Lean, athletic women: what do you eat?
March 30, 2015 4:01 PM   Subscribe

You are a lean, female athlete. Take me through your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take me through your snacks. If you use supplements and/or protein powders, those too.

I am 28, moderately athletic, and I have no dietary restrictions or allergies.

I recently noticed that when I weighed about 15 pounds less than my current weight, I was able to run faster and longer.

I would like to lose that weight and a bit more, but without going back to my old eating habits (1200 mostly empty calories of crap a day - eating that way didn't work out in the long run - hence the 15 pound weight gain). I'm working my back to a more raw fruits and vegetables based diet, with lean meat - but I don't really know the best strategy.

I am looking for what athletic women with lean body types eat on a daily basis, and when and how much they eat of it.*

My current exercise regime, to give you an idea of my daily energy expenditure:

- I run 2-4 miles a day, about 5-7 days a week. On average, 18 miles a week.
- I mix up straight runs with HIIT runs, alternating days
- I cross-train with cycling and vinyasa yoga, about once or twice a week
- Daily restorative yoga
- I lift free weights once a week (I have access to two free gyms - one at work, one at my apartment complex - and neither have barbells, so I have to do dumbbell versions of barbell deadlifts and squats) - but I'd like to get back to doing this 2-3x a week again, if that's even necessary (I know there's debate about this)
- I've got a new routine in place to tackle my weak core (I someone neglected it until now)

My personal goal is to get down to 18-20% body fat (no more, no less).

So, again I ask: what do the athletic women out there eat to stay lean, energy resourceful and race-ready? The more details, the better!

*While I recognize that most women with Olympic athlete figures are usually just that - Olympic athletes who train for a living - I do know working women who work equally hard at their nutrition and exercise to achieve that lean, athletic body type. So I know it's possible, I just haven't been able to solve how it's possible.
posted by nightrecordings to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
5'4", 140, 20% bf at last measure. 6 days a week, fruits/veggies, chicken beyond measure, some red meat, some nuts/oils, some dairy and some All-Bran. Friday nights I have pizza, wine and brownies. Sometimes on Saturdays I eat a more normal American diet -- pancakes, bun with hamburger, maybe pasta. But I also lift heavy at least three days a week. Running won't improve your metabolism the way more lifting will.

Also, as soon as I stop lifting and start eating starches I gain water and fat pretty fast. But I'm in my late 30s. Ymmv.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:10 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also I work full time and have two kids. Where I find the time is a subject for another post :)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:11 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

I hope it isn't off topic to ask this, but why are you only asking women?

--a lean athletic man
posted by brenton at 4:14 PM on March 30, 2015

My current diet:
* Breakfast, a slice of cheese and an apple with peanut butter (maybe a quarter cup of PB total?)
* Mid-morning, 1 lb roasted veggies with some kind of dressing or just a squirt of lemon), sometimes with a couple poached eggs
* Lunch, giant ass salad with nuts and fruit (kale, almonds, pepitas, carrot, apple, vinegar, olive oil)
* Dinner, chicken with veggies or just veggies and cheese
I do some sort of HIIT (running or otherwise) or lift every day. In general I think the fewer carbs (that includes fruit, btw) the skinnier you can get, but it's a huge trade off. I prefer eating delicious fruit and having a little bit of a tummy, personally. So basically, fill up on non-starchy vegetables, get your protein in, and have some carbs right around your workout time to give you energy.
posted by chaiminda at 4:24 PM on March 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I just came across this blog post (about Scarlett Johansson's workout/diet regimen) yesterday. Relevant portion:
I think if you borrow her ideas, it'll change the context of your workouts and eating, and give you both amazing results, but also a lot of freedom in your fitness:

