Ask Coach Josh! Q & A all about NUTRITION at TFW Portland

Hey Portland, this is Coach Josh! Today, we're going to be talking about:

  • nutrition

  • how to eat

  • what to eat
  • how much to eat

We'll demystify some things, and hopefully answer some of your questions. I'm working from a list of questions I've already received. If you have a question, just leave a comment or shoot me a message!

First of all, let's address the following issue: "I'm eating and I'm training, and I'm not feeling good. I'm not burning fat. I'm not building muscle. What's going on? What is happening?" 

Time to consider changing your diet and your lifestyle

Everybody knows the statistics are on the rise, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, people getting these diseases younger and younger. You definitely can't train your way out of some of these issues. As a coach, that pains me to say it. I love strength training. I love to lift heavy and sprint. It's awesome and it makes you feel good. Even though you need that stimulation, that training to help you build muscle and boost your metabolism ... Training does so many wonderful things to the brain, to the body or your wires, gives you more neuroplasticity, makes you better able to learn and puts you in a better mood. It's one of the best antidepressants, but it can't truly change your body unless you change your nutrition. 

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

I'm going to quote a couple people here. Michael Pollan has several great books on food. In one of his last books, Food Rules, he states, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That pretty much covers the what to eat and what to NOT eat, how much of it, and the composition of your meals (like your actual food choices and the ratio). I'm going to help break that down a little bit more, because it's a complex topic that a lot of people often make even more complex with MORE questions.

 But I love Michael Pollan and his work. He gives us a great blueprint to follow. Let's start with what he means by: "Eat food." In his book, he says, "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." That's a little bit aged advice because my grandmother would recognize a number of things as food that are NOT great for you. That food is probably not going to help your metabolism, help you feel good, or help build the body that you want.
#1. Eat food
Another way to visualize how to eat: I like this advice that I got from the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. In it, he quotes somebody as saying, "Eat like a poor person." What he means by that is, eat like a poor person in the second or the third world. Don't eat like a poor person in America. What if you could only eat the kind of food that you could grow yourself for your family in a third world country? I'm talking about rice and beans, corn, Brassicas, greens. Things that are readily available in almost every area of the world.

That's such simple advice, but it's actually hard to follow, especially if you're living in an urban environment here in America. Most of the time, when we buy food, we buy it in a box or a bag. Only the outer perimeter of the grocery store actually contains any food at all. Everything else is just junk and stuff that people are selling to try and make a buck... and it makes us sick in the process. So that eat real food, eat like somebody who's in the second or third world, who has mostly access to produce and fresh fruits and vegetables and meat.

#2. Not too much

How do you regulate your own portion control? There are lots of tricks to do that, right? The easiest one that you can use here in the US is this: when you're eating at your house or at a restaurant, just choose a smaller plate. We often eat 100% of the serving size, so go ahead and pick a smaller serving size. Choose a plate that only fits a certain amount of food, and you're golden. You self-limit yourself naturally that way. You won't have to burn up willpower thinking about it. You can do things like use a smaller plate, which creates these artificial limitations for your meals. 

You can also change the biofeedback you're getting, meaning changing the sensation that your body is giving you. You can look for different sensations. A lot of us, myself included, started all the time with, "I eat until I can't eat anymore." BUT really, if you're trying to stay lean and mean, the real thing that you're looking for is eating until your sense of hunger has been satiated. It's like not eating until you're full, but eating until you're no longer hungry. There's a gap in there, and it takes some playing around to understand when that point occurs. It's a different way of eating, but ultimately, it provides a lot more sustainable results.

The third way you can really dial in your portion control is by pre-measuring everything. If you prep your meals in advance, what you can do is:

  1. Measure 2 cups of vegetables in that meal. 
  2. Weigh 4 ounces of protein. You measure a palm of protein. 

Then you prep everything side by side, so that you're able to predetermine what you're actually going to eat. This ensures that you eat 100% of exactly what you need, and you don't have to think about what you're doing from meal to meal, because it's already been decided. It's one way to reduce some stress in your week and to ensure that you're actually getting the right food in, every time. Those are ways that you can make it easy or simple to not eat too much. 

#3. Mostly Plants

Now, onto what your plate looks like! The "mostly plants" suggestion is close to what should your actual meals look like. I'll post some links here, so you can check out some visuals on that, but essentially we're finding that we don't need as much protein as we once thought. I've been in the fitness industry a long time and I remember when we were consistently prescribed two times your body weight in grams of protein. That meant, if you weighed 200 pounds (or you want to weigh 200 pounds), you got to eat 400 grams of protein. Which is just an unbelievable amount of protein for me to even fathom at this point... but that was the old school advice.

Now we know that we don't need that much protein. Starting out, I would eat about 80% of your weight in protein. That means, if you weigh 100 pounds, you would eat 80 grams of protein. If you weigh 150 pounds, then you eat 120 grams. Just increasing by that same margin. Try that 80% of your body weight rule, on a daily basis.

How much protein to eat? A serving a protein should be about the size of your palm! TFW Portland

How much protein to eat? A serving a protein should be about the size of your palm! TFW Portland

How that really translates visually, is a palm of protein (for most of us) per meal. If you're a large male, maybe two palms of protein per meal would be about right. That's going to be between 20 and 40 grams of protein per meal. Which is going to put you in the strike zone for where you need to be. Everything else on your plate should just be plants. That could be:

  •  Healthy fats from avocados and nuts,
  •  A nice olive oil based dressing
  • Brassicas and cruciferous vegetables as the majority of salad greens, things that you eat that are high in fiber, tons of nutrients, tons of antioxidants, make you feel great.

That is the composition of a very well organized meal. Those are some really simple strategies to stick to that Michael Pollan "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" suggestion. Here are some great images of plate composition and what it should look like in those different scenarios. Obviously, if you're a vegetarian or vegan, that's going to change the composition a little bit, but it's not a big deal. The rules mostly apply to all of us. Which is awesome.

What counts as a serving of vegetables?

Servings of vegetables: A cup of greens is a serving. A cup of broccoli or cruciferous vegetables is two servings. Using this measurement, you can keep easy track of how many veggie servings you get per day.  Shoot for five servings per day. That's a great start! If you can get beyond that, you win some next level shit.

A palm of protein, 1 cup of cruciferous vegetables, two cups of greens, and you're off to the races. And 1-2 thumbs of fat. So about a thumb of fat is a serving. That'll help keep you straight. Get your fat from healthy sources like nuts and avocados, primo.

Measure your fat servings by thumbs! TFW Portland


If you have any further questions, go ahead and kick it to us and we'll get back to you lickety-split. Until next time, this is Coach Josh at Training for Warriors Portland, helping you bring out the warrior within.