The Most Simple & Efficient Diet Possible: My Nutritional Journey

Updated: Feb 28

How’s it! Austin here.


I often get asked about my diet and what I’m implementing into my nutrition plan. The questions have really picked up recently since I have cleaned up my diet and have noticed major results in the mirror. However, seeing results in the mirror was not the main reason for cleaning up my diet...


To first give you some context, I would say my nutrition has always been better than average, but it was far from what I knew it should be. Previously, I was a competitive athlete. I was chasing points to the extent that I would have easily decided to trade years of my life for a few seconds faster on a workout, or a few pounds more on the barbell, so I could land a podium spot. With that mindset, I didn’t care much about anything else besides performing my absolute best, no matter what the negative effects would be on health. Yes, I was super fit, but being super fit doesn’t mean you are healthy.


Then things changed. Last year I decided I didn’t want to compete anymore. Since I wasn’t in the gym training 3-5+ hours a day, I knew I couldn’t continue to eat the large amounts of food I had before to support recovery for training. This is when I realized that the years of eating so much food- with subpar quality- took a huge toll on my digestive system. The worst part for me was that I have a family history of digestive issues ranging from prostate cancer to diverticulitis to acid reflux. That’s not to mention my own previous experience with gut issues due to growing up with multiple food sensitivities that I never realized.


In my early 20’s I found out I had an esophageal ulcer that got so bad that they had to go in for an upper endoscopy to check it out. This is also when the doctors found out that I had Barrett’s cells in my throat. This was not a good sign considering I was only in my 20’s. Barrett’s cells are a form of pre-cancer cells that form in your esophagus from acid building up from your stomach going up into your throat. Since the throat’s lining isn’t made to withstand the stomach acid, the throat creates Barrett’s cells to protect itself. The acid build-up and the Barrett cells are not supposed to be there, which is why those cells typically turn into cancer down the line.


Once I knew that my competing days were over, I knew it was time to start focusing on my health, which always starts with dialing in your nutrition and lifestyle. So over the course of about a year, I started to make small, lifelong changes to both my nutrition, lifestyle, and training style in hopes of improving my overall health and longevity. This is when I decided that my new goal would be to still be super healthy and fit at 50-years-old (and beyond). When I turn 50, I want to be stoked that I still have more than half my life to continue living my best life. I plan on continuing to live a very active and physical life where I’m not limited, in doing the things I love, by my physical abilities.


At the end of October, I had another upper endoscopy to check on my throat cells after I had been cleaning up my nutrition, lifestyle, and training style. And guess what…


The results came back negative for Barrett’s cells!


While I understand a lot could have gone into the exodus of Barrett’s cells in my throat, I fully believe my nutrition, lifestyle, and changes to my training are the key player in getting them out of my system.


Now that you have some background about my nutrition and an idea about my goals, I am going to go over my current nutrition plan. However, I think it’s very important to point out that this diet is 100% for me. Although there is overlap, this is not necessarily what I coach to my clients. I strongly believe everyone’s nutrition should be individualized based on an almost endless list of reasons- age, genetic makeup, ethnicity, priorities, family history, nutritional experience, etc. etc. etc.


I also believe everyone is capable of making lasting changes to their nutrition, lifestyle, and training program no matter how hard those changes may be. It’s all about having a strong reason as to ‘why’ you are doing what you are doing. When you pair this with an educated plan of attack to get to your end goal, you are almost guaranteed to succeed. It also helps to have a coach to guide you through this process. Thank you Megan ;-)


As you’ll see, I am on a very restrictive diet and I’m dialed in 90%+ of the time. Yes, it was really hard at first, which is why I took small, incremental steps over the course of a year to get here. But hell, if I can sustain this while living in a van… I don’t think you have any excuses ;-)


When designing my own nutrition protocol with help from Megan, I wanted something fast, efficient, and effective. I don’t like cooking up elaborate recipes and I don’t want to spend a ton of time around food. I wanted it to be simple and I wanted it to be effective. I like to think of food simply as fuel to help me live my best life. So the more efficient and utilitarian my nutrition- the happier I knew I’d be… much like my inspiration for #Vanlife.


As I continue this never-ending nutritional journey, I plan on making revisions to this blog in which case I will note what I had changed, why, and my results. But here is the first version that I wanted to share with you all.


I think the best way to go about giving my daily nutrition is to first show how I go about my food choices and meals. I eat towards the mantra “meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar”. For each meal, I try to pick one source from each protein, veggie, carbohydrate, and fat per meal. I try to stay at, or below, 5 total ingredients (minus spices) per meal. I also rotate those 5 ingredients almost every meal or at least every time I go grocery shopping. Living in a van forces me to grocery shop 2-3 times, per week. Below I will break down each category and the types of foods I gravitate towards.