Get stronger, big movements
Working and diet is about consistency over the long term
Consistency is boring
Eat protein, veggies, and fruit, most of the time
Kick up your workouts and diet for big events
(The latest post on that blog is also apropos.)
posted by asterix at 4:26 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Brenton: Not off topic at all. I absolutely recognize the troublesome nature of using the gender dichotomy to approach the relationship between athletics and nutrition. I'm a feminist who tends to stumble on this issue but only when it comes to exercise/diet. Why? I could come up with a few possibilities: (folk? shaky?) science about how cis men have more fast twitch muscle fiber and overall faster metabolism; the fact that cis male runners' race time records are always just a bit faster than those of the best female runners. I can't seem to help but think that (again, cis) women's dietary needs are just a bit different than those of cis men, given the difference in body fat percentages that men and women allegedly need (I'm looking for 18-20%, which would be more like 10% in men).

To be fair, I know that there is way more overlap in how lean male athletes and lean female athletes eat, than there is difference.

That being said, I apologize for ignoring that overlap, and I do want to hear what everyone - both men and women - do to keep a lean athletic figure.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:31 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

5'8 and my weight stays in the low 120s. Fit but it's lean yoga/running/cycling muscle - I don't lift weights beyond bodyweight exercises like rock climbing, squats and pushups.

I usually skip breakfast and just drink coffee with a splash of half and half. Sometimes a banana, apple, or hard-boiled egg if I'm hungry. Occasionally I'll scramble two eggs with some diced tomato + spinach and cheddar cheese (usually if I skipped or had a very light dinner).

I eat lunch around noon or one and it's usually a medium-sized salad with lots of veggies on top. Sometimes protein: leftover meat from earlier meals, garbanzo beans or white beans, or hard-boiled egg. Dressing is a vinaigrette or occasionally this organic yogurt caesar that I buy at the grocery store.

If I need it: Apple or banana or cucumber slices or another egg or an orange or something in the afternoon. Sometimes a couple handfuls of cashews or almonds.

Dinner: meat of some sort and more veggies. Sometimes all on top of a bed of greens.

I don't worry about butter or oil or dressings or sauces -- I wouldn't, like, order something with alfredo or a cheese sauce or smother stuff in ranch dressing...but if it's on something I don't stress about it.

You'll notice hardly any grains. I really don't eat them much except occasionally before a half-marathon or the rare (2-3 times a month?) splurge on a sandwich or piece of pizza or bowl of ramen. Rarely rice or quinoa either. Sweet potato fries or french fries or potato chips once or twice a month as a treat. :) Very little dairy beyond cheese for flavoring in a dish.

I only occasionally drink more than a alcoholic drink or two in a night, and rarely beer. I very rarely ever drink soda or fruit drinks, or lattes with milk/soy or almond milk/sugary flavorings. I like ice cream and brownies and chocolate but they are a rare treat for me and I usually only need a bite or two to sate the craving.

If I need carbs before or after a long run I eat things like apples, bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes.
posted by amaire at 4:50 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

60 years old...2 lbs over my optimum weight (2 lbs over what I weighed when I was in my 30s). Work out religiously 7 days a week, usually only 20-30 minutes (I'm busy) doing combo yoga and strength training/cross fit at home. I like Bikram yoga and Amanda Russell. Run for an hour twice a week.

I have to pick days where I eat mostly veggies and protein, low carbs. Usually one day off and one day on, with at least one two-day lo-carb stint once a week. I treat myself regularly with candy (never much), cookies (rarely more than one) and darkest chocolate I can find. Breakfast is Dr. Schulze Superfood drink. Lunch is a huge salad with an avocado, nuts, flesh, cheese and/or carb in the form of sweet or regular potatoe, rice or quinoa. Dinner is almost always lean...veggies and/or lentils, quinoa and veggies, chicken/fish/red meat and veggies, maybe a little rice or potatoe. I help myself to fruit with or without yogurt whenever I feel like it.

