I never used to quite believe it but I’m now convinced that your diet is the single most important contributor to your body composition, musculature, body fat and overall health.
Throwing caution to the notion that “you can’t out-train a bad diet,” I gave it a good nudge and found that actually you can – but you’ll need to be training 7-9 times per week. Not many people have time for that, sadly.
Adopting a scientific and disciplined approach to your diet, you can pretty much achieve what you want: gain weight, lose weight, build muscle, strip fat, build strength…whatever…
The key is finding a plan you can stick to and something that facilitates this above all others is not having to deviate too much from what you’re already doing.
And that’s the genesis of many of the strategies outlined below; simple tweaks aimed at maintaining what you’ve been doing but in a healthier way.
1. Ditch bread at breakfast
Toast, pastries, muffins, croissants – all delicious. All nutritionally moribund energy spiking, dadbod boosters. They are the major culprits when we find ourselves having a “fat day.”
Go cold turkey and give them up during the week for 1 week.
2. Consume protein straight after waking up
If you’re looking to build some muscle or recover after exercise, then you need more protein (circa 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day). Starting the day with 30g gets you off to a running start.
I have a plant-based protein with full-fat milk on the way out of the house at 5.30am.
3. Green smoothie breakfast
If it has to be a liquid breakfast, then stack it full of green vegetables and fruit, reducing acidity in your body and fuelling yourself with minerals and ‘good’ carbs.
Toss a banana, spinach, apple, milk and some almond milk into a blender and hit the road.
4. Eggs in the morning
Eggs have the most complete protein profile of all foods. I’m paraphrasing from Arnold Schwarzenegger here. They are also incredibly satiating which means they’ll satisfy your cravings for bread.
Three or four eggs in an omelette with cheese and some diced onion and / or red pepper takes less than 5 mins to prepare.
5. Intermittent fasting
If weight loss is the goal, I’ve seen IF work extremely well (we’re talking 12kgs of weight loss from a 95kg starting point). This can be via the 5:2 Diet – where you eat normally for 5 days and then restrict calories for 2 days – or by fasting for 16 hours a day and eating all of your daily food in an 8 hour window (not as difficult or weird as it might seem).
Porridge is an absolute winner because a) it only needs 3 ingredients, b) it feeds the entire family, and c) it’s cheap.
You could microwave it but we just go 1 cup each of oats, water, milk (full cream) in a pan with a pinch of salt and cook until it’s a porridge-y consistency. Bingo!
7. Steak & veggies
Not for the faint-hearted, at least, initially, consuming last night’s leftovers (provided they’re healthy) is a great way of setting your body up for a win. Protein, (good) carbs, some fat…it’s all here.
The idea of (non-processed) meat in the morning is only odd because we’ve been hoodwinked into thinking cardboard-tasting baked goods and cereals are actually nice.
8. Cook it the night before
If time is at such premium in the morning that even a green smoothie takes too long, then prep it the night before.
Boil three or four eggs in their shells for around 12 minutes, dry with kitchen towel and then put in the fridge overnight. Grab them on your way out of the door and you’ve got a quick breakfast to have at work (with a little salt and pepper).
Also made the night before, bircher takes a little prep but is super-healthy, transportable and a batch lasts a few days.
Oats, freshly squeezed orange & lemon juice, grated green apple, honey, slivvered almonds, plain yogurt and milk (buttermilk) are mixed together and refridgerated overnight.
Test the consistency in the morning, adding more liquid as needed and then add fresh berries.
10. No breakfast at all
Not dissimilar to intermittent fasting (but, heck, I’m running out of breakfast suggestions), skipping breakfast might not be the cardinal sin your Mummy told you it was back in the day.
On the contrary, pushing on to lunchtime powered only by coffee, especially as guys get older, bizarrely, seems to keep them lean and taut as all the fasting benefits start to kick in and you use stored fat for energy instead of easy carbs.
11. The 5 minute lunch
1 can Sirena tuna, 1 can Edgells Four Bean Mix, 1 tub of microwave rice, handful of pre-grated cheese = macros hit, fibre hit, slow release energy hit.
12. The ‘big ole salad’
If you can train yourself to order a salad every time you find yourself in the foodcourt or somewhere similar at lunchtime, I don’t think you’ll go far wrong.
This is easier said than done, of course.
13. No fries with that
Similar to #12, every time you are offered a choice of sides with a meal, make sure you gravitate towards the healthy option.
For example, you order the daily roast special and they give you the options of fries or roasted vegetables. It’s simple: STAY. AWAY. FROM. THE FRIES.
Just because it’s simple, doesn’t make it easy. But you’ve got to try it once. and then repeat. Then you’ve got yourself the onset of a habit.
14. Avoid the foodcourt
If willpower ain’t your bag (and, I’ll freely admit, it’s not my strong suit), then keep yourself out of temptation’s grabby claws by avoiding places where you can make nutritional mistakes during the lunch hour.
15. Carb up
If weight-loss is our goal, we need to be mindful about consuming too many carbs late at night. This applies predominantly to ‘stealth’ carbs like beer or chocolate, but also includes things like pasta and white potatoes.
So I’d consider making lunch your most carb-laden meal of the day. Just to be on the safe side.[Note: just to be clear, ‘carbs’ covers a wide gamut – if your evening carbs are from vegetables and brown rice, then you probably don’t have too much to worry about].
