From chicken tenders to scallops and plain pasta with butter to spaghetti squash, over the years, my stomach has been on quite the journey. This is a small chronicle of how it’s progressed up to this point in time. When I was a kid, I was a classic super picky eater. Not sure when or why it started, but I had pretty much three options every time we went out to dinner: a caesar salad, chicken tenders with fries or maybe a hot dog if I was feeling adventurous. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up eating a nutritious home cooked meal at the dinner table every night we were home. I think Mom was able to get away with tricking me into a few more healthy things there, but I’d still resist where I could and skip out on things like tomato sauce. One thing that did manage to be a staple with every dinner was a tall cold glass of milk. Eventually, around the end of my high school years, I’d begun to take an interest in fitness. Nutrition innately plays a role in that and physique so I had to get wise, quick. I wasn’t going to get “ripped” like I wanted to without some proper tips and tricks so I started to do a little “research.” I quote that because reading Men’s Health Magazine and Eat This, Not That, was the extent of my research then. Either way, I began to open up a bit more to the idea of vegetables, drinking green tea, and taking protein powder. It was mostly just all of the hacks that you could find in the mags and in books like Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Body. Things like drinking ice cold water right when you wake up, eating cinnamon to reduce blood glucose, and most outrageously, doing squats right before eating to spike your metabolism. There was a point were I was probably borderline obsessed and taking it too far, by doing the latter in the bathroom at restaurants after ordering. Luckily, around the same time, I’d started exercising more regularly and realized that I was doing enough throughout the day that I could relax and enjoy my meals.

Fast forward a couple years to when I found CrossFit. I was a sophomore in college at UM and would often eat at the dining hall and had kind of given up structuring my meals. For those that have taken their L1 cert, you know that they preach paleo and zone. Back in 2010 it seemed that was all the rage outside of the CrossFit circle as well. I decided to give it a whirl and dove all the way in. I learned how to weigh, measure, and track all of my food. Zone is based more on quantity than quality of food, but I tried to maintain the paleo principles as much as I could. With Zone, I used “blocks” of each of the macro nutrients: protein, carbs, and fat and tried to design meals with a 30-40-30 ratio of each, respectively. I went at it strong for about a year and at some point just kind of fell off all the tracking and planning. It’s hard work. Not impossible, but takes a good amount of time and dedication.

About a year into doing CrossFit and starting to do so more competitively, I started feeling like I was a little under fueled. Paleo keeps you away from a lot of processed carbs and without breads and rices etc, I was having a hard time figuring out ways to get energy. I got lucky in that some healthy meal delivery services started popping up and they followed similar principles. Each meal seemed to come with a good portion of some type of meat for protein, a grain or starch for a carb and as many vegetables as the could fit in the rest of the container. Sold. I cycled through a few different plans over the years but that was a steady theme of what I was getting from each of the 3 meals a day. I’d add in a whey protein shake here and there and even a sprinkle of creatine at one point, when I realized that I wanted to get a little bigger and stronger for weightlifting. I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the gallon of milk a day thing. I mentioned it once on social media a while back and I still get a ton of questions about it. When I started CrossFit I was 5’7″ and weighed about 155lbs. I wasn’t the strongest guy because I had very little exposure to true weightlifting. Guido Trinidad, who was my sensei at the time, suggested I drink a gallon of milk a day to try and bulk up a bit. I managed to do so for a couple weeks and then realized that was crazy. In fact, it was right around the time I was rushing my fraternity Beta Theta Pi. They were very understanding of my quest to make the Games then, so during the night of a “case race,” rather than having to split a case of beers with my big, I had to finish a whole gallon of milk within a few hours. Needless to say, it didn’t last at that volume, but was certainly a good addition to my diet to help me add a bit of good weight while lifting heavy.

So we’re almost to present day and the last “fad” that I’ve tried is the whole macros thing. It’s similar to Zone, in that it focuses on the proportion of macronutrients. I never worked with a nutritionist, but messed with the numbers for a bit and decided I’d probably perform well with a balance of roughly 200g protein, 300-400g carbs and 100g of fat, per day. The meal service I use, Perfect Fuel, designs their meals using macros and the “Gainz” portion has each meal at about 50g protein, 75g carb and 25g fat. So three meals would bring me to 150g protein, 225g carbs and 75g fat. I’d fill the gaps with carb shakes, which were new to me a year ago, but I’ve since helped Xwerks develop my go to one, and protein shakes, with a little dessert or snack here and there when I felt like it. I tracked those very closely over the past year and reported the numbers to my coach, Max El Hag. He was the one that encouraged me to start refueling between sessions with extra carbs, based off of research he’d read and how he knows our bodies operate for the demands of our sport. We decided that I should gain a little bit of weight to get more durable for the barbell and go from about 185 to somewhere in the 190s. I had an incredibly easy time doing so. That could probably go into an entirely separate post for “hard gainers” looking to put on good weight, but I’ll keep it simple for now. I basically added an extra 75g carb and 25g protein shake after each session, so that was an easy extra 150g/50g of those. After that and my full meals, if I was still under my macros I’d have something like a peanut butter and banana sandwich or a bowl of cereal to get up or above my numbers for the day. Doing so, I got up to 200lbs at one point! Which is super hefty for me, but I was a solid block of muscle and people were commenting quite often on my girth. After the Games, we assessed that it was a bit too heavy for me and didn’t help with weightlifting as much as we’d hoped and actually could’ve been a detriment on some running workouts. Almost too easily, I just cut out those extra shakes and snacks and slimmed right to just above 180lbs in a matter of a few weeks. I’m currently back up around 185-190lbs, which I think is the right weight for me. When I’m not tracking macros strictly, I have a good sense of what a well balanced day of meals looks like for me. Speaking of which, I get asked a lot, so here’s what a typical day of non macro’d eating looks like:

                              

Breakfast is 3 eggs with 2 pieces of toast or oats with some fruit and a black coffee. First workout session concludes with a 50-75g Motion carb shake. I’ll workout again and do another shake with some protein added to it. Shortly after, I’ll just get in a full meal, which would be something like a hefty portion of rice and ground beef with some veggies or a sandwich, consisting of similar things. Dinner will also be similar, with a meat, a big portion of grain or starch and a salad or some veggies. A couple night a week, especially if it’s on a high volume workout day, I’ll have some ice cream or something sweet. On the weekends, Joann and I like to go out and get dinner somewhere semi fancy. Same rules apply there, just a little more loosely.

Now that the CrossFit season has begun, I’m back to tracking macros. My goal for each day right now is to eat 420g of carbs, 180g of protein and 100g of fat. It’s never EXACTLY that but I’ve learned how to get it pretty close almost every day. The first few days of tracking your macros can be frustrating, annoying, and time consuming but once you get the hang of it and know roughly how many of each macro are in certain meals, it makes it much easier to plan your day. I’ve got to say, it feels good knowing I have my numbers dialed in and have a little more in control of one factor of my performance.

I may not have my nutrition down to an exact science, but that I have a very good grip on a well balanced and healthy diet that keeps me fueled but still allows me to live stress free in that department. That’s what’s working for me right now! Everyone is different and every body type, set of current goals, and circumstances are going to cause some deviation from that. That’s okay. Do what works for you and don’t be lazy if this is an important factor in helping you reach your goals. Dial it in and eventually it’ll become a routine that ebbs, flows, and changes with you over time.