Hi all and welcome back for week 5 of Get Constructive!
Now before this post gets reported or I lose a bunch of followers (or potentially gain a few), let me clear up today’s title and intro image… What you see is a ‘Banana Guard’. This ingenious invention is a protective plastic chamber for an individual banana so it doesn’t get squished in your bag full of gym gear, your Esky (cool box for my pommy mates) or the front seat of the ute and I am hesitant to admit that by default, this one belongs to me. This particular Banana Guard has borne the brunt of some pretty harsh criticism on site but I take my snack time seriously and having a perfectly protected banana at smoko makes the light hearted abuse worthwhile.
Without getting carried away, today is not about clever (and inappropriately shaped) products to protect your food. However, the Banana Guard, in many ways embodies the principles of a much bigger and more important topic that can be make or break for the works supervisor, the site engineer, the busy Superintendent or the night-shift labourer with aspirations in health, fitness and longevity. Today we are talking about about meal preparation.
Where the GC introduction to diet (link here) covered what to eat, today is going to look into how to eat it… and I don’t mean chewing and swallowing. I mean, how can you possibly find the time, the ingredients, the methods, the means for transportation and the stomach for the foods that satisfy the requirements of your newly formed eating plan? This post will give you the answer and by going through each meal of the day in terms of these how factors above, we will all look to collectively Banana Guard our diets against the temptations of the local bakery hot box; the pub’s $10 chicken parmy and chips; or even worse, the drive-through take away.
Jumping right in, let’s talk about ‘the most important meal of the day’… Breakfast
I will come back to the importance of breakfast as a meal in itself, but first we are looking at how you can prepare for your morning meal in line with your goals in body composition across a number of circumstances that you may have previously seen as major barriers to ‘healthy eating’ at breakfast time.
You can see a few of my personal choices pictured, and when considering breakfast, in accordance with my approach to macros (link here) I like to think protein first. For around the last five years then, the choice has been eggs. Omelettes, scrambled eggs, with yolk, without yolk, fried eggs, boiled eggs… you name it- I have done it to death and at times, it sucks. There is only so many ways to make eggs temporarily exciting and for many of us that start before the birds, cooking a fresh cheese and chive omelette before heading out simply isn’t practical. They may not be the only choice, but eggs truly tick all the boxes for me in terms of satiation (feeling full) until my next meal and provide my daily food dairy with a strong, unprocessed protein and fat boost. For these reasons, I prepare my breakfast the night before, store it in the fridge, and put it in the microwave before I leave or when I get to the office in the morning.
If the thought of this repulses you, or even worse- you are living out of a hotel room or pub with no means to actually cook at all, don’t fear because there are plenty of other options available. Coming back to macronutrients, as I will repeatedly whenever we discuss food- so many of the traditional ‘easy’ breakfast choices contain a big dose of carbohydrates and not a whole lot else. This isn’t a problem if it is accounted for in your daily plan, but as we proceed with the rest of our day you will see how this can begin to snowball into an unbalanced and counterproductive split across our macro totals.
With this in mind then, a fast, macro-friendly and often tasty alternative could be in the form of a protein shake with our without something blended in or on the side to accompany it. A shake can be made in any context at the flick of a switch or in a shaker, and by including a piece of fruit or a handful of unsalted nuts, you are ticking the boxes of protein + carbs or protein + fats respectively. It is important to note that when it comes to liquid calories, they often do not have the same benefit of satiation that a solid meal does and this may leave you feeling hungry shortly after breakfast is over. A great trick, especially for those morning trainers that enjoy a solid carbohydrate hit is to make ‘proats’ (link here) which basically consist of protein powder, water and oats left overnight to form a delicious, gooey pudding-style breakfast with endless options for additional ingredients depending on your requirements.
The key for breakfast then, across the full spectrum of foods available is- if you are finding yourself short on time in the morning, try preparing something simple the night before and always keep macros at the forefront of your food choices. Before moving onto lunch, as promised, I will address the old adage of ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. At the risk of some serious backlash, I am going to give you the final option for breakfast- eat nothing. That’s right…. skip it. I am here to tell you that for many, breakfast may be the most important meal of the day but that is only due to individual preference and circumstances and not because of any long standing scientific law that you must eat breakfast to function as a human being.
Granted, most people will wake up having been fasted during the night and I know for me personally, I am starving in the morning but if find you are under the pump; you don’t feel hungry in the morning; you can function perfectly for the first few hours of the day without food; you get plenty of water; and if you still hit your goals in calories, macros and/or micronutrients across the rest of your day, then skipping breakfast and saving that time in the morning for your morning paper or some extra shut eye will not have any noticeable negative effects on your progress.
