Whether you’re looking to bulk up or get shredded, setting and hitting your calorie goals is the most important part of your transformation. But forcing down plate after plate of chicken and rice isn’t all that appealing to a lot of blokes, which begs the all-important question: can you still enjoy your favourite junk foods whilst hitting your goals?
In order to suss if we can keep smashing Doritos and still get buff, we sat down and spoke to Alex Thomas, founder of the Sports Nutrition Association to find out.
The answer? Whether you’re bulking, cutting, or maintaining, the key is to be consistent: “I’ve been looking at people’s food for the past 13 years… [and] honestly, 90% of people can’t even stick to consistently to a deficit for more than two and a half week”, Alex reveals.
“Half the job is literally just spent helping [clients] see where they thought they were in a deficit but they actually weren’t.”Alex Thomas
But being consistent is never that easy. Life is full of temptation: a few beers with your mates, the odd weekend takeout here and there, or simply the slog of forcing down the same bland but macro-friendly meals can all threaten that magic number of calories that you’re looking to hit over any given day, week, or month.
So, how can you hit your goals whilst still enjoying some of those junk and processed foods that – like it or not – bring you the most pleasure and make all the salad seem worthwhile?
How to hit your calorie goals
It might sound cliche, but sometimes these things roll off the tongue for good reason: Alex says “it’s all about moderation… It just comes down to [having] the skeleton of your diet sorted: whole foods, fruit, veg, hydration, dairy, and then a little bit of processed food in moderation.”
In fact, Alex actively encourages the occasional bit of indulgence: “We’re trying to get you to that calorie target as comfortably as possible.”
“If you’re forcing yourself to eat only clean food and you are eating four and a half thousand calories of chicken, broccoli and rice, it’s going to be really really difficult.”Alex Thomas
It’s all about keeping things varied but in check: “have the whole foods that you would normally have – fruit, veg some serves of whole grains, and then incorporate some stuff that you genuinely enjoy,” Alex suggests.
Don’t feel guilty about occasionally having small treats
The more you allow yourself small doses of the things you really want, the more likely you are to maintain the consistency and longevity that you need for your long-term goals. Scrap the tuna and crackers for something like this, Alex says: “a nice stir-fry meal for lunch, smoothies, some Mexican wraps and salad for dinner, an apple or orange throughout training”. Then, throw in “some cereal that you like [or] an ice cream here and there”.
This way, you can still hit your calories “and you’re not going to feel as stuffed and bloated”, plus “you’re probably going to look forward to things a lot more”, he explains. A word to the wise, however: “In a surplus, a little bit of junk food doesn’t matter – in a deficit you notice it so much more, you’re going to be so much hungrier”.
Eating whole foods is key
Though there’s definitely room for indulgence, there’s no way around the fact that unprocessed, whole foods need to be the bulk of what you’re eating. “They are way more satiating and filling. Processed foods don’t have much substance in them so you’re not going [to be] fulfilled from the meal,” Alex points out.
So there you have it: though whole foods provide a number of health benefits beyond their calorie content and make your diet a hell of a lot easier to stick to in the long term, a top nutritional expert has just signed-off ice cream and chicken nuggets.
As the great Oscar Wilde once said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation”.