16. The One Tray Dinner
Prepping a meal can be the last thing you fancy after a rough day at work or if you’ve got kids causing havoc around you.
Enter the ‘one pan wonder’ a full meal cooked entirely in a single roasting tray or pan. Simply chop three or four types of vegetable and put in one half of the pan and then season chicken breasts (for example) in the other half of the pan, and bake the lot for 30-35 minutes.
This is cooking-for-dumbies at it’s finest, yet it tastes delicious.
A couple of vaguely cheffy flourishes like covering the chicken with a foil tent for the first 20 mins of baking and then using the same foil to cover the chicken on a plate as it rests for 5 minutes should ensure you don’t dry the old bird out.
17. Microwave Frozen Veggie Bags
A one-person serving of carrots, broccoli and green beans, snap-frozen at picking, that takes 2 minutes to microwave?
You couldn’t make it up? Perfect for last minute saves when you haven’t made it to the supermarket.
18. The Plastic Vegetable Steamer
Taking marginally longer than the pre-made bags of veggies, but offering the soothing comfort of slicing them yourself, the plastic steamer is perfect for filling with zuccini, broccoli & beans, and tossing in the microwave for three and a half minutes.
19. Twice-cooked vegetables
If you find steamed vegetables a touch bland, you can always throw them into the pan you used to cook your meat with some butter and plenty of seasoning. They’ll come up a treat.
20. Rest the meat
To tease out maximum flavour from your meat-based meals, a golden ‘every-time rule’ to follow is to rest whatever meat you’re cooking for 5 minutes. Never fails.
It’s important to transfer the meat from the pan / roasting tray to a plate or chopping board to stop it cooking. Then, simply cover it tightly in foil and deal with the rest of your meal before slicing the meat or serving it whole.
I do this with every piece of meat I cook, not just the red meats that you’d normally associate with resting, and, believe me, it can be the difference between an average chicken dinner and something very palatable.
21. Turkey & cheese mid-afternoon
Turkey is beloved of bodybuilders with good reason. High protein and low fat. Can be a little dry. Stick 100g with the same amount of sliced Jarlsberg cheese from the deli counter and you’ve got yourself a snack that will build & repair muscle and also give you a bunch of energy. Plus, it tastes delicious.
22. Yogurt pouches for protein
You buy tonnes of these for the nippers, right? Well, on the same shelf (or just below) are the grown-ups version. 12g protein, 20g carbs and (sadly) not much fat. But don’t let that get you down because we should be getting plenty of fat elsewhere.
These pouches are filling and make a great distraction if you’ve craving sugary sweets. When they’re are half-price, I buy up big.
23. Banana & peanut butter
I picked this up from Cory Gregory who definitely doesn’t have a DadBod.
24. Tinned mackerel
A really good source of 20g of protein that taste better than sardines (which are raved about by Tim Ferriss and other keto diet proponents), mackerel are the under-the-radar king of the sea. And cheap as chips.
If the au natrel taste is too strong, get the ones covered in tomato source.
25. No baked goods
All of the above are designed to fill you up and satisfy any mid-arvo cravings before you can gravitate towards the brownie (my own particular bette noir for many years).
26. Cut back booze by one third
If you drink six nights per week, drop it back to four. If you drink three times per week, dial it back to two. This method is manageable yet still significant.
Unless you really do stick to one small glass of wine per night, alcohol is gonna pile on the pounds.
27. Late night exercise
Another sound way to cut back on your drinking it to fill your time with other activities.
Getting to the gym in the hour before it closes not only gives you the run of the place, but also means your far less likely to hit a glass of wine or grab a beer from the fridge.
Hitting the 7pm Crossfit class four nights a week a year or so back had me eating a quick dinner and then hitting the hay by 9pm, without a thought for any grog.
28. Tumeric tea
Tumeric is like that annnoyingly popular kid you went to school with, about whom nobody has a bad word to say. (Yes, that’s you Davey Truman.)
All manner of healing properties abound: reduced inflamation, wound healing, regulating blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, improves digestion…
I first stumbled across it reading Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. I make it with milk, tumeric and a dash of cinnamon.
29. What supp’
Make sure you have a solid supplement game to cover your back when you’re not able to get enough of what you need from your real food diet.
For bulking up this might include protein, creatine, some BCAAs (although all of these are handy tools for maintenance).
For general health you might go for a greens powder and some fish oil.
Here’s a detailed run-down on supplements based on information from a number of well-placed sources.
30. Don’t fear the fats
Saturated fat is no longer the pariah it once was, held up as being responsible for clogging arteries and causing heart disease.
Instead, it is the turn of processed carbs, nutritionally redundant as they are, to be harried out of existence. The only problem is the food industry won’t let that happen any time soon and neither will the obese general public who have been turned into sweet starch addicts.
There’s some good information on this topic here but, then again, don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
My experiments with a high fat, low carb diet resulted in increased brain acuity and focus and the need to only eat two meals a day which saved time and made me more productive.
However, if anyone tries to sell you an exogenous ketone supplement (Keto OS), I’d probably give it a swerve.
And that’s a wrap.
Don’t attempt to bring these in all at once. Start with just one or a couple, focusing on the area of your diet you find most troublesome. Experiment and mix things up. If something isn’t working, chuck it out and start with something else.
That said, a lot of these can work super-effectively together. I’ve tried all of these at various times and would say that at any time I’m running with up to 15 of them.