A summary of some quick and easy breakfast options and the macronutrient contents are listed below;
|Breakfast Examples||Cals||Pro (g)||Carbs (g)||Fat (g)|
|Scrambled Eggs(3 eggs cooked in tsp butter with 25ml trim milk)||324||20||2||25|
|Protein Shake (mixed with water) and Banana||231||26||29||2|
|200g Full Fat Greek Yoghurt with tbsp Honey||330||9||30||19|
|2 x Gluten Free Beef Sausage with tsp tomato sauce and handful baby spinach||315||23||6||22|
|‘Proats’(30g protein powder and 50g organic rolled oats)||308||32||30||5|
With a successful morning period of eating now over, barring a potential snack in between which I will come to soon, and the work day building steam- it’s time for Lunch.
Where breakfast can usually be sorted in the comfort of your home, donger or hotel room- lunch is usually eaten at work and is then open to a wide range of temptations. These temptations are often affordable and taste great, as well as being pre-prepared with no work required other than walking down to the smoko van, the local take away shop, the bakery, the trendy inner-city lunch bar/restaurant or the pub with the rest of the work crew. Unfortunately, these easy lunch options are right at the top of the list of temptations that can ruin the average construction professional’s diet and ultimately their entire routine, health and wellbeing over the long term.
I know personally, when you are on-the-go, tired and hungry it is near impossible to say no to a hot pie or a burger and even I lost the plot once at the Fernvale bakery after 5 hours of driving out west with nothing left in the tuckerbox. The key to resisting these urges and staying steadfast in your pursuit of your long term health and fitness goals past a short-term sugar craving is again…. be prepared.
If you know you aren’t going to have access to ready-made, healthy food options, or if you are going to be isolated from food all together- you need to have the right foods with you. This doesn’t just mean the right food types but there also needs to be enough of them to sustain you during a busy work period. These foods also need to be tasty enough so they don’t end up being dumped in exchange for a visit to sushi train and they need to be prepared in a way that is practical to your circumstances. Chicken, brown rice and broccoli may be the perfect combination for your fat loss eating plan but again, from extensive experience I can tell you that it tastes like sh** when it was prepared two days ago and is eaten cold.
This doesn’t mean more effort is required, it just requires some forward thinking. If you don’t have access to a microwave at lunch time, combine similar ingredients to make a salad that can be eaten cold or make a couple of chunky wraps with the protein of your choice, a sensible choice of flat bread and even a bit of greenery to satisfy those micronutrient requirements. I wish I had of seen the light and gone this way while practising strict paleo-style eating while scoping transmission tower locations in remote Northern Queensland. I have never looked at chicken and vegetables the same way again.
If you do have the privilege of having a fridge and microwave in your office, please recognise this as a blessing and take advantage of it by bringing in left overs from last night’s dinner or prepare lunches especially to suit your current plan. If cooking feels like a drag or it is not possible to get into the kitchen every night, be even more prepared and cook lunch meals for multiple days in the one sitting and store them in the fridge or freezer. As a rule of thumb I find most meats reheat and taste fine for up to three days in the fridge and can obviously be kept much longer in the freezer if you don’t mind defrosting. If getting the time to cook is still an issue- cooking on a Sunday for the week can be a great time to relax with a glass of your favourite Malbec and set yourself up for meal success for the rest of the week.
For the extremely time poor, those without access to a kitchen and the rest of us on the off-chance we are caught out at lunch time unprepared or with a work engagement, there is no need to commit daily carbicide. Just apply the same principles that we have across the board and think about the contents of the food before making your lunchtime purchase. I have noticed, especially in the UK, that packaged food options are rapidly advancing in quality and freshness without the need for nasty preservatives and a bag of baby spinach, some canned tuna and half a bag of quick rice is as good a meal as any to keep things under control but satisfying at the same time.
The day is pushing on now and it is nearly time for an evening meal but first, I want to make an important point about the flavour and taste of your meals. To the extremely disciplined amongst us, this may not be as important but for the majority- food you prepare needs to taste good for it to be consumed consistently ahead of less favourable, store-bought options. This can be done easily and at little or no cost to the effectiveness of your eating plan by adding a mixture of spices to your fish or chicken; a tablespoon of olive oil and balsamic to a salad; or even a dash of wholegrain mustard to your eggs to introduce a bit of variety into the coming days and weeks of structured dieting.