Pretty basic, really.
posted by zagyzebra at 5:00 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

One more thing. Key for me is making my lunch time salad in the morning before I start my day. If I didn't do that I would be tempted to grab whatever (not necessarily nutritious or balanced) on the go.
posted by zagyzebra at 5:10 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Try a macros calculator. The LeanGains one is here . Check out Lean Gains and Martin Berkhan. Lots of good info for people looking to lean out and gain muscle. I also use Lyle McDonald's stuff, especially Rapid Fat Loss.

FWIW: I'm 36, about 120 lbs. I deadlift (205) squat (185) and bench (100). I echo the first poster with the fact that weights will give you that look far easier than running.
posted by mrfuga0 at 5:34 PM on March 30, 2015

I'm 5'4" and about 125-130, but I'm carrying about 5lbs more fat than I'd like.

Breakfast: 4 egg scramble (2 whites 2 whole) w/cheese, turkey or regular bacon plus something sweet, prolly one of those tiny vanilla scones from sbux

11ses: half a chicken breast or some almond butter right out of the jar depending on mood, a ton of raspberries because they are the only fiber I really like, maybe some dark chocolate depending on pms status

Lunch (late, around 2-3): MOAR CHIKEN plus some cheese and a bunch of whatever greens are in the fridge at work, usually arugula and spinach and mustard greens, just big fistfuls right out of the bag and into my slavering maw

Dinner (also late, around 8-9): like a pound of bison just crammed right into my face at top speed, green beans/asparagus/peas, sweet potato, otherwise more goddamn chicken, ugh

Midday snacks are usually stuff like popcorn or pretzels, but tbh I am not a huge snacker. I also don't keep any kind of snack food in my house. Sometimes I eat a head of radicchio like an apple.

At least twice a month I will have burger & fries, and at least once a month there is a cupcake cheat day. I don't bother counting/avoiding carbs but I aim for 150-200g of protein per day. I was really really horribly sick for most of last year and I have a lot of muscle mass to regain in order to support my hypermobile joints, so I'm in this endless cycle of eat + lift + eat + lift and tl;dr I just got a blender so ideally things will be easier and less chickeny in my future.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:35 PM on March 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

Also, a word of warning: depending on your body frame and how fast you build muscle, you may not lose those 15 pounds, but they will get denser and smaller. I'm a size 6 at 140 pounds. People who try to pick me up in drunkn japery type situations get a surprise.

Further to poffin boffin's point above SWEET SCIENCE THERE IS SO MUCH CHICKEN
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

The one big thing about building muscle (that I wish someone had explicitly told me instead of assuming I was clever enough to figure it out on my own) is that you will eat so much more, an alarming amount more. I just ate dinner and I am ready for second dinner right away now give me foods. And I am so totally far from what anyone would consider "ripped" or even very muscley. But 3 meals a day absolutely doesn't cut it for me anymore, and I am still losing weight despite my unholy voracity. If I was doing the level of cardio that you're doing plus my usual workout I would probably have to add even more meals.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:06 PM on March 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

173 cm and 69 kg, about 20% body fat according to most measurements. I do weights and running, used to rock climb, and I ski in winter. I cycle commute to work.

I don't really eat breakfast. I drink coffee and sometimes a glass of kefir before any morning exercise. Around 10am I sometimes have a snack.

Snacks I eat very regularly include:
- boiled eggs (usually two at a time - I boil up about 12 together a couple of times a week)
- protein shake
- crackers with cottage cheese and sliced tomato
- raw vegetables (carrots, broccoli, etc) with hummous or bean dip
- a cup or two of frozen berries or mango with about half a cup of greek yogurt

Lunch is my first main meal and I don't eat the same thing every day, but I have a few favourites that I cycle among:
- a large salad with chicken or canned tuna
- hearty soups in winter (minestrone, pumpkin with greek yogurt swirled in, bean and vegetable, lentil)
- leftovers from dinner the night before
- scrambled eggs on toast
- tuna melt or avocado on toast if I'm especially hungry
- burger without chips, or a subway sandwich if I'm buying lunch - about once a week.

