Let’s say you’re a baseball player training ridiculously hard for the playoffs and ultimately the World Series. You wake up early, eat with no desire to slow down your body, and you go hard in the gym. You put in the work and bring home the trophy.
That’s the easy part.
You’re damn right. The hard part of a healthy lifestyle is the offseason.
“What do I have to train for? I’ve accomplished so much. Now I can do whatever I want.”
I suppose that is the realistic mindset, but when it comes to weight loss, muscle gain, or athletic training it definitely shouldn’t be.
That’s where a maintenance plan comes into play. This is the part that can make or break your upcoming season. Do you want to start all over, or do you want to continue the progress?
You can continue the progress and it’s really not that hard to risk your opportunities of celebrating with a big shiny ring on your finger that you so rightfully earned. It just takes smarts.
Here are the most important things you must understand when maintaining a diet:
- How much is too much? Understanding what your caloric intake should be.
- What is a macro-nutrient? Proteins, carbs, and fats.
- Food in general. Good food vs. bad food.
- Your cooking game is as important as your lifting game.
So a client comes up to me and complains about how they have gained weight. The first questions I will always ask them is how much water they drank, how regular their sleep is, and what they ate last night.
A typical response is, “Oh, I ate healthy. I had a chicken and black bean casserole, with guacamole, and some gluten free tortilla chips.”
Reasonably, yes, these are productive foods. However, what most people lack is the sense of how much to eat. How much gauc? How much beans and chips combined? How much of it all?
The problem we have in America nowadays is that if you go to a restaurant, the servings that they serve you are 3 times the size of what you actually need. Even our coffees and caffeine sizes are too ridiculous. Have you ever seen a large coffee in Japan or Europe? It’s probably the size of our small. So while you may think you are getting the right foods in, you’re getting too much of the right foods in. Knowing your limit is crucial. Unfortunately, it all depends on body types and activity levels to decipher these.
The way I split up my servings sizes is in 5 simple categories: Protein, carbs, fats, fruit, and vegetables. I put limits and doses to every person for each one.
In all honesty, your ideal situation for an every day healthy living nutrition plan is that of eating clean. Unfortunately, we must indulge. We enjoy our booze, comfort foods, and celebratory events. Unfortunately, most of us cannot just eat whatever we freakin’ want to.
A sample Jungle Gym measurement: 3 meals. 6.5 ounces of protein per meal. 45 grams of carbohydrates per meal. 1.5 cups veggies per meal. 1 serving of fat per meal. 1 piece of fruit with meal 1 and 2.
(All of these measurements of based per client and are not for the generic population.)
Protein – Protein is not a very valuable macro for us. It does provide us with muscle recovery, but overloading our systems with protein shakes and chicken breasts will probably slow our digestive systems down a bit. It is important to get the right amount of protein in (3 calories per gram) but we can’t bow down on an alter to it.
Carbs – Carbohydrates are by far our most important macronutrient. For weight loss we have to control them but still utilize them as our fuel. For muscle gain, they have to be in par with muscle repair (protein) and lots of it. For maintenance dieting, we have to make sure we don’t over-eat or under-eat them. We are active human beings and carbohydrates help us with sleep, digestion, energy, and muscle recovery. We need them.
Fats – Fats are tricky. The main reason is the name itself. It is fat. I’m a pure proponent of not over eating fats at all. I look at fat as a I look at motor oil in your car. Don’t overflow your tank with it, but don’t let your tank go bone dry. The great thing about fats is that they contain essential acids and aminos that we need to survive.
Break your maintenance plan in to 3 categories. These categories are broken up into 7 Days a Week, 3 Days a Week, and 1 Day a Week.
As in, “My name is _____ and I am going to eat these foods 7 days a week, 3 days a week, or just 1 day a week. No more. No less.”
- 7 Days A Week – These aren’t going to exact foods you eat, but types of foods you will eat on a maintenance plan. You should be consuming these things every day on a healthy maintenance plan depending on your stature and activity levels.
- 8 to 10 servings of vegetables a day minimum. A serving of vegetables is ½ cup. Multiple servings can be eaten at one time.
- 1 to 3 servings of fruit per day. A serving of fruits is 1 cup. Only one serving can be consumed at one time.
- 3 to 5 servings of lean protein. Only one serving can be consumed at a time.
- 3 to 5 servings of carbs. Only one serving can be consumed at a time. Remember, fruits are a carb.
- 2 to 3 servings of fats. Only one serving can be consumed at a time.
- At least a gallon of water.
- BCAA’s on training days.
- Probiotics every day.
- 3 Days A Week – These are exact Jungle Gym approved foods that you should to consume 3 times during the week. These are the best types of foods for our program based on nutritional value alone. These will keep your vitamins in check and your energy high.
- Sweet Potato
- Kale or Spinach
- Something Blue/Purple in Color (Antioxidants) – Cabbage, Blueberries, Acai, etc.
- Something Orange in Color (Vitamins) – Carrots, Oranges, Butternut Squash, etc.
- 1 Day A Week – We all know that we unfortunately cannot have a glass of wine a night or a sloppy meal a night and maintain your desired weight. Doing this is how we got to an undesired weight in the first place. Adding these foods in your diet one time a week will help your cravings and keep you in check. We have to be weekend warriors. We need 7 days of healthy eating with occasional blips.
I highly recommend making a chart and writing these categories on a dry erase board. Make sure you make a checklist of all of these foods to make sure you are hitting your requirements. Count up your mistakes per week and if they reach a level of 4 or more per week and your gaining weight . . . you know why.
I despise the word cheat meal.
Don’t get me wrong. They are part of your life. But adding a cheat meal planned into your week does not give you a better chance of maintaining or winning a championship. It’s all about using them wisely.
Cheat meals are steroids in the world of baseball. The best way to plan “cheat meals” is to plan them around your special occasions. Having a bad day at work and ordering pizza and beer is a waste of a cheat meal. Weddings, camping trips, Valentine’s Day, or Jungle Gym charity events are great occasions to plan a meal of wrecklessness. Cheat meals should be based off eating a lot. Not a lot of the bad stuff.
For instance . . . sushi. I can eat 50 pieces of raw fish, rice, and assorted veggies. I cannot, however, do it daily or even twice a week. There-for, my sushi trips are my cheat meals. Have a special occasion planned every week. Saturday morning breakfast with your wife? Make some crazy pancakes, hash, and omelets. And eat it all!
This is why I say, “You cooking game must be as strong as your lifting game.”
Cook as many meals as possible at a time and convince yourself that you need to eat them. If it’s not there to eat, odds are you’re going to eat something faster and convenient. In the world of food, faster and convenient usually are not ideal.
A maintenance diet is not a diet at all. It’s a lifestyle and I’ll be damned if I allow myself to lose all my progress of a championship because I can’t control my foods.
This is where your body changes,