Some examples of practical lunch options are listed below;
|Lunch Examples||Cals||Pro (g)||Carbs (g)||Fat (g)|
|150g Chicken Breast (pan fried in 10ml olive oil) with 150g Baby Broccoli, 100g Basmati Rice and 20ml Mild Nando’s Peri Peri Sauce||433||43||37||7|
|120g John West No Drain Tuna Chunks with 140g bag of baby spinach||153||33||3||2|
|2no. Rye Wraps with 150g Chicken Tenderloins (total), mixed salads and 25g cheddar cheese||426||40||34||15|
|150g Chicken Breast in large mixed salad with 25g cheddar cheese||374||43||19||15|
It is now time for dinner and for the lucky ones that have made it home to sit down with the family or in front of Masterchef to enjoy this meal- we need to take full advantage of the kitchen, the supply of fresh food and the countless combinations we can apply to create quick meals that satisfy our daily requirements. For those that are even luckier still and have their husbands or wives preparing food for them before arriving home, this eliminates the chance of burning out after a long day and reaching for the phone to dial-a-pizza or settling in with a 6 pack of beer instead. Where we may be living alone or remotely for our current project, this sort of help is not available and I will again stress the importance of preparing meals for numerous nights in advance to take all the effort out of meal time when you are tired and at your most vulnerable.
When deciding what to have for our evening meal, the thought process is the same as we applied at lunch however, it is important to note that many of us have a propensity to overeat at dinner or combine the evening meal with snacks, desserts or alcohol leading up to the time we hit the sack. With this in mind, the approach for dinner in general is to prepare meals in advance depending on time constraints, eat only what we have allowed for in our daily totals and introduce spices and flavouring as required to keep the plan interesting and sustainable over the long term. As also discussed in terms of lunch, if cooking is simply not an option under the circumstances be diligent when purchasing pre-prepared or take-away meals in accordance with our previous diet discussions (link here).
Some basic dinner options are as follows;
|Dinner Options||Cals||Pro (g)||Carbs (g)||Fat (g)|
|150g White Fish (pan fried in 10g butter) with 150g Baby Broccoli and 100g Steamed Sweet Potato||275||28||41||4|
|200g Rib Fillet Steak with 150g Baby Broccoli and 100g Mash White Potato||487||42||17||18|
|150g Chicken Breast Stir Fry with Mixed Veg, Rice Noodles and 40ml Masterfoods Teriyaki Sauce||460||37||52||11|
|Nandos Mediterranean Salad with Chicken||276||28||8.3||14.5|
Before wrapping up today’s post, a quick note on snacks. We are bound to feel hungry in between main meals at some point, if not on a daily basis and bringing some strategic snack options with you in the glove box of the ute or the top draw of your desk can help tie you over until the next main meal as well as giving you strength against straying from the plan at the sight of the service station chocolate bar selection.
Snacks are again, no exception to the recurring themes I have come back to over and over again and what is chosen from the wide range of natural or processed snack options is completely up to the individual. What is important to reiterate here is the amount of snack foods we consume in one or multiple sittings across the day, as although nuts and fruit are typically placed in the ‘healthy’ column- they are high in natural fats and sugars respectively and anything over a handful of nuts or two standard serves of fruit per day should be strictly assessed in accordance with an individual’s activity level and personal goals. Likewise with processed options in terms of the many shakes, bars, protein balls, slices and other new-age ‘healthy’ snacks on the market- be sure to read the ingredients list and nutritional information carefully and if it is going to skew things in the wrong direction in terms of your macros or looks to contain a large number of preservatives, high fructose corn syrups or other nasties then I suggest going back to the market to find a more suitable alternative.
To conclude today’s post and leave you with some final thoughts on the importance of meal preparation- I would like to make the point that this discussion is not just about preparing food; and the basic meals listed above were not only given as macro-friendly examples for you to try at home. The message of today’s post goes deeper than that and the underlying message is really about helping you build an unwavering motivation and mental framework that helps you be prepared and strong regardless of your challenging circumstances. Coupled with this, the meals and macronutrient values provided should not only be seen as ‘healthy food options’ but should ultimately be an illustration of how the full spectrum of food types can be combined, interchanged and manipulated to fit your personal needs, constraints and preferences.
It may at times, feel impossible to stick to the plan and the easy option is often right there to slot in and save the day. However, like the faithful Banana Guard protects your perfectly ripe banana as it bounces around your toolbox; the motivation to prepare your meals in advance or to come armed with the knowledge to assess the pre-made food options out there, protects your goals and your approach to health, fitness, body composition and longevity while you bounce around another crazy day as a professional in the construction industry.
That’s it for another week of Get Constructive. Keep an eye on our new Instagram page @Getconstructive and feel free to share all of our platforms amongst your organisations in the hope of spreading health and fitness motivation across the construction industry as a whole.