In the mid afternoon I usually have a snack from one of the options listed up top. When I get home I've just cycled up a bunch of hills, so I have some fruit to tide me over while I get dinner ready. Usually a banana, some grapes, or a nectarine or mango in season, sometimes a cup or two of berries.

Dinner varies a lot. Lately we've been eating a lot of roast chicken, with a big salad on the side. The salad includes chickpeas and/or croutons, and/or nuts, so it isn't just veges. Sometimes we do pasta or fish. In pasta dishes we usually use ground kangaroo as the meat, as it's cheap here and very nutritious (high iron, very lean).

I have a glass of wine with dinner more nights than not, and/or a small whisky later in the evening watching TV.

Mid evening I usually have another snack or two from the options mentioned above unless dinner was especially large.

A couple of times a week I have a treat, like a piece or two of cake, an ice cream, or some fancy cheese.

I find my weight increases if I end up having the treats every day instead of a few times a week, or if I cut back on the exercise.
posted by lollusc at 6:17 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I did this for a pretty long period of time. The answer is that mostly I worked out way more intensely than you are working out right now. And then on top of that I got plenty of protein and ate relatively few carbs. I very rarely ate bread, rarely ate fruit (except berries), rarely ate pasta, rarely ate beans. Ate a lot of salad, meat, fat. Protein shakes after working out (isopure, no fat, very low carb), when I was really serious added some sweet tarts for sugar to hit the muscles quickly. Drank alcohol but not mixed with sugar very often. When I really wanted something sweet I had pure sugar candy and not sweet + fat + carbs.

I don't really think of the workout you are describing as creating what I think of as an athletic physique. You can definitely be fit and very lean with it, but athletic implies to me a level of muscularity that you won't get with minimal running, yoga, a tiny bit of lifting. On the other hand, I have almost certainly permanently changed my body shape from heavy lifting and so may not be your ideal for "athletic". I do think it will be tough to get to 20% body fat with your workout without a very limited diet, worse than the diet I described unless you don't drink.

Men will have very little to add to your question here, because men have testosterone and different ways of storing body fat and gaining muscle, and mostly it is a very different convo. Also, 20% body fat on a man is kind of chubby.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:29 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

When I had this kind of look (at 5'2" and between 100-105 lbs) I was eating:

-Some kind of grainy something and a coffee

-yogurt and granola, or two snacks, one of yogurt and one of granola
-roughly 19 billion more cups of coffee

-Veggie wrap, with whatever I had around, usually some combo of avocado, cucumber, peppers, leafy greens, some kind of strong crumbly cheese, maybe egg.
-Roasted vegetables esp beets, sweet potatoes, turnips, brussels sprouts

-Just epic fuckloads of microwave popcorn (no mutant powers yet, alas.)

At this time I was also somehow drinking kind of a whole lot of booze? And randomly eating entire cartons of ice cream or huge slices of late-night pizza? But fundamentally most days I ate not very much, hugely plant-heavy, and um...like I said, a billion or more coffees per day. Which I maintain helped me stay trim by causing my entire body to vibrate subtly at an extremely high rate. YMMV.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:29 PM on March 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

46yo, 164cm, and a muscley 57kg
I lift free weights and do cardio intervals about 5x/wk. Time-wise I do about 40min weights and 20min cardio. If I'm short on time I lift. Once or twice a week I do yoga. I only drink water and decaf tea, no alcohol or soda.

