Wow, what a crazy week. I managed to get into the gym every day this week and keep up with my program, but it was an effort. I’m very busy at work right now, and it’s been a real effort to stay on track, with both diet and working out.
On a side note, the post-January 1st gym attendance bump has already died down. All those new faces that appeared to fulfill their resolutions have already faded away, and much quicker than usual. In past years, I’ve found some of them will stick around until at least the middle of February, but the attrition rate in 2014 has been vicious.
In any fitness plan (and life in general), eating right is very important. For a long time, I laboured under the belief that I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I stayed active. I’ve since realized that for my personal fitness, diet and activity levels represent an 80/20 split.
Aside from simplifying my dinner routine, changing what I eat for lunch has had a very beneficial impact on my personal health. My lunch routine, although very regimented, is still varied enough to keep me interested, while providing me with the energy I need to get through the day. Here are a few lunch tips that have served me very well.
1) I plan my lunch
I always leave home with a packed lunch. On the rare days I don’t, I know it’s going to be a bad day because I am going to opt for some kind of awful takeout that will contain more calories and carbohydrates than I want. Even making one of the “healthy” choices available usually results in getting way too much sodium, calories or fat, in addition to paying $18 for the privilege.
By planning out my lunch in advance, I ensure I am getting the correct amount of nutrition to meet my needs, while also keeping costs low. I can also change up my menu at any time, providing versatility that a takeout menu doesn’t.
2) I eat my lunch in segments
Here’s an example of a lunch I brought in this week.
What I will typically do is split my lunch into two segments. I’ll eat my vegetables and snack (in this case, a couple of slices of cheese) at about 11am, and then consume the protein at approximately 1:30pm. These times can vary based on how busy I am that day, but I find by eating my lunch over a longer time frame, I don’t get hungry at any point during the day and my energy levels remain fairly consistent.
3) I make my lunch delicious
If I’m eating the same thing every day, I lose my motivation very quickly. I discovered very early that my challenge was to make a healthy meal that was tasty and that I would look forward to. My above photo is a great example as I love salmon and cherry tomatoes are an addiction for me! When my office colleagues go out for a greasy fast food lunch, it’s easy for me to decline their invitation when I have a strip steak or Cajun chicken waiting for me in the fridge. I dare say my constitution wouldn’t be as strong if I packed a can of tuna or a tofu dog instead.
4) Portion control
I find that what I eat for lunch has a huge impact on what I eat for dinner. In a very real sense, lunch can make or break my nutrition goals for the day. If I don’t eat enough at lunch, I am famished by the time I get home and am more likely to go overboard at dinner. If I have too much food at lunch, I won’t want to eat when I get home, and I’ll push out my dinner until 8pm or later, which is not good for me either.
It took a lot of trial and error, but I’ve set up my lunch where I can be productive for an entire afternoon, and only start experiencing slight hunger pangs around 6pm, which is conveniently the time I normally eat dinner. The amount of food a person needs will, of course, vary by individual, but keep in mind: in addition to nourishing yourself while eating a meal, you are also setting yourself up for success or failure at your next meal. Being slightly hungry at 6pm also means that I will eat a sensible meal at that time, and be less likely to snack later in the evening.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve noticed huge benefits since changing the way I eat lunch. I have more energy, I don’t feel tired in the afternoons anymore, and my food budget is much more stable. It’s also nice to know that what I’m eating is helping my progress, as opposed to feeling guilty about what I’m eating.
Does anyone out there have any lunch habits that they would like to share? What works for you? What do you think of my approach?