have a weekend of nachos and cheesecake until I was full to my eyeballs. Here are some more of the specifics of how I ate in my late teens and early 20s:
- I loved me some cheese, avocados, and almonds. I would make whole-wheat lasagnas topped with all of the cheese. I’d eat a whole avocado in a wrap and two handfuls of almonds at a time. Almonds and avocados are healthy, right, magazine lady? 🙂
- University Brittney’s favourite post workout nutrition source was chocolate milk. Ask any player on the Saskatoon Blues team and they’d tell you I’d drink 500 mL after every hockey game. A Milk 2 Go chocolate milk has 320 calories, 6 g fat, 54 g carbs (52 g of sugar, 2 g of fibre, and 0 g of starch), and 16 g of protein.
- I ate 3-4 servings of fruit per day. 8-10 servings of vegetables and fruit, isn’t that the recommendation?
- University Brittney ate a lot of wheat and bread (e.g. a banana and peanut butter sandwich on the bus to my poli sci class, a banana and Nutella crepe at the Crepe Factory, a wrap with supper). Apparently I also ate a lot of bananas.
- I’d eat a whole chicken breast or steak regardless the size. Who carries around a deck of cards?
- University Brittney went out for nachos and a beer with friends about once a week. AND I would eat a giant serving from a giant platter at OJs or Boston Pizza after eating otherwise normally that day. I probably downed 1250 calories in one sitting without thinking twice.
- I ate about four meals a day ranging from small to giant or from 350 calories to 900 calories on an average day, and 350 calories to 1250 calories on a nacho day.
In summary, I was all over the map.
What do I do now?
My diet looks very similar every day: About 45% carbohydrates (focused around my workouts in the form of starch), 25% protein, and 30% fat – although the foods might be different when I’m out with friends, I’m still hitting these numbers every day. I’ve learned consistency, which I believe is the #1 key to body composition results.
- I still eats avocados, cheese, and nuts, and also dark chocolate, but I eat them in moderation and I weigh and measure. I might have only 10 grams of cheese when University Brittney would have 85. I have ¼ or ½ an avocado instead of the whole thing. I have 5-10 almonds instead of two handfuls, and I have one piece of dark chocolate almost every day instead of snacking on Kit Kat bars sporadically. The difference in these choices sometimes would mean the difference between 4 g of fat and 35 g of fat in the same meal.
- My post workout nutrition is high in starch and protein, low in fat, and lower in sugar, but I do still enjoy something sweet now and then. 1-2x per week I have 3 Reduced Fat Oreos or ½ a Pop Tart with ½ a scoop of protein powder after a training session. Most days of the week I have a protein shake and rice or sweet potatoes, or protein powder mixed in oats. ½ a Pop Tart and ½ scoop of Trutein protein powder has 160 calories, 3 g of fat, 22.5 g of carbs (8.5 g of sugar, 1.5 g of fibre, and 12.5 g of starch), and 13 g of protein. 150 g of rice and ½ scoop of the same protein has 270 calories, 2 g of fat, 46 g of carbs (2 g of fibre and 44 g of starch), and 16 g of protein. Compare these with my chocolate milk, and I’m now getting a lot more starch, about the same amount of protein, less fat, and a lot less sugar and calories.
- I know that fruit, although high in fibre, is also high in sugar (and is linked to obesity when over consumed) and I limit my consumption of it. I eat 1.5 servings of fruit a day, tops, and instead eat tons of veggies (5 c. ish) throughout the day, and tons of starchy carbs around my workouts (oats, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes).
- I don’t eat very much bread or wheat, but I don’t feel bad when I eat it. Sometimes I have a bagel pre or post workout, or have a homemade bun with soup if mom makes it – I just track it like any other carb but know that if it’s been processed, humans have already taken some of the work away from my digestive system (and possibly some of the nutrients), and my body won’t be as happy as it would be with a whole-food option.
- I weigh my meat and eat between 2-4 ounces at a time. Even when I’m not dieting, I don’t eat a whole steak at a restaurant, and I take some of it to go.
- I haven’t had nachos in forever, but I still go out with friends to eat sometimes and pick a lower fat option, entering it into My Fitness Pal before it touches my mouth. When dieting, I ask for a menu with nutrition information. I often order a veggie, rice and meat dish, or a steak, potatoes, and salad and ask for it to be cooked without extra oils. I keep these meals to 350-450 calories. I still have a beer or glass of wine (or two) here and there, and also track it. When I’m not dieting, I eat whatever I want once in awhile without tracking because I’m human and eating is fun and food is delicious. This might mean an entire 6-ounce steak, or an (individual size) pizza, ½ a beer, and a dessert all to myself. I know I will lift all the weights the next day and one meal like this will not affect my body composition because of the habits I have in place for the rest of the week.
- While dieting I eat 6 meals varying from about 150 calories (a pre or post workout meal) to 375 (usually breakfast). While maintaining or gaining I eat 6 slightly bigger (250-500 cal) meals and I track sporadically. An example of how my pre and post workout meal would be a bigger version of my diet-style choices: I might have a full Pop Tart, some celery (to slow digestion), and ¾ of a scoop of protein 45 minutes before a workout, and a plate ½ full with sweet potatoes and 1/3 full of chicken breast immediately after a workout. Same principles, different amounts.
I’ve now found a system that works for me, and I can stick to it – and this is the reason above all others that allows me to maintain a physique about which people ask, “Have you always been so jacked?”
2. Different Training Regimes
What would university Brittney do?
I did bodybuilding style strength training, but much more cardio and I played hockey twice a week during the winter. I was the queen of the elliptical and often tried to use it while reading a fitness magazine telling me I should eat avocados. I spent on average 30 minutes lifting and 45 minutes per day doing cardio.
What do I do now?
I compete and train powerlifting (train for strength). I do CrossFit 1-2 x/week. When cutting for a competition, I sometimes walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes or takes the fat wiener dog for extra walks. I spend 1-2 hours per day lifting heavy weights and on average 10-15 minutes per day doing cardio.
3. Time to Progress
The picture of University Brittney was taken 9 years ago (omg I’m so old). I’ve remained active since then in a variety of ways, and all of this has for sure contributed to my progress.
I’ve now been operating on a solid nutrition system for over a year and a half. My training has been on point and strength-based for at least as long. The changes in my body didn’t happen overnight and the results didn’t seem drastic while I was living them.
If you’re listening to the lady in the fitness mag and eating almonds, avocados, fruit, lean meats, and also moving your body, you’re on the right track. I know how frustrating it can be to feel like you’re doing everything right, and then look in the mirror and not see the reflection you want. It doesn’t have to be this way – you don’t have to be fluffy for the rest of your life! You can make small daily changes to the amount of certain foods you’re eating, tweak your training regime, and learn to be patient, and before you know it you’ll be posing for a photoshoot in a bikini holding a barbell in your hands.
I hope you got some ideas from this blog, but if you’re looking for a twelve-habit, personalized system, check out my nutrition coaching page and then contact me. I have five spots left and prices are going up in the spring.
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Professional photo credit: Warne photography and Harnek Singh Rai.