Breakfast - whole wheat/low sugar toast with almond butter and tons of crushed flax. 2oz mango juice. In winter often 3/4c. cooked steel cut oats made with half water-half milk and topped with almonds, chocolate chips, and unsweetened shredded coconut. Once a week, full on banana chocolate chip pancakes.
Post workout replenishment - protein smoothie with Vega chocolate powdered protein blended with almond milk, a banana, and a little water.
Snack - dark chocolate, maybe a banana, maybe an ounce of cheddar
Lunch - 4oz smoked salmon, some (low sugar, low salt) crackers. An enormous salad about 3x/wk (romaine, carrots, tomatoes, feta, toasted almonds, low sugar/salt dressing)
Snack - dark chocolate, maybe yogurt, maybe something salty like popcorn or ~6 low sugar tortilla chips, maybe cheddar. In summer, 3oz high fat ice cream 1-2x/wk.
Dinner - usually chicken of a sort with another giant salad, or with apples with almond butter or sticks of cheese. Otherwise, breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs with avocado/toms/tortilla/cheese; or an overeasy egg and bacon on a bagel. Once a week out for seafood. Once a week pizza.
Dessert - always more dark chocolate.

So yeah, obviously chocolate is key for me.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:14 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm 5'8, 140 lbs, around 20% body fat I'd guess (visible abs). I don't feel like I count as athletic because I really just walk when I can and do hatha yoga but I've dropped a lot of weight in the last year so thought my data point might be helpful. I'm early 30's and have had a kid, for a few years I was stuck around 160 so have been excited to get back to my ideal weight in a gradual way that has proven to be easy to maintain.

I eat breakfast before 8am and it's usually a warm whole grain cereal like red river, I might cut up an apple into it while it cooks. I add maple syrup, cinnamon, and milk to it. I have a cup of black tea around the same time. If I'm not feeling very hungry I might just have a banana. Lunch is my biggest meal and it's something like a big vegetable/lentil soup with a piece of whole wheat bread, but it might also be a big burrito or eggs, bacon, and potatoes or a big sandwich with veggies or turkey (I often buy lunch). I try to feel fairly full after lunch but not uncomfortably so. I don't snack except a chai tea and little treat or some fruit around 4pm. I try to eat dinner around 5-6:30pm, it's maybe soup or something like chickpeas and veggies and rice or quinoa (this is what I'm eating this winter, summer will be more raw salads but right now I just add a bit of spinach or sprouts to whatever I'm eating). Sometimes a turkey burger with rice and veggies. I drink a few big mugs of herbal tea throughout the day.
I don't eat after 7pm except on very special occasions, like I'm at a party or it's christmas or something. I try to give myself at least 3 hours in between meals, longer after lunch. I don't drink alcohol and recently got off of coffee but I drink black tea in the morning. I really feel the spacing of my meals and the no snacking have been key for healthy, easy weight loss and maintenance.

I tried doing the high protein, low-carb diet to lose weight and I'd lose a bit of weight but never maintain it and I missed whole grains too much. I was amazed when I lost more weight by eating more grains and stopping the smoothies (which I used to make for breakfast with fruit, spinach, protein powder, kefir, etc.), obviously YMMV, I do believe some people do better on more raw foods, some people higher on protein, etc., and of course it changes. The book "Perfect Health" by Deepak Chopra has suggestions for what diet might work best for you and it's been spot on for me.
posted by lafemma at 7:16 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Almost 32, 5'4", 125-130, approx 16-17% body fat. I can't eat greens without severe stomach pains and a laxative effect, and rice bloats me.

