It’s a common term that’s being used as the catchphrase for the new wave of eating. However, this is an old school phenomenon that your average gym patron can easily adhere to. In short, it summarizes the need to ensure protein, carbohydrate, and fat needs are met appropriately without neglecting key nutrients for survival.
In my recent article, the “Tao of Eating” I discuss what nutrition is and how to treat your meals. This is not an excuse to go on a binge of your favorite food and justify it by thinking that it fits your macronutrient requirements. Rather, this is an opportunity to have a reality check on your eating habits. You can also consider utilizing this method toward your competition goals as well.
The Role of a Clean Food Source
The first requirement in “if it fits your macros” is if it comes from a clean food source. Often, we see our favorite athletes chow on donuts as a cheat meal to hit a carbohydrate goal or watch them grab a box of pizza and have a field day—and we think we can do the same. The key difference, however, is that their training requirements are much higher than yours.
Clean eating is often attributed to raw ingredients. In a fast-food age, we forget how much processing goes into basic food items such as bread or condiments such as ketchup. Therefore, the grocery list and ingredients label should look more like words a fifth grader can pronounce rather than something that requires at least a collegiate level of chemistry to understand.
Adherence to clean eating is difficult and the flexibility lies with sources that appeal more to your palate. For example, instead of eating three chicken-based meals per day, alternate by having some fish, bison, or vegan alternatives such as tofu. By doing this, it decreases the incidence of failure.
If your goal is only for maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle, operate on a level that allows you to look to more options such as switching almond butter for peanut butter once in a blue moon.
However, if your goal is competition, the fewer ingredients something has, and the more it attributes to a direct macronutrient count, the better. For example, bodybuilders may have a snack of only bison meat or cream of rice with almond butter to hit a protein goal or carbohydrate and fat goal, respectively.
You needn’t compete however, in order to meet nutrition goals and this kind of thinking attributes itself greatly to body recomp. Clean eating runs on a spectrum and avoiding processed foods will reap long-term benefits.
The Role of Nutrient Timing
The second requirement is nutrient timing. The great debate exists around protein and not enough attention is paid to carbohydrates and fats. Nutrient timing is often attributed to insulin sensitivity, gastric emptying time, protein sensitivity, and circadian rhythm. In short, when you east depend on your ability to receive nutrients and put them to optimal use.
For those on a busy schedule eating smaller, more frequent meals may seem best but isn’t a practical route. Instead, choose an easier to digest meal later in the day while eating your meals with more dense calorie counts earlier in the day.
Obtaining most of your carbohydrates near your workout time seems to be most effective in replenishing glycogen stores and more importantly keeping metabolic homeostasis. The same, however, is not true for protein. Protein speeds up digestion and having a consistent protein load throughout the day with a bigger spike post-workout seems to be the best way to create an anabolic effect.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals improves gastric emptying time and, as a competitor, this proves to be most useful. Competition, however, adds a level of complexity to micronutrients such as sodium, potassium, and calcium levels. Vascularity, hardness/dryness, inflammation, and water retention can all be manipulated (temporarily) by ensuring micronutrients are accounted for.
For more information on flexible nutrition feel free to slide into the DMs @flexx_fairbairn and follow me on my road to World Championships WNBF 2019.