Eating right seems to be this elusive formula that we can never fully figure out. Are we supposed to do intermittent fasting? Carb cycling? Eat clean? Ketogenic? Paleo? Gluten-free? Should we be plant-based? Try the carnivore diet? The list is endless.
It seems that around every corner, another health professional is saying something different. But all that does is leave everyone confused and jumping around between meal plans, which can be stressful and frustrating. So what are you supposed to do?
You might not like my answer, which is that all of these things can be right, depending on who you are. The only wrong approach is a single-minded one that refuses to acknowledge that there are multiple ways to achieve optimal health. You see, one thing is for sure: no two bodies are alike, so we need to honor our individualities — not just in life, but in nutrition too.
I have three key principals that you can follow regardless of the nutrition philosophy you subscribe to. These little mantras are what I have used throughout my entire career in fitness and in sports:
1. Experience > ingredients.
The experience of eating our favorite foods is way more impactful than the actual ingredients. Sometimes, a simple swap of what we eat, not how, will fool our brains into thinking we are having our favorite treats. For instance, if you look forward to your nightly ice cream ritual, but know if you could just eliminate this habit you would see better results, try this: Make my mint chocolate chip protein shake recipe and pour it into a bowl. Put yourself in front of your favorite Netflix show and eat it with a spoon. Your brain says, "SHE'S GOT ICE CREAM," but your body gets a protein shake. When the experience is the same, the ingredients don't matter. Try it out!
2. Memories > macros.
This is something I have talked about on social media before and as a coach, it might seem crazy for me to recommend. My priority is to always address the whole woman. Your body is of course included in that, but the even bigger part is your happiness and your memories that you get to keep forever. Your body will someday fade but a single memory made can last a lifetime. I want my athletes to stay committed and disciplined when it comes to their nutrition. Macronutrients are guidelines that help us stay on track and achieve our goals, but they can also be pesky little numbers that steal our joy and fill our minds with way too much math. The next time your kid has a birthday or your husband wants to take you out to dinner and have the pasta dish you ordered on your first date — say yes! The hormonal benefits when the brain experiences joy as opposed to stress is so huge that the meal you have won't even matter. The following day you have two ways to keep your memories and your results. 1. Fasted cardio: grab some BCAAs and get 30 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity cardio in before your first meal. 2. Leg circuit: add a heavy hitter circuit with some big leg moves to use all the extra calories to build a booty and some great legs. Go heavier than usual and keep the pace up to burn as many calories as possible.
3. Team days off.
You know all those influencers who are super passionate about "team no days off" and wear it like a badge? Well, I'm not one of them. First, let me say that I believe in being active every single day. But when it comes to training (especially the sort of training that #TEAMAMBER is required to do) we need days off! Especially as women around, ahem, certain times — we need days of self-love, maybe a skinny margarita and a little R&R. So yes girls, take days off. I recommend two days of rest per week. I typically get some house work done on these days with the extra time I have not going to the gym. I might clear out a closet, you might want to mow the lawn, but we need days where we can chill and recover. Don't forget, training is still a stress on the body and when other stressors are added, we need to be sure we keep those stress-related cortisol spikes (hello, belly fat hormone!) in check.
So now you know my three mantras, and no matter what nutrition philosophy you follow, they can help you keep up with your training and find balance in life while still seeing great results. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my newsletter to get access to even more tricks and tips.
All my best, Coach Amber
Written by Amber Dodzweit-Riposta for Oxygen Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.