I workout in the morning, and I do no cardio in the winter to gain mass and lean out in the summer. I do oly and powerlifting, and some crossfit. Idk my current 1RMs, but I squat around 265, dl 245 (down from 320 a few years ago, sigh), bp 130, c&j 130, and snatch 95.
Pre-workout is 2 scoops Amino Energy by Optimum Nutrition (no weird side effects or jitters; I used to take Jack3d and C4) in water with chia seeds, one fish oil gel (lots of EPA and DHA) and one conjugated lineolic acid gel. Lots of water mixed with pedialyte or Gatorade during workout. Post-workout is one scoop of a low-sugar whey protein; water in the summer, almond or coconut milk in the winter.
If I am hungry enough to eat breakfast, a breakfast meat (steak, salmon, ham, pork chop, pork bacon, pork sausage) and 2-4 eggs. Maybe some nuts or avocado. Usually at work, my breakfast is protein and coffee.
Lunch is bacon and eggs with jam, or a meat and two veggies. Dinner is a meat and two veggies. I eat a lot of beef, fish, venison, and chicken. Lean ground beef, short ribs, sirloin, strip, and filet. Salmon, flounder, tuna, grouper, mackerel; whatever is in season (I live at the beach). I hate chicken, but I eat it because it is cheap. I make a lot of pork ribs and pork shoulders, and I grill out a lot. I eat lots of citrus and berries, and some bananas. Lots of nuts and fatty cheeses. I like green beans, carrots, peppers, onions, squashes, olives, avocados, mushrooms, etc. I cook with butter, coconut and olive oils, and bacon grease. I do eat potatoes; mostly sweet potatoes. They are my go-to carb. Also molasses and honey. I love honey, berries, and almonds in a bowl for dessert. Sometimes I eat yogurt, but not often because I don't eat much dairy. Occasionally I will eat black beans or pintos; I love them, but they don't love me.
I don't touch pasta, but I will occasionally eat bread. That stuff makes me feel crappy though, so I try to avoid. I rarely drink anymore, but white tequila with lime OR a quality beer. I can't drink wine because it gives me migraines. I drink a metric shitton of water, but I also will have a Coke Zero or Pepsi Max with dinner.
Snacks are nuts, protein bars, fruit, cheese, jerky, and hard meats like salami or pepperoni or prosciutto.
I take in about 2000-2500 calories per day.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 8:36 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't know anything about eating for running (I lift, and friends that run eat very differently than me), but you might find this helpful: Precision Nutrition Cost of Getting Lean

I also don't feel like I look lean until I'm really down to closer to 17% bodyfat, but I think that's because of where I store fat. I feel like I just look like a normal person at 20%.
And BMI says I am overweight at both percentages. At my leanest I'm 5'6" a US size 4-6 at about 148 pounds at 17% body fat. It's somewhat hard to maintain and still be normal socially. Basically no drinking and no sweets.

The nutrition is one thing, but I think if you really want to look lean you might need to exercise more. My bias is that lifting will make a more athletic look than running.
posted by littlewater at 9:21 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm 5'9" and about 128 lbs with a runner's build. I eat far more than most of the posters above but I do a lot of cardio: cycle to and from work daily (about 16K round trip), soccer 3x a week, run 1x a week and strength training 1x a week). breakfast is typically an English muffin with peanut butter and some fresh fruit on the side. lunch is usually a sandwich or leftovers (eh stir fried chicken veg and some rice). usually fruit again for a snack. typical dinner would be something like grilled chicken/fish/steak with a green salad, some veggies, and garlic bread.
posted by emd3737 at 12:54 AM on March 31, 2015

I exercise 5 days per week by rock climbing at an indoor gym and dancing ballet at a studio on alternating days, am slim and toned.

For breakfast here are my options:

Water and espresso
*1 slice of dark rye toast, 2 eggs scrambled, handful of baby carrots and a medium orange.
*st benoit unsweetened yogurt mixed with lightly salted cashews, small handful of frozen raspberries & spoonful of honey, handful of baby carrots and a medium orange.
*Fruit smoothie
(frozen: 4 sm strawberries, sm handful blueberries, sm handful of pre mixed frozen fruits like cantelope and peach, sm handful raspberries, 1/2 banana, sm spoonful of almond butter, sm spoonful of canned coconut cream, sm handful of fresh arugula, 1 cup or so of pomegranate juice from the plastic and oddly shaped containers.) canned coconut cream is found in the asian foods section of any large grocery chain.

the smoothie usually lasts me for both breakfast and lunch, and is my favorite breakfast- deerish.

