You can spend all day in the gym, but if you’re not eating correctly, you probably won’t see positive results. “Everyone’s goals are different, but the one constant I would say is that nutrition and diet play 75 to 80 percent of seeing the visible results,” says Adam Friedman, a Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute expert and nutrition coach certified by the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaching. “People need to be consistent. Most of the people that I work with are missing consistency in what they are doing, and a plan of what they do every day.”
Friedman shared five hacks you can use to help improve your diet. Happy eating.
Snacking is fine as long as you’re noshing on the right foods. Healthy snacks will keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Friedman suggests nuts and seeds; fruits, in moderation; or raw vegetables like cucumbers, celery, carrots, and even zucchini, which isn’t too harsh on your stomach when eaten fresh. You can add a bit of hummus for more flavor. Instead of preparing new snacks every day, cut up a bunch of veggies, store them in a container, and grab a new portion each morning.
Focus on Nutrient Dense, Not Calorie Dense
You’ll want to eat foods that are going to provide a lot of vitamins and minerals, especially minerals. “I think people often overlook the minerals and they are just looking at protein, carbs, and fat,” Friedman says. “But the minerals in vegetables are actually really important for brain function, digestive function, and energy function.” That means leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and root vegetables. Too often, people go to a bottom-feeder mentality where they eat meat and potatoes. When that happens, you eat more calories to get the same amount of nutrients, which trains your body to consume more.
Eat at the Same Time Every Day
“The body works best when it’s on a consistent schedule. “I used to be a proponent of eating every three or four hours, but I’ve discovered that’s not necessary,” Friedman says. “It’s actually training the body to run really hot at all times, which means that you’re working more than you have to.” Instead, Friedman suggests that you focus on eating within a certain 12-hour window every day. For example, if you have your first cup of coffee at 7 a.m., you shouldn’t eat after 7 p.m. Studies have shown that if you stay within this window, the results will be better than if you eat meals at different times every day.
Focus on Healthy Fats
Friedman suggests replacing high-carb snacks with foods high in healthy fats. For example, instead of a granola bar, which has a lot of nutrients listed on the label but isn’t too good for you, just eat a handful of salted walnuts, some avocado, or salted celery with nut or seed butter instead. Carb-based snacks are likely to spike your blood sugar, and the energy crash will make you need to eat again sooner. “Higher-fat snacks with some fibrous raw veggies will be more helpful in maintaining stable blood sugar and sustaining your energy,” Friedman says.
Into the Mason Jar
IfIf you’re looking to make to-go salads, use a Mason jar to quickly pack a colorful variety of your favorite raw veggies, nuts and avocados, and maybe a protein, like cooked chicken, turkey or eggs. Put the dressing on the bottom—extra virgin olive oil, coconut amino acids, lemon juice, and Celtic sea salt—then add the veggies and some nori seaweed on top for minerals that will help keep your energy up. “Keep it in a cooler, and then throw it into a bowl or on a plate when you’re ready to eat,” Friedman says. “It’s a great way to make sure you stay on top of getting all your veggie servings.”