We're a little clean-food obsessed, and we know your food decisions really do make a difference in your physique and health. All it takes is one miscalculation in your execution, and suddenly your plan is ruined. If you've been left wondering where your game plan failed you, don't pack it in just yet! Everyone makes mistakes - even the best in the world - at one time or another.
With that in mind, we've sought out some of the top physique competitors who will grace the stage at this year's Joe Weider's Olympia Weekend on September 16-17 - all of whom have made a bad call at one time or another, too. These ladies are here to help you notch a few more points on your physique by highlighting 10 food fumbles they made at one time and revealing how they ﬁxed them. Follow their advice and ﬁnd out how to turn your own fumbles into perfect plays.
"Often, school and work would keep me so busy that I would end up being an hour or two late in eating my meal. If you wait too long between meals, blood glucose levels drop, and when glucose is in short supply, the body begins to break down muscle for energy."
"To help me get in the habit of eating every three hours, I set the timer on my watch. Now, no matter what I'm doing, I never forget to eat my meals."
"Try setting the alarm on your watch or clock, and invest in a good cooler. Some coolers come with built-in clocks and timers, so you'll have one less excuse for missing a meal."
"I believed that any amount of sodium (salt) would make me retain excess water, so I cut out all salt containing foods to avoid looking 'puffy.' The truth is, sodium helps regulate the body's fluid balance, and consuming too little has the potential to initiate water retention. When sodium levels dip too low, it can also negatively impact nerve and muscle function, causing muscle cramps and weakness. Back then, I was cramping up all the time!"
"I adjusted my diet to incorporate a moderate amount of sodium. Not only did this help reduce the occurrence of muscle cramps, but it also made dieting more manageable by adding more flavor to my food."
"Write down everything you eat in one day, and beside each food item, note the sodium content. (This information can most often be found on the package, listed in milligrams). Calculate your daily intake by adding together the amount of sodium in each of the foods you consume."
"My first 'diet' consisted mainly of highly processed foods like crackers, deli meats, frozen entrees and sugar-laden yogurt, cereal and protein bars. At the time, I believed that 'all calories [were] created equal,' and as long as I counted every calorie, I would achieve the look I was after. Even though I maintained a strict daily calorie intake and worked out regularly, I was skinny fat."
"I ditched the processed foods for whole foods. I replaced sugary foods with slower-digesting complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice and fibrous veggies; increased my intake of lean proteins; and incorporated healthy fats in the form of nuts and salmon. Within a few months of switching, I began to see drastic changes in my physique, losing more fat while building lean muscle."
TIP: "When choosing foods for your diet, select items in their most natural form. Typically, most healthy unprocessed foods tend to be located around the perimeter of the grocery store (i.e., fruits and vegetable section, and seafood and meat counter). And as a rule of thumb when buying packaged foods, steer clear of items that have a long list of ingredients, and those with 'low fat,' 'fat-free' and 'sugar-free' claims on their labels."
"My first diet was very long and challenging. After I had finally reached my weight-loss goals, I made the mistake of overindulging in non-diet foods - and it showed! The problem was, I no longer had a structured plan, so I ate whatever and whenever I wanted."
"My coach and I put together an off-season meal plan that allowed for one or two cheat meals per week, and I stuck to it. I was still able to eat the foods I loved, but in moderation. This not only spurred huge improvements in my physique, it also taught me how to live a healthy, balanced life."
"Don't wait until your diet is over to create a meal plan for maintenance or improvement. Mold a solid plan weeks ahead of time, so you don't struggle to find balance after you've reached your weight-loss goals, and stick to it!"
"When I was living with roommates in college, I sometimes would have a 'bite' of their foods - foods that weren't on my diet. Because it was just a bite every few days, I didn't think it would really make a difference in my physique. When you're dieting though, every extra calorie - good or bad - counts."
"I started my diet weeks earlier than usual, so I could incorporate a cheat meal every week. That one meal was enough to curb my cravings, and it helped me feel less deprived. As I got closer to my show, I would cut these meals out or make it a 'clean cheat' such as filet and sweet potato at a restaurant or sushi."