Protein

My Popular Choices: Turkey, Beef, Chicken, Pork, Fish, Bison, Egg Whites


Prep: I usually have 2-3 different proteins on hand that I cook in bulk and store in the fridge. Since Megan and I follow very similar nutrition protocols, this means prepping at least 6 pounds of two different proteins. This usually lasts about a week. I’ll have a third protein option available that is usually easy to make fresh for days I feel like cooking. =]


Amount: I usually have anywhere from 5 to 7 ounces of protein per meal 3x/day.


Notes: Megan and I always try to go with leaner protein (usually 93% lean turkey/beef). We also keep a very close eye on our red meat consumption to make sure we don’t overdo it.


Veggies

My Popular Choices by Color:

Red color: Beets, Red Onions, Tomatoes, Red Leaf Lettuce

Yellow/Orange: Carrots

White/Tan/Brown: Mushrooms, Cauliflower

Green: Leafy Greens (we’ll mix these up a lot but love Spinach and Kale), Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Celery, Cucumbers, Zucchini

Blue/Purple: Purple Cabbage, Purple Carrots


Prep: I always make sure I have a handful of different veggies at my disposal. I typically try to stay away from pre-bundled veggie blends but that’s not a hard rule. I’ll usually throw these in the microwave (if I have one available), boil, or cook with some fat (oil/butter) in a pan with the rest of my meal (the protein). I typically make sure all my veggies are super soft after cooking. The softer the veggie, the better since it’s WAY easier on your gut.


Amount: I always try to shoot for at least 2 servings of veggies per meal 3x/day; or roughly 180g based on the veggie and how it’s cooked. I like to have 2 servings of some sort of leafy green 1x/day. Then I mix up my veggie choices for the day based on color. I try to shoot for multiple shades of veggies/fruits per day.


Notes: I mix both frozen and fresh veggies into my diet. I try to stay away from a lot of veggies that I’m sensitive to such as peppers, onions, and snap peas/pea varieties. I also pay close attention to nightshades and FODMAPs to make sure I am not overdoing them and that my body is responding well.


Carbohydrates

My Popular Choices: Potatoes/Yams (All Variations), Rice (White and Brown), Rice Based Noodles/Cereals, Quinoa, Oats (All Variations)


Prep: Rice and quinoa are both cooked in a 6 cup bulk and stored in the fridge. I always have one or the other cooked, and on hand. The potatoes are usually cooked in bulk too (I kinda wing it on amount) and usually baked (if we have an oven available) or boiled. Oats are cooked with a JetBoil when needed.


Amount: Varies greatly based on my goal of carbohydrate intake and my current activity level. As of January 2020, I only consume carbs on meals surrounding a workout.


Notes: I am recently reducing my carbohydrate intake. I noticed the potato skins were giving me GI discomfort. So I’ve taken out skins and am currently watching/highly limiting my potato. I’ve also been eliminating even more grain from my diet recently too in order to help decrease total inflammation. So far, I’ve noticed a benefit from doing so.


Fats

My Popular Choices: Oils (EVOO, Avocado, Coconut), Ghee, Butter (Unsalted Kerigold), Nut Butters (no nut mixtures), Nuts (All Types- highly limit peanuts), Seeds (Chia, Hemp, Flax, Pumpkin, and others), Avocados, Dark Chocolate, Eggs


Prep: There really isn’t any prep for any of the fats that I consume.


Amount: I typically have 1-2 servings of fats with each meal. Plus an additional snack that is mostly fats (usually a fruit or veggie with a fat).


Notes: I have at least 1 serving of an oil/butter, nut, and seed per day. I rotate my fats on a daily basis.


Fruits

My Popular Choices: Apples, Bananas, Berries, Peaches, Mangos, Grapes, Grapefruit, Cranberries, and Whatever Else I see that Works!


Prep: There really isn’t any prep for fruits. Unless it’s a frozen blend in which case you just have to let defrost :)


Amount: I typically have 1-2 serving of a fruit per meal. Plus an additional serving as a snack.


Notes: Like with veggies, I mix both frozen and fresh fruit into my diet. I also pay close attention to nightshades and FODMAPs but my gut seems to tolerate fruits pretty well.


Other Foods


Alcohol: I HIGHLY limit alcohol consumption. I’ll have wine here and there. I rarely ever have beer- unless I’m at a Chicago Cubs game haha. And easily drink under 10 total servings of hard alcohol per year. Limiting alcohol is HUGE.


