Getting a handle on my nutrition has been one of the best things that I ever did. I have learnt so much about fueling my body and my training in the last two years, since I have started to dial it in. I look back on photos from a few years ago, when I thought my nutrition was good, and my physique is now completely different. I thought I was eating enough food, and eating healthily – but I quickly realised that I wasn’t eating enough of any of the macros (protein, carbs or fats). The best tip I can give you for success with your nutrition is meal prep! It is so easy to get off track if you open the fridge and there’s nothing there.
I am fortunate that I don’t have to build my own nutrition plan, and I asked the experts. I use diet templates to plan my nutrition from day to day. I’m not cutting, but I follow the base plan. This gives me options for a non-weight training day, or light/moderate/hard/twice a day training. The most important thing is getting in the macros in the right quantities each day, and the least important thing (to me) are the timings of the meals. I can’t be too precious about my meal timings as I work full time as a paramedic, on a rotating shift pattern, on twelve hour night or day shifts.
The last thing I want to do after being out of the house for fourteen hours is meal prep, so I always do some batch cooking before a run of shifts. Usually, I will roast a whole chicken, cook a 1kg salmon side and make a chilli or spag bol. I work out how much protein (in grams) is in the whole pan, and divide it by 30 (the amount of protein in grams that I have per meal). That all goes into Tupperwares in the fridge and I just add salad or vegetables to each one, plus carbs and fats, depending on training. I have to be a bit clever with my carbs when I’m on shift, because if I have eaten as though I’m training and then I’m off late and can’t train, I don’t want to be over eating. I try to overcome this by not having carbs until my second or third meal, and then I’ll adjust as needed later on.
I take the ‘little and often’ approach to nutrition, and I will eat six meals per day, or seven if I’m on shift. One of those meals will be a workout shake with whey protein and intra-workout carbs. Again, the amount of carb is dependant on how hard I’m training – 50g carb for a light workout and 100g carb for a hard training session. The last meal of the day, without fail, is casein pudding before bed! I don’t use any apps to track my meals, and I couldn’t tell you how many calories I have each day, but I know my macros, I do weigh all my food, and I eat to fuel my performance, meaning each day is different.
I usually sit around 90-91kg, but last year I entered a rowing competition in the <90kg category. This is the only time I have needed to cut weight. I didn’t want losing weight to impact on my performance, and I wanted to do it in a way that saw me losing body fat rather than muscle. From about eight weeks out, I made a commitment to eating clean, and only eating foods on the ‘RP approved’ lists, and I cut my daily fat intake by half. I stuck at these macros for two weeks, monitoring my average weights for the week. When I wasn’t seeing the scale drop day to day, I found that there was a real temptation to cut more food out quickly, but I held my nerve and waited until my weekly averages plateaued before I took more food away. Throughout the cut, I kept all my carbs and intra-workout carbs, and only reduced fats. When the scale plateaued, I dropped a further two servings (30g) of fat, creating more of a calorie deficit. Towards the end, I tightened up on the extra bits that I don’t usually think about – butter on toast, egg yolks, cooking oil etc – and that seemed to have some impact. I didn’t need to lose more fats from my diet, and I kept my bedtime almond butter and casein pudding! In the week leading up to the comp, I was consistently under 90kg, so I didn’t make any further changes and I weighed in light on game day!