In the days of social media where so many people are fit pros, certain things sell. Taking your shirt off and showing more skin, workouts that look so intense, only a professional athlete can really get through without falling to the floor looking like a hot and sweaty mess, and diets that seem too good to be true make the money. I have wanted to fall into this marketing trap many, many times. I have not taken this plunge, which may be the reason I don’t have more followers on Facebook and Instagram. But I am ok with that because I have stayed true to who I am as the fitness professional.
I mean, I did try the whole Cross Fit thing when it was red hot, became a huge proponent of Intermittent Fasting right when the research and the findings came out, and have tried many other new things, but that was just to explore what was out there and find what worked and what didn’t. Even then I didn’t seem to come across as the guy everyone wanted to follow. Or, maybe it’s because I am not as good as I think I am. Either way, I feel I know what works for the majority of people. I base it upon this:
Does it make sense?
Can I do it consistently and for the long haul?
That is my barometer on if it works or not.
I like rules, templates, principles, and philosophies. Not workout programs and diets. Simply because many of us just don’t have the capacity to maintain a rigid environment. Some people can don’t get me wrong. As those folks may say that if one doesn’t have the capacity to do so, then they are lazy and weak. I beg to differ but I don’t get to decide what others think.
The old saying goes, “The only diet that works is the one you can stick with.” Personally, I tend to agree with this statement.
We often romanticize certain diets and food trends because, well, it’s kind of fun. Trends give us something new to talk about. They have a certain buzz that gives the inspiration for change that many of us are looking for. Oftentimes, we think we need that sparkle and trend in order to lose fat and feel better.
Being able to claim a Paleo, keto, low-carb, vegan, gluten-free or all-raw diet sounds much deeper and more exciting than saying “I follow eating guidelines and templates.”
If someone asks you about your diet or what types of foods you eat, if you respond with the words “meal template” or “food guidelines,” you’re probably going to get some head scratches and maybe an awkward silence. I completely understand the reaction. It doesn’t sound sexy AT ALL and gives no real clue on what you are actually doing.
As Dan John always says, “it’s simple, but not easy.” I couldn’t agree more.
The smarter we get, the less we seem to really know. At least, that’s what I think about myself. I too am subject to wanting to try the latest and greatest. It sounds much sexier and adventurous. I have often found, where boredom exists in the fitness and diet world, so do results.
The more complicated I make a diet or workout protocol, the less adherence I see from my clients and even myself. When I show someone basic principles and philosophy that is reasonable, it seems to work much better. Maybe it’s because I am not the 21-year-old personal trainers and bodybuilder I once was. 21-year-old Justin made everything harder than it needed to be. Now at the age of 36, I feel like I think like a 56-year-old when it comes to health and fitness.
Early on in my career, I was fortunate to work with one of the best in the industry. Chris Johnson, one of the pioneers that help mold one of the largest health clubs in the 90’s and 2000’s, the Michigan Athletic Club, and the founder of On Target Living led by example. It was nothing flashy and his protocol was very simplistic. He even referred to his workouts as “grandpa workouts.” But he was in better shape at 50 than he was at 30 and most others much younger than him. His boring yet fundamental methods worked well, were reasonable and made a lot of sense to me. Ten years later I value his advice and methods a lot more.
So, instead, I like to follow templates that are built off of solid principles and philosophies based off of the fundamentals of human needs.
Instead of boring you in this article with all of the details, I am going to get right down to the nitty-gritty. I am going to illustrate how I feel your basic meal should look like. I am also going to outline what I feel we all should include in our fitness program at some level. Let’s dive into it and see what diet and workout program you could follow for the rest of your life.
What You Plate of Food Should Look Like
You don’t need to have all of your meals look like this, but if you can have 1-2 meals that follow this template, you will put yourself in a good position for success.
½ plate veggies
¼ plate Meat, Eggs, Fish
1/8 plate fruit and or starch
1/8 plate fats
Most of your plate should be covered with fresh leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, arugula, collards, or other greens. Broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, peppers cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are also great options that provide a great nutrient punch. In the end, find the veggies you like and start there. Raw is best, but minimally cooked and frozen veggies are good as well.
Proteins such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, organic turkey chicken, and eggs should make up around a quarter of your plate. If you are a vegan, you can focus on more nuts, seeds, quinoa and possibly a vegan protein powder supplement.
Eat whole fruit and ditch the processed types of fruit (applesauce, juice, etc.). About 1-3 servings a day should do the trick.
For optimal energy, satiety and fat loss, make sure you consume nutrient-dense fats that come from coconut oil, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Avoid processed oils.
If you are very active and/or need some extra energy, adjust your carbohydrate intake accordingly. Stick with starchy veggies, potatoes, sprouted grains and rice.
In a time crunch or to get a ton of nutrients in easily, make a super shake. Pick a protein powder (grass-fed whey, hemp, brown rice, chia), liquid (water, coconut water, almond milk), fat (coconut or coconut oil, nuts or nut butter), veggies (spinach, kale, green food powder) and fruit (berries, banana) and blend with ice.
Meal plans are hard to follow unless you are getting paid to perform in athletics or for your job, or if you are getting ready to get up on stage for a physique based competition. But I really like example meal plans based on of-of principles and philosophies.
Here is an example of what a good week of eating could look like. Adjust portions as needed for you.
7 Day Sample Meal Plan
SUNDAY – DAY 1
Breakfast: Eggs, peppers, bacon
Lunch: Big salad with leafy greens, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add meat, fish or poultry for extra protein
Snack: Veggies and hummus
Dinner: Grass-fed beef (any cut) with 2-3 different veggies cooked in olive oil and a small potato
I also like mobility drills and rehearsing movement patterns like in this video here.
After we get the body moving together, we need to get the heart rate up and move a little faster to activate the nervous system. Jumping jacks, ladder drills, burpees, plyometrics and medicine ball throws (as in this video here), are my favorites.
After we get the body in motion, it’s time to lift some heavy stuff! I follow what I call the 7 Pillars of Human Movement:
Rotation and Anti-rotation of the core muscles
Pick an exercise from each category and get after it. Here is an example of how a workout could look like.
Alternate the A and B workout and perform a total of 3 workouts a week.
1A Turkish Get-ups: 3×1 each side
1B Farmers Carry: 3 x 40-meters
2A KB Swings 3 x 10
2B 1-Arm KB Military Press: 3 x 5 ea. side
3A Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats: 3 x 5 ea. side
3B TRX Row: 3 x 10
3C 1/2 Kneeling Inline chop: 3 x 10ea. side
1A Bear Crawl: 3 x 40-meters
1B 1-Arm Overhead and Suitcase Carry Combo: 3 x 40-meters each side
2A Goblet Squats 3 x 5
2B Chin-ups: 3 x 5
3A Push-ups: 3 x 10
3B KB Deadlifts: 3 x 5-10
3C 1/2 Kneeling Inline Lift: 3 x 10 ea. side
Nothing crazy, nothing fancy, just the fundamentals because they work. If you are unsure of what these movements are, you can sign-up for our 7-day e-course here to learn all the fundamentals.
Add in some interval training lasting 5-10 minutes and you are good to go. I like to finish with a 500-meter sprint on a rower or Ski Erg a couple times, or some Tabata intervals on a bike and call it a day.
The Fundamental Templates Win!
I hope this gives you some ideas and a new perspective on how simple we can make this workout and eating journey. Stick to the fundamentals and do them well and often for the long haul. That’s how guys like Tom Brady and Michael Jordan, and the Williams sisters dominated for so long. They just do the fundamentals really, really well and often.