- Eat within 30 minutes of waking and then every three to four hours after that—including within an hour of bedtime.
- Make sure every meal and/or snack is made up of roughly 40 percent protein, 35 percent carbs and 25 percent fat (protein triggers glucagon, carbs trigger insulin and fat slows digestion). Research shows that sticking to ratios like these can help you eat more and still lose weight.
- Eat a specific amount of calories per meal—your body can only process a certain amount of food at once. You should feel hungry, but not starving, when you begin a meal and satisfied, not stuffed, when you finish.
Because I follow a fairly rigorous training schedule, Mark didn’t suggest a workout routine, but he did have a few more recommendations: drink a ton more water, take a multivitamin and fish oil supplements daily and swap my regular sugar-heavy sports drink for a mixture of Proto Whey protein powder and Hammer Nutrition Recoverite.
After the phone call, there was just one more step: Become a member of Venice Nutrition, the web tool that develops your personalized plan (It's available to anyone for just $20/month). After filling out a questionnaire, I was given my allotted calories per meal (250), meal recommendations based on the foods I like (everything; perhaps that’s the problem), recipes and access to an awesome food and exercise log that makes it easy to tweak the recommended meals or come up with my own.
Over the next weekend I dropped a small fortune at GNC and the grocery store getting ready. Mark clearly did not live in New York City when he created this diet. I probably spent close to $300 getting all the necessary food, supplements and supplies (like a food scale). It was a shock to say the least, but I had made a commitment, I told myself, and there was no turning back now.
On Monday, I hit the ground running...and ran right into a wall. Since I like healthy foods, I figured I’d just be eating less of them. Boy was I wrong. I had a blood sugar crash Monday evening and by Wednesday I had run out of food and needed to go back to the grocery store. But the worst part was, despite eating straight through my stash, I was still hungry! If carb withdrawl is a real condition, I was in it. I spent the rest of the week irritable, foggy and dragging ass through my workouts.
By Friday I wasn’t feeling great, but I had managed to survive the week without cheating. No small feat considering it included Halloween, a photo shoot filled with yummy catering and Bagel Wednesday—the mysterious phenomenon in which leftover bagels and cream cheese appear in our office kitchen at the exact moment your willpower begins to wane.
I was convinced Mark needed to increase size of my meals. However, when I spoke to him on the phone he didn’t agree. Mark explained that until I got to a certain level of body fat (usually under 14 percent for women), increasing meal frequency rather than meal size is more likely to keep my metabolism humming. He took a look at my journal and recommended making a few changes:
- Eat more full meals. I was eating half-meals or snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon, but with my training schedule I needed more sustenance.
- Eat more high-quality foods—especially before and after workouts. A bar before biking and a protein shake afterward wasn't going to cut it.
- Drink my sports mix during workouts. Because I was only doing 60-minutes of cardio and strength work at a time during this phase of my training I was just drinking water during my workouts. However this was making me ravenous afterward, especially on days I had double sessions (training in the morning and at night).
“All of this takes effort but it’s worth the effort,” Mark told me. “You have to put the time in if you want to be your best.”