Using Data to Guide Your Nutrition Choices
Written by Fritz Nugent
I recently received an email from a client who was worried about a cheat meal he enjoyed after cutting back on his training. I wanted to share the exchange because it is a concern that people bring up frequently during nutrition coaching sessions so I know others can benefit from his questions.
I’ve been actually doing less training last Saturday and Sunday like you suggested. The week before that I also rested for 2 days. This week I’m resting only today. I think I sleep ok, I feel hungry. I hate it because I’m eating more. I’m paranoid at this moment because I had a cheat meal yesterday, a pretty big one. This morning I weigh 170 so I’m panicked. I haven’t scanned yet but I was planning on doing it Saturday morning, that’s usually when we scan if that’s ok. What should I do? I’m kinda stressed out. Are there certain foods I should stay away from like bread or tortilla? Is it ok to eat carbs at night? Should there be a certain amount of hours between meals?
No need to panic! Let’s see what your Saturday scan shows. Remember that each scan is simply data and helps us make choices moving forwards. One cheat meal shouldn’t put 4 pounds on you. That’s not how our bodies work. We don’t eat 4 pounds of food and then our bodies put all that into fat cells. Sometimes it takes time for the digestive system to process a large meal, a few days up to a week or more. This is highly individual.
Should you stay away from bread or tortillas?
It depends. Do you get bloated or produce a lot of mucus or get a stuffy nose after eating those foods? If so, then yes, stay away from them because they are bothering you for some reason. If you don’t have any problems when eating those foods, then you are probably fine to continue eating them.
Here’s the complex way to measure the usefulness of a food:
- Does eating this food bother me physiologically?
- Does this food contain the calories that I need for this meal?
- Does the food contain the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) that I need for this meal?
- Does the food contain the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that I need for this meal?
- Does the food provide unique fiber to feed my micro-organisms in my intestines?
- Does the food provide phytonutrients?
If the food satisfies total calories, great. If it also fits your macros, even better. If the food also contains vitamins and minerals, even better still. If the food also contains fiber to feed your gut buddies, big bonus there. And lastly, if the food contains phytonutrients, you get even more bonus points. Specific foods are NOT bad or good. Instead, look at how well they fit your needs.
Can you eat carbs at night?
Yes, you can. The main governor on what you can eat is total calories. Generally, if you eat more than your maintenance calories, you will gain weight. If you eat at maintenance, you will maintain weight. If you eat below maintenance, you will lose weight. So if you eat carbs at night and the calories from those carbs fit within your total calories, you should be ok. Now is this optimal? It really depends. Some people eat low carb all day and have a high carb feeding before bed. Others suggest the opposite, to eat your carbohydrates throughout the day and eat very little at night. Others suggest eating an even amount at each meal. So the answer here is it depends on YOU. Try eating carbs at night and check your Whoop sleep data. How did your PM carbs make you feel? How was your sleep quality and quantity that night?
How many hours between meals?
Once again, it depends. You have a fixed amount of food that you should be eating each day. What is the best way to consume that food? It depends on when you are exercising. It depends on what your schedule allows for. You could eat 7 small meals throughout the day OR you could eat two huge meals. Research shows that as long as the total calories of these meals are equal, a similar outcome will result.
So don’t fret! There are many different strategies to take when planning your nutrition routine and it all depends on YOU. Most people are going to enjoy a cheat meal here or there which is totally fine and can become a part of your plan as long as you don’t binge out multiple meals each week. If you do go a little overboard, then that can be mitigated by counterbalancing your diet for indulgences. Need a little individualized nutrition coaching? Coach Fritz is available to take you on as an Invictus Nutrition client!