Habits For A Leaner, More Energetic Body

Guest Post by Andrew Beatty

Author: Strength is Health

Many people underestimate the importance of quality nutrition in aiding their recovery.  It’s important to note that all forms of training, regardless of how easy or hard damages your muscle cells.  You all know working out is important, but do you understand the importance of quality nutrition?

We are extremely busy people yet we make time to work out, we make sure we get to bed on time so that we can go to the gym at 5am before work.  We do these things because we know the importance of working out and we know just how beneficial working out can be to our appearance, health and overall lifestyle.  The question I want to pose to you is this; if you can set aside time to train and you can make sacrifices for that then what is stopping you doing the same thing with your diet?  Nobody expects you to uproot a sugar laden diet overnight; rather you should aim to make progressive change.  Progressively improving your diet (or any aspect of your life for that matter) makes things exponentially easier than changing everything at once.

How To Improve Your Diet

To progressively improve your diet I propose an ‘inclusion’ method.  To do this we begin by working one meal at a time.  Take breakfast for example; rather than change your breakfast completely, try to include healthier, more wholesome foods.  You can continue to eat whatever other foods you may be used to eating at breakfast.  The reason I suggest this approach is that by including better, more complex food sources you will subconsciously omit the poorer foods simply because your body will feel satiated.  From experience with both my clients and I, it appears to take one to two weeks to habituate to something new.

After week two you will see significant improvements in your breakfast, moreover you will have to consciously think less about what it is you are eating, rather you will subconsciously make better choices.  From here you can begin to incorporate the ‘inclusion method’ at lunch time.  Things can be a little trickier here as most of you are likely to work away from home.  In your case you will have to bring food to work with you unless of course you work close to a good healthy restaurant; a bowl from Chipotle (without the soft drinks) springs to mind.

Perfect Packed LunchFor those of you that have always brought lunch to work continue to do so but bring extra to eat first such as leftovers from last night’s dinner or some form of salad with meat/fish/eggs for example.  Of course you can also bring a sandwich in which case I suggest using spelt bread.  As an aside; most breads are made with 30-40 different ingredients none of which actually deserve to be called ingredients when you consider how damaging they can be to your body.  Bread is traditionally made from 3 different ingredients; as such you will be best served avoiding anything in excess of this.  Many of my clients insist they don’t like bringing lunch to work because it’s so bland.  To this I suggest using condiments such as salsa, pesto, guacamole, balsamic vinegar and any herbs and spices you like.  For fat loss go easy on the pesto and guacamole as they are quite dense in calories.

After three to four weeks of creating habits with breakfast and lunch it’s time to move on to dinner.  This should be relatively easy after the great progress you will have already made.  I will admit, if you are used to eating complete rubbish for dinner you will have a few ‘bigger’ changes to make.  Nonetheless they shouldn’t pose much difficulty.  The first thing I want you to do is fill a bowl with vegetables.  Next you are going to add whatever meat and other foods you would normally have with dinner.  You must make a point of eating the vegetables during the meal and not leaving them to last.  This is why I recommend a bowl as they are easier to mix with the rest of your dinner.  Leaving the vegetables until the end increases the likelihood of having an internal battle with your mind and leaving them behind, especially if you haven’t always eaten a lot of greens.  After a period of time you will begin to include better sources of protein i.e. meat, fish, eggs and seafood in place of what you may be used to eating such as; chicken, lean beef, mackerel, sea bass, whiting, prawns etc.  This list is almost endless but make sure to buy from a reputable source, especially if you are living in North America.  I recommend watching Food, Inc if you haven’t already to learn how your food is being produced.  We are lucky here in Ireland that things aren’t on as grand a scale as in North America meaning our food is a little better but by no means perfect.

Power OatmealAgain, when this becomes relatively easy you are going to move on to the carbohydrates.  For the most part people make their worst choices in this department.  You are going to have to erase pastas, white rice, breads and pizzas from your dinner menu.  They are terrible food choices and will do nothing other than set you up for a lovely type 2 diabetes diagnosis followed by an array of other metabolic diseases in the future.  Adopt foods such as quinoa, sweet potatoes, brown rice, basmati rice, lentils and almost all forms of beans.  These are full of protein, and will provide you with an excellent sustained stream of energy until morning time.