"It's all about moderation. To avoid feeling deprived and falling off your diet, allow yourself one cheat meal per week."
"I believed that in order to lose weight, I had to drastically cut down on carbs - to the point that I almost didn't have any in my diet. I ended up looking way too lean, because I didn't realize that eating too few carbs forces the body into starvation mode, and muscles begin to burn their own protein for energy."
"I sought the help of a coach, and spent time learning more about nutrition. Once I realized that getting lean was not just about cutting calories from carbs, and then put this notion into practice, my body began to take on a whole new look."
"Do your research. With the advent of the Internet and the explosion of information in magazines, you can learn some nutrition basics for weight loss. Then, if you want to take your weight loss to the next level, invest in a good coach. Nothing compares to the guidance (and results) an experienced coach can provide."
"When I first began dieting, I would have a few extra 'bites' of my diet food here and there, but only if I was really hungry. I thought that because these foods were in my diet (clean cheat), and it was only a little extra once in a while, doing so wasn't a big deal. It wasn't until seeing pictures of myself months later that I realized how the extra food had affected my physique."
"I realized that when I'm dieting, there are going to be times when I'm hungry. To help quell the hunger, I would chew a piece of sugar-free gum or drink a cup of coffee or flavored tea instead of eating. This helped me get through those hunger pangs and wait to eat until my next scheduled meal, and I started to see my physique change faster."
"I hired a coach [ Kim Oddo] to help make sure I stayed on track with my diet. Having a coach not only provides accountability to actually do the things necessary but their feedback also ensures your physique is constantly improving. Always stick to your coach's plan. If you start listening to [and acting on] the advice of anyone other than your coach, the original plan you agree upon won't work."
"Before I became a trainer and worked with a nutritionist, I believed that consuming high-GI foods [fast-digesting carbs - high on the glycemic index] preworkout would help give me energy. I would have these carbs with my meal, usually two hours before a workout, and halfway through my workout I would end up hitting the wall. Consuming fast digesting carbs elicits a sharp increase in blood glucose, which in turn causes insulin to spike. When insulin spikes, blood glucose drops and your energy levels crash."
"I swapped the fast-digesting carbs for slow-digesting carbs before my workout, and added the fast-digesting carbs to my post-workout shake. Consuming fast-digesting carbs immediately after workouts helps drive carbs and amino acids into damaged muscles and boosts recovery."
"One of the best fast-digesting carbs to consume post-workout is waxy maize. Waxy maize is derived from corn starch, and it's absorbed into the muscles at a much faster rate than other carbs."
"When I first began dieting, I wasn't leaning down as quickly as I would have liked to. I cut calories too drastically, which caused my weight to plateau. I felt tired all the time, and had little energy for workouts."
"I used a basal metabolic rate calculator to help figure out the minimum number of calories per day my body needed. Once I knew my BMR, I was able to calculate and adjust my daily calorie needs based on my activity level. I soon found that I was consuming more calories and exercising with greater intensity - and getting leaner!"
"For caloric intake, even when dieting, aim to stay at or above your BMR; you don't want to drop below. Since I learned to keep my calories a little higher, I have enjoyed the contest preparation process more - and my physique looks better!"
"Being a full-time pre-med student, I lead a busy life. When I first started dieting, I found it very hard to fit all of my meals in around classes, studying, training and social time with friends. As a result, I wasn't seeing the changes in my physique that I was working so hard for in the gym."
"I learned how to better manage my time and prioritize. It's quite basic, but sometimes it takes reminding to keep on track. Once I put myself on a schedule, I made sure I ate when I was supposed to. Not only did my physique immediately start to change, but I also noticed a huge improvement in my mood."
"These days, most people are often so busy that they forget to do the most important things - like eat and sleep. Get in the habit of sitting down for a few moments at the start of each week to create a daily or weekly schedule. This will provide structure to your day(s) and meals, and you won't feel so overwhelmed."