Nutrition Tips For the Busy
According to Dr. Johnny Bowden, Americans spend less and less time cooking our own food. Back in 1982, we spent two hours a day cooking all of our meals. Fast forward to current times and we’re lucky if we can get 20 minutes a day in. Some of us may have to scarf down lunch at our desk in between phone calls, while the rest of us probably live in our car trying to brush crumbs off our shirt while we soar down the freeway. (I don’t recommend that, but I’m sure it happens).
Ranking in my top five questions that I hear all the time, the concept of nutrition on the go is pretty common. Can you get in tip-top shape if every meal is a protein shake? Sadly, no. If your goal is to have a six pack, then you’re going to have to commit to punching the clock in the kitchen. Even with a hectic lifestyle, you can still make better choices that won’t let all your hard work in the gym go to waste.
Let’s chat about some methods we can use to practice good nutrition when we’re on the go. Just make sure to keep both hands on the steering wheel and sip your fruit smoothie only at red lights.
Disclaimer: Never go hungry. Hungry means that you make poor decisions when you’re around food. Being hungry and driving down the road, with kids in the backseat screaming their heads off, makes a fast food joint seem like not such a bad idea. But good nutrition isn’t just about weight loss. Your brain relies on blood glucose and when you have some nutrients in you, you make better decisions.
Your first order of business is to stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle around and fill it up. Filtered water is your best bet, you can also add lemon or lime to water for taste. A great company called True Citrus makes crystallized lemon and lime available in little packets that you can carry with you and add to your water.
With your body being anywhere between 50 and 70% water, hydration is the starting block for every process in your body. No system in your body functions well when dehydrated. In a dehydrated state, water is drawn away from your vital organs and central nervous system, affecting your energy levels and thought processes. Research has shown that even small reductions in hydration status can have strong effects on your strength level as well as weight loss. A meta analysis of research studies found that drinking more water can equate to weight loss (1). In addition to a weight loss programs, subjects who regularly increased their water consumption lost more weight over the span of 3 to 12 months.
The Emergency Jar
Most clients and bosses simply don’t care about your grumbling stomach. They want what they need from you right at that minute, and this means you’re glued to your desk. No problem, you’ve planned ahead. Using a jar (preferably glass), store a secret emergency stash of dry goods in one of your desk drawers.
Mix in different nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and macadamias along with seeds like pumpkin and sunflower. You can also add in dried fruit – the fat and protein from the nuts will balance out the sugar in the dried fruit and prevent your blood sugar from skyrocketing. Two handfuls of your secret stash and you’re good to go.
Protein, Part 1
Protein is your best friend. Neglecting protein can negatively affect your metabolism and blood sugar. A study performed long ago shows the benefits of protein on metabolism. When comparing protein intakes between subjects, the subjects who ate more protein with each meal lost more body fat, built more muscle, and raised their metabolic rate more than the lower protein group (2).
Keep a blender at work. Next to your secret stash, keep small baggies of your favorite protein powder. When your friendly co-workers give you a split second to yourself, dart to the kitchen a make a shake. Mix in whatever else you have available: blueberries, almond butter, and green vegetables are a good start. Every Monday bring in a new stash of baggies of protein powder so you have them on hand throughout the week. Pick two days out of the week where you go out and get some fresh fruit to add into your shakes.
Protein, Part 2
Sometimes the blender idea doesn’t work. The noise level may not be acceptable or you may be on the road. Fear not. Convenience stores are making a decent effort at trying to sell protein products. It may be a last resort, but it’s better than nothing. As far as the rules, liquid always wins over bars. Bars tend to have more ingredients in them that can keep them on the shelf longer and these are things you probably don’t want trolling around your digestive system. If you do buy a bar, try to find one without the following ingredients: soy protein, sucralose, sucralose gum, soy lecithin, brown rice syrup. There are plenty of other bad ingredients, but you’ll know the really bad ones (you won’t be able to pronounce them).
As a general rule, make sure the protein bar has more than 20 grams of protein as well as some fat. It should have very little carbohydrate in it and sugar should be just about miniscule.
The Veggie Army
Prior to leaving for work in the morning, bring several bags of raw vegetables. Yes, it’s not very glamorous, but vegetables can be eaten in abundance because they’re a nutrient dense food. The fiber in them will keep your blood sugar levels stable. This means you’re not causing any of your bad hormones to spike. The rule of thumb is that the darker the vegetable, the better (i.e. broccoli wins over iceberg lettuce).
Nothing can replace a whole food meal plan. But sometimes life happens and you don’t have the luxury of sitting down to eat a full meal. This doesn’t mean that you have to let your nutrition suffer. Lastly, you never know when you may just have one of those days, which should tell you the importance of following a whole food meal plan on those slower and less hectic days.
1. Muckelbauer, R. Sarganas, G., et al. “Association Between Water Consumption and Body Weight Outcomes: A Systematic Review” (2013) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 98;2, 282-299
2. Soenen, S. Martens, E.A.P, Hochstenbach-Walen, A., et al. “Normal Protein Intake is Required for Body Weight Loss and Weight Management, and Elevated Protein Intake for Additional Preservation of Resting Energy Expenditure and Fat Free Mass.” (2013). Journal of Nutrition. (2013). (143):5. 591-596
Originally written: August 7 2014