*rye bread sandwich with cup of soup & fruit: sprouts, avocado, roast beef, arugula, bell peppers, cucumbers (very thinly sliced and without the skin) and with pepper and olive oil drizzled over the goods before putting the 2nd slice of bread on top.
an orange, or a persimmon, or grapes- depending on what's in season.
soup not limited to: butternut squash, creamy tomato, corn chowder, etc.
I usually make a vat of soup at the beginning of the week and freeze half of it. Then halfway through the week thaw out another soup so that I don't get sick of anything.

*quinoa salad with chicken cut into it. Make the quinoa, then on the morning of- cut bellpeppers, chives, cherry tomatoes, avocado, chicken, and roughly chopped spinach into it. Drizzle olive oil and ground pepper over it right before you eat it.
for a light lunch when i've overdone it the day before.

*dinner leftovers in smaller portions with fresh fruit or with breakfast smoothie leftovers.

here's my formula
*protein, veggies, unprocessed cereal grain or carbs, fruit

*salmon, asparagus & baked brussell sprouts, rice, orange

*chicken, cauliflower, baked sweet potato very delicately drizzled in honey, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, orange.
lamb, fava beans & baked eggplant and roasted bellpepper relish/salad, sliced scallop potatoes baked then lightly sauteed to a crisp and drizzled in overripe lemon, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper. then an orange.

if i've way over done it (ie Thanksgiving) the day before I'll just have a
*huge bowl of salad mixed with a 1/2 cup of quinoa, and a bowl of soup. and an orange.

i like to get creative with the varieties, marinades, and ways of cooking it. i won't eat the food if it's bland, i need to feel like i'm eating something tasty and filling or i'll go out and eat something that's bad for me.
common misconception is that when you eat healthy it can't taste delicious and be filling!
posted by nephilim. at 2:02 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm 50, run 3-5 miles 4x, lift weights 3x and do yoga 2x weekly. When it's warmer I kayak 2x weekly for up to 4 hours. I've got Celiac and I've hit peri-menopause full-force so I've had to reduce calories to between 1000-1200 daily or I start gaining weight. I'm also a vegetarian.

Breakfast: black coffee, if I'm hungry I'll take 3/4 cup of psyllium husk and mix it with water, stevia and some berries so it's almost like oatmeal.

Throughout the day I drink decaf black tea and at least 3-4 liters of water.

Morning snack: probably a lb. of carrot sticks and baby peppers

Lunch: 1 cup Greek yogurt with chopped apple and cinnamon and Chinese Five Spice powder.

Dinner: massive salad with at least 8 cups of whatever greens and chickpeas, beans or lentils or 4 cups of roasted vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onion, kale, brussel sprouts, any not-sweet squash) and maybe 1/2 block of firm tofu.

After dinner snack: homemade popcorn with a spritz of olive oil, black pepper, a little pink salt and garlic powder.

This is standard for the week. Maybe once every two weeks I'll eat a lot of gluten-free cookies, Phish Food ice cream or peanut M&Ms. If I'm doing a race, I'll eat a lot of ice cream the night before.

I rarely eat grains or starches. I find that I do better with structured food planning where I'm eating the same things every day for weeks on end. When I start getting tired of salads for dinner I'll start making vegetable stew and eat that instead.
posted by kinetic at 2:48 AM on March 31, 2015

Best answer: I lift heavy 3-4x/week, usually do some kind of cardio 2x/week (run outside in nice weather, watch Netflix on the elliptical in the cold), do yoga a few times per week, and practice bodyweight skills a lot (pull ups, dips, handstands, push ups, etc). I am your typical meathead gym rat who uses working out to relieve stress! I'm 27, 5'4, 132 lb and "surprisingly dense" as chesty_a_arthur mentioned.

