By Mike Roussell, PhD
Your ultimate guide to making gains during the 23 hours a day you’re not working out.
The great challenge of your diet during the summer is maintaining consistency. From cookouts to vacations to weekends in the park, there’s plenty of temptation. But whether you’re looking to build muscle, burn fat, or simply maintain your current physique, diet consistency is critical.
Over the last two decades of helping people optimize body composition and performance, I’ve found that the people who are the most successful adhere to several core dietary principles – regardless of whatever hot nutrition trend may be floating around at the time. Here are four keys to a strong diet that have stood the test of time.
01 Eat Protein at Every Meal
Protein is the building block of muscle and essential for repairing and rebuilding muscle after exercise. It also sends signals to our brains to help us better manage hunger, preventing overeating. Consuming protein at every meal is crucial for achieving and maintaining a lean body composition.
Wherever you are this summer, after you grab your plate, the next thing you grab should be protein. Good sources of protein include lean meats (beef, chicken, pork, etc), fish, eggs, dairy, and plant-based meats. Aim for a minimum of 30 grams of protein per meal.
02 Pair Plants with Protein
Pairing vegetables with your protein provides a wide range of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants while also adding fiber (more on that later). All these things come together to help fight oxidative stress that is brought on by hard training – and the inflammation caused by the stressors of day-to-day life.
Eating fruits and vegetables with every meal is also a cornerstone strategy for helping control the overall calories in our diet. Make sure at least half of your plate is filled with colorful vegetables at every meal.
03 Focus on Fiber
Knowing what kinds of carbs you should eat - whole grains, complex carbs, unprocessed carbs - can get confusing. Fiber doesn’t lie. It’s essential for healthy digestion, satiety, and overall health. It slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and helps regulate blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and crashes. Look to fuel your energy throughout the day with carbohydrate foods continuing higher levels of fiber.
Make a habit of reading nutrition facts panels and picking foods that have more fiber. Aim for at least 10 grams of fiber at each meal. Not sure where to start? Veggies like broccoli, carrots, and eggplant, a small handful of nuts like pistachios, or a sprinkling of seeds (think chia) over your meal can get you rolling.
04 Recovery to Perform Better
Our muscles get stronger when they recover from workouts – not during the workout. And that starts within 60 minutes of exercise, when you should be consuming your post-workout meal or snack. Aim for a protein-rich meal with 30-40 grams of protein and 40-50 grams of carbs at this time - so yes, that grilled chicken and rice being served at your best friend's cookout checks all the boxes.
THE RECHARGE CORNER: MASTER CAT-COW
Everyone could give their lower back a little TLC – and you’ll get exactly that with a simple stretch, the cat-cow.
To do it, get on all fours, hands directly below your shoulders, knees below hips. Round your back as much as possible. Hold 2 seconds. Slowly arch your back.
Hold again. Alternate between both positions for 60 seconds. It’s a perfect workout warmup – or take our recharge challenge and start each morning with 60 seconds of this back-saving stretch.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
AUTHOR BIO: Mike Roussell, PhD
Mike Roussell, PhD, is an author, speaker, and nutrition strategist who has spent more than 20 years transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical habits that change lives.
He’s worked with a host of clients, including NBA all-stars, high-performing tech execs, and TV stars, teaching all of them what he calls “high-performance healthspan nutrition,” an approach built to help you live longer while building plenty of muscle and strength.