Not having a wholesome meal for dinner is the biggest problem I have seen with my clients when it comes to binging due to monster cravings in the evening.  The reason for this as I’m sure you’re aware is blood sugar imbalances.  Choosing the carbs I suggested above will allow for a more sustained release of blood sugar when compared to pastas, breads, white rice and potatoes to name but a few.  Please don’t underestimate the importance of this point.  Irrespective of fat loss this is incredibly important for your overall health.  Bombarding your body with poor sources of carbs (especially at bad times such as late in the evening) will induce large spikes in blood sugar which in turn requires large amounts of insulin to shuttle the sugar from your blood throughout your body.  However, if you continue to eat these types of foods without utilising them you are likely to induce insulin resistance which is not good.  Not only is insulin resistance associated with fat gain, it is also a key determinant in type 2 diabetes, heart disease, other metabolic diseases, chronic fatigue and migraines to name but a few.  Many people scoff at how damaging type 2 diabetes can be to your health simply because it is ‘manageable’, how about what it can do to your wallet?  It is estimated that type 2 diabetes will take 12 years from your life and cost you approximately $13,000 each year in medical expenses (Urbina, 2006).

Herb-Coated Halibut with Zucchini and Whole Wheat Couscous


Peri Workout Nutrition

Peri workout nutrition basically means nutrition around your workout.  Sorry I couldn’t help myself, I’m a nerd in my spare time 😉

Although I don’t condone eating bad food, if you were to do so, this is the best time.  Your body is primed for food immediately after a workout.  From a physiological standpoint, your body’s ability to synthesize glycogen after a workout is approximately 150% its normal rate.  In short, this means you can store energy more efficiently and more quickly after a workout.  If you feed your body the right combinations of food during this period you will recover, become more muscular and lose fat at a rate you never thought possible.  What’s most impressive about this is you can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time; I was always told that wasn’t possible.  Many will have you believe your ‘window of opportunity’ closes 30 minutes after your workout.  This is not entirely true.  Your body is certainly more receptive during this 30 minute period but you can indeed continue to benefit from your body’s heightened absorption capabilities for the next four hours.

Unless you are dieting down for a show of some sort, then you will be best served ignoring the common theme of just a protein shake after the gym.  I fell victim of this trend for many years before I realized the beauty of carbohydrates.  Eating protein on its own after the gym will help you to recover, build muscle and burn fat.  Eating carbs will do the same.  However, you are leaving a huge amount on the table in terms of your ability to utilize nutrients post-workout.

Combining carbs with protein induces a synergistic effect whereby the positive effects on your body are increased to incredible levels.  Your post-workout carb and protein shake induces up to 38% more protein synthesis (growth) that carbs alone and even more that just protein alone (Miller et al. 2003).  It has also been shown to increase your ability in your next workout by almost 15%.  This is excellent news if you’re doing Shawna’s Challenge Complexes.

Remember, post-workout is one of the few times you want high blood sugars and high levels of blood insulin.  Without high levels of insulin you cannot drive the nutrients to you muscle cells at a quick enough rate to allow you to recover, burn fat and build muscle.  The quickest way to spike your  blood insulin as you may have guessed is by taking carbs, as such drinking a carb and protein mix after your workout is essential.

As a side note, a great benefit of this approach is increased immune function i.e. you are less likely to get sick (Gleeson et al. 2001).

Making Your Post-Workout Shake

Ideally you will have your post-workout meal in liquid form as it will get into your blood stream far quicker than it would from a solid meal.  In this case the easiest option is a protein shake mixed with milk or glucose powder (you can buy this at any supermarket).  Don’t get caught up too much in how you get this meal just make sure it’s liquid form.  If you want to take out your blender and make a few different mixes that’s fine too.  About 15 grams of carbs and 30 grams of protein is enough to elicit a profound response in your body. (Note from Shawna: this is my favorite protein powder.)

Closing Thoughts

For anyone struggling making the changes you want from your diet give this a try.  Take it one meal at a time, include rather than exclude and I promise you will find you create new habits quite quickly.  With regard to your workout nutrition, there are a few more important times to utilize during your peri-workout nutrition, but for now the most important thing for you is the post-workout drink.  Combine this with the habits you create throughout the rest of the day and you will see tremendous fat loss, strength gains and overall energy balance.


Gleeson M. Lancaster G. & Bishop N. ‘Nutritional Strategies to minimize exercise-induced immunosuppression in athletes’ Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 64: 1480-1485.

Miller SL. Tipton KD. Chinkes DL. Et al. ‘Independent and combined effects of amino acids and glucose after resistance exercise.’ Med Sci Sports Exs, 35:449-455, 2003.

Urbina I. ‘In the Treatment of Diabetes, Success Often Does Not Pay.’ New York Times. 2006.

About Andrew andrew beatty

Andrew operates his own personal training business specializing in fat loss and optimal health for adults aged between 25-40.

He is also a strength & conditioning coach for  high school and adult teams at home in Ireland.  Writing about the importance of strength training and good nutrition is very important to Andrew; he puts huge emphasis on nutrient timing i.e. eating specific foods at specific times of the day for optimal muscle building and fat loss.  For more information, you should  check out his site: Strength is Health