Bars: I try to stay away from bars but there is a time and a place for them. When I do go to bars, I love the LARABARS, ONE Bars, and Rx Bars.


Caffeine: I HIGHLY limit caffeine/coffee, both of which make me anxious, crave sugar, and sometimes mess up my gut. I currently consume 1-2 cups of black coffee 2-3x/week. I’m currently am also seeing if the different brewing methods mess up my gut based on the acidity it leaves in the final product.


Dried Fruit: These are usually always processed with added sugar, so I try to stay away.


Processed Foods: I try to limit processed foods as much as possible, which is one reason I don’t like bars. However, there are some things that just make life WAY easier when processed. So there is a balance that I do play around with. When I do have processed foods, I make sure the ingredient list is short and that I know everything that is in it. Some of these processed foods include canned tuna, nut butters, oils, rice cereals, trail mixes, grains, etc.


As you can see from my food choices, my diet is SUPER simple and EASY. It’s nothing fancy because, like I said, I’m not a huge fan of following complex recipes. The easier, and the more efficient, the better. Here’s a typical day of meals for me to give you an idea of exactly how simple and easy it really is!



Typical Day of Eating:


Breakfast

6 ounces Ground Turkey, 93% lean

125 grams Kale

250 grams Bananas

28 grams Flax Seed

2 eggs


Prep Notes: The ground turkey is heated on the stove (since it’s pre-made in bulk) with the kale and put in a bowl. The bananas, flaxseed, and eggs are beaten together and then cooked on top of a stove. Just like a piece of banana bread!


Snack

200 grams Celery

32 grams Almond Butter


Prep Notes: Dip the celery in the butter!


Lunch

6 ounces Chicken Breast

180 grams Broccoli

45 grams Pistachios

1 Honey Crisp Apple


Prep Notes: Everything is eaten separately here.


Dinner

6 ounces Tilapia (Fish)

150 grams Broccoli

* 1 cup White Rice

14 grams Unsalted Kerigold Butter

1 Grapefruit

*Assuming a workout ended 90 minutes before this meal


Prep Notes: I’ll cut up the meat (again, pre-cooked) and heat it on the stove with the butter, veggies, and rice.


Dessert/Late Snack

50 grams Oats

45 grams Dark Chocolate

10 grams Honey


Prep Notes: I’ll mix this together and it’s the perfect way to still get something sweet into my diet.



Other Notes:


Measuring/Weighing: As you can probably guess, yes, I do weigh and measure 99% of my food intake. However, I do go on breaks when I feel like it’s necessary. When I don’t or can’t measure, I use the Live ATOP Eye-Ball Method.


Macros: I follow a very loose set of macros that change up frequently based on what is going on in my life at the time. I will say that I do keep my protein the same at 180 grams per day. The fats and carbohydrates change in an inverse relationship based on activity level. High activity/intense training means more carbs (>300 grams) and lower fats (<115 grams). Lower activity/easy training means fewer carbs (<300 grams) and more fats (>115 grams).


Calories: Similarly to my macros, I run this same sorta logic with my calorie intake too. I know my baseline is roughly around 3,000 kcal/day so I’ll vary that accordingly.


Fasting: I do a 12 hour fast every day. I usually shut off eating at around 7pm and usually don’t have breakfast until 7:30 or 8:30 based on my routine for the day. I also do a 14-16+ hour fast once per week or more as I see fit.


Carbohydrate Intake: I do try to load my carbohydrates around my training- especially if it’s an intense session. Just something I’m super mindful of to increase my recovery between sessions.


My Daily Food Journal: If you’d like to check out my food log, you can friend me on MyFitnessPal @atoneal32. My food diary is set to public so feel free to take a look for yourself!

So there it is. Simple, efficient, and effective! Again, this diet is 100% for me, my lifestyle, and my goals. I believe nutrition should be individualized and by no means is this diet laid out in this blog for everyone. I go into great detail since I am a coach, passionate about health and fitness, and so it only makes sense that I would nerd out about my own nutritional prescription. I will say, I do sometimes go into this much detail for clients who want to go this deep but it’s obviously not for everyone (actually it’s not for most people). If you are interested in starting to dive into your nutritional journey with the guide of a knowledgeable coach, feel free to reach out to me at atoneal32@gmail.com and we can jump on a call to see how I can help you live your best life through your nutrition!


See ya when I see ya,

-ATO


Revisions

Initial: December 2019

Revised and Posted: January 2020

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