Since I wrote about metabolic damage here and here, I have been wanting to write a post about my own experience with overcoming the condition. Given that I’ve been wide awake since 2.30 this morning, I figured now was the perfect time to start!
First, I think it would be helpful to show what an average day of eating looks like for me. There is always a bit of controversy surrounding these types of posts, as some people will think I eat too little and some people will think it’s too much. This is what works for me, based on years of experimentation, reverse dieting and serious weight training.
Also remember that I am training for a strongwoman competition, completing four very intense workouts per week (often in excess of two hours). Like my coach says, when you are doing strongman training, you can get away with eating basically anything.
I have never eaten more processed, calorie-dense food in my life, but I bet you wouldn’t be tucking into a nice tupperware container of chicken and broccoli when your body is shaking so much you can’t walk home from the gym for fear of passing out! Oh and my coach challenges anyone who thinks I eat too much to come face off against me, so I can kick some ass 😉
In my every day life, I get a LOT of comments about the amount I eat. People ask me where I put all the food and what my secret is. Almost everyone remarks that I am so lucky because I must have a crazy fast metabolism, or that it will catch up with me when I’m older.
This makes me laugh hysterically, considering my metabolism was shot to hell just a few years ago. For those newer readers who aren’t familiar with my background, I used to be an insane runner (I ran 10km every single day for two years with absolutely no rest days) and never ate more than 1200 calories while doing so. My diet was very restrictive and low-carb, and often led to binges on the weekend.
Any time I ever crossed that invisible 1200 calorie barrier I had set for myself, I seemingly instantly gained weight. My body could not tolerate carbs at all, and any time I wanted to lose weight I had to eliminate all “treats” as well as almost all carbohydrates, and slash my calories even further. This was the main reason I was so in favour of “clean eating” when I started blogging.
Sadly, this story is all too common among women in particular. Too much cardio combined with not enough food wreaks all kinds of havoc on your body. I was left with all kinds of hormonal issues, and it took me almost two years to completely repair my metabolism.
So, without further ado, this is what I eat during an average day.
Going against popular dieting wisdom, breakfast is actually my smallest meal of the day. I cut carbs at breakfast almost a year ago and I feel much more energetic having done so. Even on the days I train in the morning, I don’t have any carbs pre-workout. I typically have three whole eggs, some bacon and a tablespoon of almond butter.
On a normal day, I eat breakfast around 8am. I usually start to feel hungry again at 11am, but I try to wait until 11.30-12pm to eat. I’m a creature of habit, and I’ll always have some kind of chicken salad with sweet potato or quinoa on the side. If it’s a training day, I will have 1.5 chicken breasts and two sweet potatoes. On rest days, I have one chicken breast and one sweet potato, or a similar amount of net carbs from quinoa. I always include some kind of fat with this meal as well, such as olive oil, nuts or avocado.
By now, you’re probably thinking, “jeez, this isn’t much food at all”. Heh.
The real eating begins with my pre-workout meal. If I’m working out with my trainer, he usually sends me a text telling me to eat all the carbs I can get my hands on, and I happily oblige.
Most of the time, I eat 250g greek yoghurt with protein powder, cocoa and honey added in. I will have that with a banana and a couple of tablespoons of almond butter. If I’m not working out, I’ll just skip the banana.
If it’s an event training day, I will go crazy. Here are a couple of recent pre-workout meals I’ve Instagrammed.
One chicken breast, half a squash, two tubs of yoghurt with almond butter, a banana and an unpictured Pepsi (my body responds well to simple sugars!):
This past Wednesday, I had sushi, yoghurt and Red Bull. I rarely drink RB but I was so tired, even after having a coffee.
Before I work out, I always have an iced coffee (none of this calorie-free Americano crap – I go for the sugariest mocha frappucino I can find!).
I don’t eat anything intra-workout or immediately following it. I am usually very close to puking so the thought of eating makes me nauseous.
When I get home, I eat all the things. I eat a 250-300g portion of meat (post-training, I typically have red meat, while on rest days I have chicken or fish) alongside a ridiculous serving of carbohydrates. This varies between 500g (yes, seriously) of pasta, rice or potatoes. My favourite option is mashed white potatoes with butter and cheese, as I can get in a large amount of carbs without the bulk.
I also make sure I have a decent serve of vegetables, purely to add volume to my meal and prevent us going bankrupt by eating everything in sight 😉
I have to eat this meal at home. I have tried having burgers, ribs, etc but the restaurant portions aren’t big enough and I end up needing more food.
On my rest days, dinner is still my largest meal of the day. I will generally avoid grains (for digestion reasons – my body doesn’t seem to process them well unless I’m fresh from the gym) but I will still have some sweet potato or squash, unless it’s the weekend and we go out to eat and I murder the bread basket.
Still not done! I always have another 250g serve of yoghurt before bed, usually with 2-3 squares of dark chocolate and some berries. When I get home from training, it’s often really late, so I eat this literally straight after dinner.
Throughout the day, I cook with coconut oil and bake with olive oil, so the fat adds up. I also have one glass of coconut water every day, and about 3 litres of regular water.
I find it much more convenient to eat less frequent, larger portions. Prior to starting strongman training, I was eating four times a day but I’m so ravenous I need an extra meal! My appetite has always been bigger at the end of the day, especially now since I’m training in the evenings most of the time.
On the weekends, I will typically have 2-3 meals that I wouldn’t normally eat, but which go right through me. Something like pizza, a burger and fries, or dessert.
I don’t want people to compare, but I know someone will add up the calories anyway, so I did a rough estimation: 3850 calories, 295g protein, 360g carbohydrates, 140g fat. Come at me, bro.
Cardio + 1200 calories = misery. Zilch cardio + almost 4000 calories = bliss.
I have also recently shared some of my holiday meals in Montenegro and Ibiza. When I was on holiday, I was eating upwards of 400g of carbs per day via only starchy sources, and I still managed to lose half a kilo despite consciously trying not to. Of course, I don’t normally eat like this, but it’s nice to know I never have to worry about gaining weight on vacation like I used to in the past!
Next time I will share exactly how I repaired my damaged metabolism by reverse dieting. Have you ever suffered from metabolic damage?
PS. Remember that my number one goal right now is being as strong as possible, not having six pack abs. Adjust calories accordingly!