When you add the label of “forbidden” to a food, it suddenly becomes quite irresistible, revealing the human tendency to become lured by temptation. Of course it doesn’t help that these so-called forbidden foods are full of sugar and other substances which trigger more cravings. You may be the type of person who occasionally nibbles on a food which is ordinarily on the do-not-eat list, or you may find yourself in a pattern in which you rationalize your dietary transgressions and cannot stop the behavior. If your indulgences are frequent, you have probably noticed the evidence accumulating around your waistline.
While competitors must follow rigid meal plans which discourage the consumption of any fat-laden or sugary treats, those of you who do not compete can follow a clean diet 90% with the occasional treat and suffer minimal consequences, However, individuals who do not follow rigid meal plans may be consuming nutrient-poor foods laden with saturated fat and sugar far more often than they realize. They may also be tricked into ordering a meal which seems to be clean, such as a chicken caesar salad, only to find out that the salad dressing alone can obliterate any possibility of consuming a healthy meal. The temptations continue when people are trying to keep up with busy schedules and ordering less than foods out of hunger and exhaustion. More temptations may also be lying in wait at home. Perhaps you have rationalized a nightly glass of wine or a Pop Tart as a treat for a busy day at work, but when this is practiced on a daily basis, it will surely trap you in a “one step forward, two steps back” pattern which will prevent you from achieving your fitness goals. Suddenly the clean and healthy diet is followed only about 40%, meals are random, and the risk of malnutrition also emerges as a result of erratic and unhealthy eating practices.
The key is to follow nutritional guidelines which will ensure that you get the nutrients and calories which your body requires. If it is too difficult to determine what it is that you need to consume on a daily basis for optimal nutrition, hire a nutrition coach to give you structure and consistency. You will still be able to enjoy the occasional treat, as long as you remember that moderation is the key. Another valuable habit to implement is the daily intake of a multivitamin, preferably one which is taken several times a day to optimize absorption. What I love about SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber Multivitamin is that it has high bioavailability of nutrients along with a three time per day dosing recommendation. This is my personal choice of multivitamin, and yes, I do take it three times daily. This formulation is very clean and doesn’t cause the intestinal upset that some multivitamins can cause. I can tell that I actually feel more energized when I take this particular multivitamin as opposed to other brands.
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If you have ever heard competitors talk about forbidden foods, you have most likely squirmed in your seat as these individuals moaned and squealed with obscene delight as they described favorite dishes in great detail. It is no surprise why fitness people refer to certain foods as “food porn” because they are so taboo. The highly restrictive nature of contest prep meal plans heightens the appeal of foods such as macaroni and cheese, chocolate cake, baby back ribs, French fries, burgers, pizza, etc. (I imagine that those of you who are involved in fitness are salivating after reading that list). Some people actually plan out a restaurant attack based on all the foods they want to eat post photo shoot or competition. I still find it amusing that The Cheesecake Factory has become almost the standard across the country for a post-contest cheat meal, because it has an enormous menu sure to please the palates of ravenous competitors who want to eat everything in sight after being deprived for so long.
Whenever I compete, I have a peculiar habit of keeping the hotel television turned on and set on the Food Network 24 hours a day. Whether it’s Cupcake Wars, Man Versus Food, Chopped, or Drivers, Diners and Dives, I love capturing glimpses of delectable offerings whenever I am in the room. The strange thing is that it isn’t torturous for me at all. It’s actually comforting in a bizarre and voyeuristic way, because I live vicariously through the individuals who indulge in foods that I could only dream of eating. I can sit there and imagine how a dish would smell and taste. Isn’t that how porn works too?
When competitors and people who diet are deprived of decadent foods and suddenly get a glimpse of the forbidden foods, the visual appeal can be staggering. Since we are also animals, we become more intrigued by the things we cannot have, whether it’s delicious food or sloppy sex. When we indulge in either of these activities, we tend to make sounds which reveal the bliss that we are experiencing in that moment. Scientifically, the pleasure centers in our brains are triggered strongly by a fantastic meal or incredible sex. It seems that the phrase “food porn” is quite fitting indeed.
It is human nature to allow ourselves little nibbles of so-called “forbidden” foods from time to time. The danger arises when such nibbles become so frequent that a pattern of rationalization over the dietary transgression begins to set in. Bear in mind that even a small indulgence on a regular basis will most likely end up on your waistline. The more control you have over your daily food intake, the greater the chance that you will reach or maintain your fitness and weight loss goals.
Those of you who do not compete can follow a clean diet 90% with the occasional treat and suffer minimal consequences. However, for those of you who are planning on hitting the stage, you need to take your meal plans seriously and follow them as much as possible. Every time you take a small nibble, you risk derailing your contest prep efforts, sometimes enough to push you considerably behind. If you know you are 3 weeks out from a contest, why mess with anything other than your scheduled cheat meal? The best thing to do is tough it out and stick with the program.
Many competitors ask me about condiments and sauces, and whether it is all right to use them on their meals. What I do not like about many condiments is that they contain high fructose corn syrup. Generally, I have competitors (I also advise the same for regular folks) avoid anything containing sugar at all costs. Another issue with condiments and sauces is that they add more calories to your meal. Add such things to a couple of meals a day, and this all adds up.
I have also had competitors ask me which alcoholic beverages they can indulge in on the weekends. Of course my response is along the lines of “none”, but if one insists on having ONE drink over the weekend, vodka based drinks are the cleanest option. You may be wondering if I indulge in libations from time to time, and the answer is yes. I have a particular fondness for wine and sake. What I do is confine my consumption to one weekend evening per week with my cheat meal. Everything in moderation is truly the key.