Now that everyone is going into week 2 of the Clean Challenge, I wanted to tap back into what this Clean Challenge is all about and how to apply it to your everyday schedule for long sustainable results that feel repeatable for a lifetime not just for the period of the Clean Challenge.
Week 1: The Zone Block Method
We followed the Zone Block method in order to allow you all to understand portion control and what is exactly in the food you eat and how to balance your diet in a way that yields long term results. Eating on a schedule, eating well balanced meals, and focusing on eating nutrient dense foods is the best way to see results fast that also can be sustainable for the long term.
Also, weighing and measuring your food will help you immensely in understanding correct portion control and have you hit the exact numbers. Doing this during the Clean Challenge, if you can afford the time can teach you how to be more intuitive later on and have some more flexibility in your approach because you will be able to eyeball foods much easier and understand how to combine foods in the right quantities without really having to think about it.
We all understand that weighing and measuring your food, while trying to eat meals that are in exact proportions at each meal will be difficult, especially for those that haven’t done it before. If you have had some trouble maintaining your ability to hit the exact blocks of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, do not worry. We expected that this approach might be challenging, but we know it helps teach exactly what correct meal proportions look like and what is exactly in the food you are eating.
How to apply the Zone philosophy into a flexible meal plan
I think we all understand the the diet that you can stick to and work into your daily life as often as possible is the plan that will yield the greatest results. Consistency is king when it comes to fitness and nutrition and that is what we are focused on developing during the Clean Challenge.
I have found that following the approach of sticking pretty closely to a 40% Carbohydrate, 30% Protein, 30% Fat style meal plan works really well for the majority of the population and adjusting based on individual needs and activity level can yield huge results. Being able to do that with every meal and have the portion sizes work into every single meal you eat can be a huge challenge and may not make sense all the time.
So how do we apply the philosophy of eating well balanced meals on a schedule into a more flexible meal plan. I like to just focus on using macros and have target amounts that I want to hit by the end of the day. So if one meal maybe has a little more fat than another meal, or a little less protein, I can make that up by adjusting my proportions in another meal. You will also find that foods and recipes naturally occur that way so it might be much easier to hit your targets if done this way.
If you take one day of your diet that you did during the first week and put it into my fitness pal, it will shoot out your macros that you hit that helped you reach that 40/30/30 approach with your meals across the board. If you felt good doing that then you have your macros you need for the rest of the clean challenge. If you are highly active, have an intensive job physically you might want to up the proportions of carbs and lower fat. If you have a sedentary job you may want to have the fat a little higher and lower the carbs. Protein should stay consistent at about 1g per pound of lean mass.
How does this look like for a daily approach to eating?
So imagine you have an average male with the macro count of 300g Carb, 170g Protein, 92g Fat (2708 Cals)
This is 44% Carb, 25.5% Protein, and 30.5% Fat. Very close to that 40/30/30 protocol but because we are going off lean mass for the protein content the carbs take up more of the calories and protein goes down to 25%. Now how do we put this into a meal plan.
Pre-Workout Meal: 40g Carb, 25g Protein, 12g Fat
Post-Workout Meal: 50g Carb, 35g Protein, 6g Fat
We have higher carbs and protein here in order to replenish muscle glycogen and start protein synthesis. This will help us mitigate soreness and help you recover from your workouts faster so that you can have more consistent workouts. Remember, consistency is king.
Now what about the rest of the day. I like to split up the rest of the macros into 3-4 meals that are pretty evenly
So what we have left is 210g carb, 110g protein, 74g fat.
Split evenly across 3 meals would look like this.
68-72g carb, 35-38g Protein, 23-26g fat
And hitting those macros for a meal is pretty darn easy to do. All you need to do is plan out meals that fit these quantities just like you did for the Zone Blocks, but it might be easier to reach the portion sizes because you have a little more leeway on the fat given that you tried to keep fat lower around your workout.
The Big 3 Rules for a great sustainable way of eating
#1) Have 85-90% of your food come from whole nutrient dense food choices. Think veggies, high quality protein sources, some fruits, some seeds, etc. Basically stay away from packaged foods, cook most of your meals (so you know whats in them), but that that 10-15% leeway is because we know life happens and that is challenging to keep 100% of the time.
#2) Eat the right amount of food for you in a day. Tracking food and being precise during this challenge will help you pinpoint that. What are the right quantities of Carbs, Proteins, and Fats that help you have better energy throughout the day and get you moving in the direction of your goals.
#3) Drink more water. Especially first thing in the morning. Yes, before your coffee. This will help digestion throughout the day and most times peoples hunger pains are actually masking the fact that you are really thirsty and if you drank more water it would allow you to have a more correct hunger and satiated response.
With these 3 rules above, here should be the priorities in your nutrition plan.
#1) Lifestyle: Sleeping well, working out consistently, and having a healthy relationship around food.
#2) Nutrient Density: 85-90% of food from high quality whole foods.
#3) Consistent individual intake: Understanding how many calories you need in a day and meeting those.
#4) Macro Quantities. Finding the correct mix that helps you flourish.
#5) Micro Nutrients: Targeting the vitamins and minerals in the correct amounts if you think you might be low on some. This should take care of itself for the most part if you take care of priority #2.
#6) Meal Timing: This is next level stuff, but was a little bit about what I talked about earlier in terms of pushing more carbs around workouts and splitting the rest of your day evenly in order to optimize performance.
#7) Supplementation: A lot of people ask me about what supplements or superfoods will help you the most. Truthfully throughout the years most of the so-called superfoods are just high quality whole foods that the researchers have taken a deeper look into.
Find the approach that works best for you and stick to it for the remainder of the clean challenge. If it is easier for you to just keep a tally of the macros and hit those, do that. If you feel like the Zone diet helped you stay much more consistent and your energy levels are feeling good and you are feeling strong, do that! We are here to help you find the approach that matches your lifestyle and helps you achieve the goals you want.