When you track your caloric intake, as all bodybuilders should, it can be easy to fall into the trap of constantly hauling around Tupperware full of chicken and rice and refusing to eat anything not made by yourself. Whilst this is the safest option, it is by no means fun, and it isn’t uncommon for your social life to take a hit because of it. Friends and family who don’t fully understand your hobbies may be confused as to why you refuse to join them at social events because of your dietary needs, and this may lead to an impact on your relationships. All bodybuilders who truly practice “balance” in their lifestyles understand that it doesn’t have to be this way! Here are some top tips for keeping on track whilst maintaining your normal social life:
1. Make the most of online resources.
As I am sure many of you are aware, MyFitnessPal is an app which helps you track your macronutrients throughout the day. As the largest online database for nutritional information, MyFitnessPal should be your best friend when you’re tracking your intake. Many chains of restaurants or fast food places actually have their nutritional information listed on here. Nandos, for example, have all their mains, desserts and side dishes listed on MyFitnessPal so that you can figure out what calories and macronutrients are actually in your meals. This allows you to confidently stick to your set macronutrient goals whilst enjoying a meal out with your family and friends.
2. Pick a place with a versatile menu.
If you’ve chosen to go out to a fancy restaurant with a set menu of three main dishes, the chances are you’re going to struggle to find an option that fits your dietary needs. Picking somewhere with a large menu means you’ll be able to find a meal that fits into your macronutrients whether you’re cutting, maintaining or bulking. Although you should always feel comfortable with ordering something a bit more adventurous, it’s a good idea to pick a restaurant with a reliably safe macro-friendly option just as an insurance choice, such as the chicken salad if you’re cutting.
This only really applies to people who are cutting/dieting and whose macronutrient goal includes meeting below a certain caloric intake; this won’t be a problem for those of you who are bulking! A good tip for eating at any restaurant is to take the macronutrients provided (if they are available) and add a tablespoon of oil. Most of the foods cooked in restaurants will have been cooked in oil at some point, and this will significantly bump up the fat percentage of what you’re eating. Therefore if you’re prepping for a show or getting really strict with your diet it is always recommended to take this precaution!
4. Learn to “eyeball” your food.
If you have been tracking your macronutrient intake for a long time, “eyeballing” your food generally will come as second nature for you. This just refers to looking at what’s on the plate and using your own knowledge and the resources available to you (again, MyFitnessPal) to estimate what you’re eating. For example, if you’re used to weighing out your rice when you eat dinner at home when you go out for a curry you’ll have a rough idea of how many hundred grams of rice is on your plate just from looking at it. You always have the option to leave some if you can’t quite fit that many carbohydrates into your set macronutrients anyway! Use the macronutrients for a generic curry mix and a few ounces of chicken on MyFitnessPal and of course add one or two tablespoons of oil and you’re good to go. This is by no means perfect and isn’t really an option for those undergoing contest prep who need to be very strict with their diets, but for those of you who are training for life, this is a great way to be flexible with your lifestyle and branch out to try new and exciting foods.
5. Listen to your hunger cues.
We’ve all been there, you go out starving and end up wolfing down an entire pizza and portion of chips in what feels like ten seconds flat and you still don’t feel satisfied. Firstly, I would never recommend going out for a meal feeling extremely hungry as the temptation to overeat can be quite overwhelming when your brain is telling you to eat anything in sight. Secondly, remember to eat slowly and pay attention to when you feel full. Don’t ever feel like you have to clear your plate; if you feel full before you’ve finished then that is your body’s way of telling you it doesn’t need any more food. Listen to it.
6. Don’t be scared to have a little fun.
Going on an all-out binge is bad for your health, but eating a little over or under your goal macronutrient intake every once in a while is not going to kill your progress. Excelling in this lifestyle is all about being flexible and enjoying what you love in moderation. It is always recommended that anyone passionate about bodybuilding should steer clear of alcohol, but if you really enjoy having a couple of drinks with your friends then your lifestyle should permit it. Keep a few hundred calories clear for the end of the day and opt for one or two low calories options such as vodka and diet coke or gin and slimline tonic; just don’t go overboard!