It’s entirely too common to talk to someone who claims to be eating clean only to find out that they are eating six Lara Bars a day, two Quest Bars (ya know, for fiber), an apple, three protein shakes, and half of a Rice Crispy Treat (because it fits their macros). Often these people will complain about not feeling their best or hitting some kind of plateau, and generally feel like they should be a lot further ahead for how hard they’re working. So if their food is coming from “good” sources and they are keeping track of their intake while being consistent, what gives? Chances are good that the loop hole they are searching for to make “clean” foods more quick and accessible is exactly what is preventing them from making progress. Just like spinach for Popeye, eating some whole foods will make you super and get that Gain-Train moving towards Shredsville.
Consistency is key.
There are no secrets in fitness but consistency isn’t talked about nearly enough. Be consistent. With everything. Training. Eating. Sleeping. Stretching. Meal Prep. You name it. If you have a goal, figure out what things you need to do to work towards it and do them all the time. The more often you are consistent with the building blocks of your goal the faster you reach it. This is important because…
Processed foods are not consistent.
Processed foods are high variability foods, and eating out is a high variability source of food. If you are not making the progress you think you should be making you need to control this variability. That’s when you make the switch to incorporating more whole foods in your diet and start prepping more meals yourself.
Whole foods that you cook yourself are low variability foods. Six ounces of baked sweet potato is going to have roughly the same nutritional content as another six ounces of baked sweet potato. Every. Single. Time. Packaged foods and food that is prepped at a restaurant, even “clean” or healthy ones, cannot claim the same thing. Each batch can vary widely but the nutritional label is always the same. The nutritional label is also going to be off because of the way that labels on foods are regulated. Food manufacturers are allowed to round down to the nearest half gram on any of the macronutrients and don’t have to print anything that is under five Calories. This means that the food in the wrapper could be 30-50 Calories higher than what you think it is. When you are eating these pre-prepared goods multiple times a day and on multiple days each week, you can start to see why progress may get stalled and I’m not even getting into the questionable amount of oil used at restaurants.
Healthy packaged foods are great when you’re on the run and short on time but don’t want McDonald’s. Hell, things like beef jerky and dried fruit get me through flights and long car trips. You are doing the right thing but if you are doing it too often you need to come up with a better strategy. I suggest setting aside a few hours on the weekend and making an army’s amount of food. I discuss that here.
Replacing packaged goods with home cooked food from basic ingredients is one of the easiest ways to make sure that you keep the progress coming. You’ll feel better, you’ll look better, and you’ll get stronger too. Now that’s worth the effort.