Meal Planning

Posted: April 19, 2011 in Nutrition
Tags: ,

Now that I’m making the conscious effort to cut down on my caloric intake and, hopefully, loose some more fatty poundage going into my Base training period, I’ve become fixated on discovering the most optimal times to eat throughout the day.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that this whole ‘eating healthy’ bullshit certainly is a time-consuming process.  It’s hard enough planning out all my run, bike, swim, yoga and weight workouts during the week; never mind also having to factor in the time to make and consume all my nutritious homemade meals to fuel them.

Tonights Dinner Special: Disappointment

Now, anyone who knows me or happens to be on my Facebook friends list already, knows that I take great pride in eating well. I approach cooking much in the same manner that a warrior prepares himself for battle. My of my daily goals, in fact, is to plan out, prepare and execute one ‘fancy’ meal a day…something picture-worthy…total food porn.  Usually this happens to be in the evenings after I’ve finished my long workouts for the day and I’m ready to relax in the kitchen by preparing a well thought out meal.  The problem is, that given my workouts are now exceeding the 2-3 hour mark, this inevitably means that I have the choice of rushing through my meal before my workout, meaning I may smell like a sack of assholes after farting all the way through my workout thanks to the still digesting protein in my system and I end up going to bed hungry, or I’m eating late after my workout has ended which means it’s probably going on 9:00pm already – and isn’t that too late to be eating? A budding Ironman can’t exist on quick salads alone, so is there a recommended time that I can consume my meals to both effectively stimulate my exercise, while still burning maximum calories and losing weight?

Some diet experts suggest that you shouldn’t eat two or three hours before going to bed which, in my case, would have me eating around 10:00pm as I’m also a bit of a nighthawk.  Others will take the ‘Gremlins’ philosophy and warn you to never eat after a particular time, say, 7:00pm or 8:00pm in the evening.  But is it really that cut and dry? Maybe…maybe not.

Choosing the best time to eat meals has many benefits, one of them is energy. Skipping meals or eating meals on a random schedule can drain your body of energy. The meal schedule below is pretty much the standard recommended formula for people who have day jobs – such as myself.

1. Breakfast: Around 8:00 A.M.

  • You should eat breakfast within thirty minutes to an hour after waking up. Breakfast is very important for replenishing your blood sugar levels after 6-8 hours of sleep. This will help keep your blood sugar balanced giving you more energy endurance.
  • Eat foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, nuts, whole grain cereal, brown rice, fruits and vegetables. I like to have either a green, or fruit smoothie, and maybe a low-fat muffin when I get to work.

2. Lunch: Around 12:00 P.M.

  • It is highly recommended you eat lunch within 3-4 hours after breakfast.  Skipping lunch will drain your body of energy – fast – and I have definitely experienced this.  Lunch time is when the day is usually the busiest.  This is why it is important to eat during lunch so you will have enough energy to propel you through the busiest time of the day (late afternoon).
  • Eat a meal balanced with protein, complex carbohydrates, good fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats) and fiber. These essential nutrients are very powerful and will give you all the energy you need for the next four to five hours.  I will usually make a loaded ‘kitchen sink’ salad with Udo’s Oil as dressing, or perhaps a healthy chicken wrap with a hearty bowl of soup.

3. Late Afternoon Snack: Around 3:00 P.M.

  • Late afternoon snack should not be as big as a regular meal but big enough to satisfy your hunger. Fruit salad, smoothies, nuts, healthy meal replacement bars (as I do), fruit yogurt and vegetable soup are great examples for late afternoon snacks.
  • Fruits and vegetables are full of essential vitamins and minerals, and low in calories which are great for weight management. The bad thing about low calorie food is that you may get hungry faster, but because this is a late afternoon snack, low calorie food is perfect for this situation.

4. Dinner: Around 6:00 P.M.

  • Dinner should be eaten within 2-3 hours after late afternoon snacks.  Dinner has always been the challenge for me as this is when I usually the same time I like to begin my workouts.  It might be more realistic for me on certain days to eat a little later around 8:00pm and then just pass on the night snack.
  • Dinner food should be balanced with protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats. Brown rice, wheat bread, nuts and pasta are great examples.  For meat, salmon and chicken breast (skinless) are good too. For desserts, eat fruits and vegetables to replenish your body with essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.

5. Late Night Snack: Around 9:00 P.M. or an hour before bed

  • Snacks? Really?  Right on!
  • Late night snacks should be low in calories and high in nutrients.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat yogurt are good examples of late night snacks.  For drinks, avoid coffee and energy drinks, instead drink a glass of water.  Eating four or five small meals a day is better than eating three big meals, because the smaller meals are easier to digest, and your blood sugar will stay more constant through out the day.  This will help prevent fatigue, heartburn, IB issues and spikes in blood sugar levels.  Eating smaller meals is also great for weight management and energy endurance. The key to making this all gel, however, is to also drink LOTS of water (6 to 8 cups) throughout the day to prevent dehydration. It also has the added benefit of acting as an appetite suppressant by tricking the stomach into thinking it’s full.  This satiated feeling is only temporary, however, and soon the hunger pangs will return at full force demanding quick sustenance.
  1. Jeff C says:

    Great advice! One thing I would add is a warning re ‘low fat’ yogurt. Unless you are eating plain yogurt, your ‘low fat’ yogurt is almost certainly ‘high sugar’ yogurt. I eat plain yogurt almost exclusively now because I can’t find a flavoured yogurt that isn’t packed with sugar. Don’t be fooled by ‘naturally sweetened’ either. Sugar is natural after all.

    I also have a theory that having a little protein before bed is a good thing since they say that’s when your body rebuilds itself…may as well give it some of the building blocks forbuilding muscle etc.

  2. Stephanie says:

    This is very timely for me. I am trying to get organized around food and exercise again after a winter full of crummy bugs and a weight gain I am very unhappy with. Thanks for some more motivation. 🙂

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