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October 25, 2006

meal planning: the working person's dillemna

getting back to full-time office work and not having access to my kitchen on demand and having less time to cook has put to test a lot of the principles and meals i've written about here.

but do not despair! with a little planning, you can eat well during the day and keep your energy levels high and your weight stable.

ok, so we laid out the "endurance diet", but i think that applying this to eating in the office setting requires a few other considerations.

first, the goal of a proper eating regimen (macronutrients, meal times, portion size) is several fold: maintenance of proper weight, immune system and overall energy levels.

fat burning

if you do everything right, your body will burn fat efficiently. mess it up, and it won't, which leads to weight gain and poor energy levels. to burn fat, your body needs to get fat in the diet, have a steady supply of carbohydrates to keep it going and not have sugars to distract it! the major goal of the following bits of advice are to keep that fat burning machine running properly.

meal times/sizes

to prevent peaks and valleys in my daily energy levels, i like to eat often. i try to apportion my meals to about every 2.5-3 hours. to do this, i manage the size of my meal to be enough to make me comfortable but not full. i want to be hungry but not too hungry. happy medium.

snacks

these are the killers. they're frequently high glycemic index or fat laden. the first messes with your insulin levels, causing your body to shift from burning fat to burning sugars. when those sugars are all used up, you will suffer low energy while your body returns to fat as the primary energy source. frequently, you will go back for more snacks. it is a nasty cycle! both are problems because they're typically the source of extra calories that cause weight gain or stymie weight loss. if you are hungry between meals, then check the content or size of those meals to avoid snacking.

meal content

the recommended macronutrient profile is best to be followed when considering a diet for a whole day. during the day, each meal will have somewhat different content, based on the body's primary needs at that point.

breakfast

eat breakfast. i like to make this the biggest meal of my day. this meal will set the tone for your eating for the rest of the day. make it too small or of the wrong make-up and you will be "chasing" your appetite all day. because the role of breakfast is to resupply your glycogen stores and get yourself fueled for the day, it can be higher in carbohydrates than your overall goals, but should still have quality fat and protein to keep it satisfying.

lunch

because of my three hour meal plan, i eat two lunches. two smallish lunches (or large, if i rode a lot the day before). i start adding a bit more fat and protein to my lunches to keep them from being too high on the glycemic index. i typically have left overs and a sandwich. i avoid the one big lunch plan because it makes me tired afterward.

if you are planning a workout after work, make sure your last meal is about 2-3 hours before hand and easily digested. i usually follow my pre-race meal regime. also, keep some gel laying around. this stuff works wonders for getting you that boost you need if your meals were suboptimal through the day.

dinner

if i don't ride in the evening after work, i have two dinners. one is small to bridge the gap between my second lunch and last dinner. the last dinner is the highest protein and fat meal of the day. portion size is small to keep the overall calorie consumption inline. the reason is that the body does not need the carbohydrates to energize it going forward. the body needs the protein to rebuild muscles (20% of the day's protein should be in that period shortly after a workout, which is in the evening for me). the fat brings the day's total fat content up to the 25-30% that we're targeting. this is key for overall health!

if you've eaten properly through the day, your energy levels should be strong and you shouldn't be craving a huge dinnertime meal. and go ahead and eat a little desert. you've earned it! focus on quality, not quantity!

October 2, 2006

squash

fall is here, which means the arrival of squash! squash are a great vegetable as they store easily for long periods of time, can be cooked an a variety of ways in any number of dishes and are packed with vitamins (1 C of butternut squash has 300% RDA of vitamin A and 50% RDA of vitamin C!).

i like butternut squash because it is easy to peal and has a relatively small cavity of seeds. it also has a mellow but full flavor.

i suggest cubing your squash into 1 inch squares and dropping into a stew or curry (cook about 20-25 minutes) or baking before dropping into a broth for a soup. squash makes a great base for soups as it adds body and creaminess without the typical fat that accompanies cream. baked pieces of squash can also be mashed and whipped with spices to make an alternative to mashed potatoes.