Right now this is a typical day for me:
Breakfast: two eggs with cottage cheese; chicken sausage or bacon; stir fried veggies (bell peppers are a particular favorite); black coffee
Lunch: chicken breast with roasted sweet potato; nuts or salami or something fatty for a snack
Dinner: roast chicken thigh; veggies; fruit with nut butter for dessert

This works well for me. If I feel like my intake is starting to get a little out of control, I will typically institute a very, very mild form of IF (only eat during a 10 hour window each day), mainly to get myself to be more mindful about my eating. I'm an early riser who loves breakfast so IF doesn't work as well for me as other people who are happy to wait until lunch for their first meal of the day.

That said, however, I've also been very happy on a diet that was pretty different. My typical day last summer was:
Breakfast: fruit smoothie; peanut butter toast
Lunch: Turkey sandwich; apple
Dinner: pasta with chicken and veggies

Obviously a much more 'conventional' American diet. And honestly it worked fine. In the winter eating that amount of carbs just makes me ravenous and I needed to scale back on bread and pasta; in the summer I might go back. We'll see. As Roger Sterling's therapist says, the challenge of life is to know yourself. It's great to use threads like this to brainstorm ideas, but ultimately you're going to have to experiment and be really critical and observant of how different things work for you. For example, flexible dieting (IIFYM) is an absolute nightmare for me. For other people it is the exact key to effortless healthy eating.

To sum up: 1) figure out what works for you; 2) the right diet for you today might not be the right diet for you tomorrow; 3) stay flexible.
posted by telegraph at 4:30 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

(poffin boffin, can you memail me? I am very interested in talking about lifting!)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:39 AM on March 31, 2015

I'm 5'3", about 105 pounds. I run between 65-75 km a week, and have an athletic body type (not much upper body strength, but strong legs and not much fat overall).

On a typical day, I eat:
- Breakfast: steel cut oats with blueberries or strawberries mixed in (I cook a large batch on the weekend, and heat it up each morning in the microwave); coffee
- Snacks: banana in the morning, apple in the afternoon; often nuts (almonds/walnuts) at my desk at work
- Lunch: large spinach salad, with chicken and cheese. I find the protein/fat in the salad keep me fuller than most other lunches I've experimented with.
- Dinner: something simple - chicken and roasted vegetables, chili, or a burger with a salad... if it's a busy week, pizza or takeout.

After a typical run I'll also eat about 1 cup of Greek yogurt with granola and fruit.

In the evenings I might snack on some dark chocolate, an apple with almond butter, or something sweet. On long run days, I'll eat at least double what I've written above.
posted by barnoley at 10:06 AM on March 31, 2015

34 y/o, 5'0, 105 lbs, 20% BMI. I run about 3x/week, though I wish it was more - I've had asthma, calf and Achilles issues which have all slowed me down at one point or another. I notice my diet takes a nosedive when I haven't planned for what I'm going to eat throughout the week. My husband and I use Plan to Eat, and love it.

-- Breakfast: 3/4 cup cereal with a cup of almond milk and some fruit. On weekends: 2 eggs, toast, hashbrowns, sausage or bacon - the typical American breakfast, and on these days, a late and light lunch (salad + protein).
-- Lunch: Either a large salad with a few slices of lunch meat for protein, or leftovers from the night before
-- Dinner: Half a plate of veggies, 1/4 grain or starch, 1/4 protein. My husband and I are meat eaters and will split a chicken breast or a steak for our dinners. This is for portion control (if it's in front of me, I'll eat it) and also helps with the grocery bill.
-- Snacks: Either the occasional Snickers bar, potato chips or a cup of ice cream at night. Popcorn - we go through truckloads of it, popped on the stove with oil and salt, with butter only as a treat.

On busy weeks we use our slow cooker a lot and we go out to dinner, max once per week. Everything we eat we cook ourselves, so no extra butter/sauce/hidden fat in our diet. We have the occasional pizza, I have the occasional glass of wine or beer a few times a month. We live in a fairly walkable neighborhood, so we walk to the drugstore or the grocery or the park whenever we can, sometimes 2-3 miles in a day.

My rule is simple - I try to eat about a deck of cards' worth of protein with dinner, a salad or mostly veggies for lunch, and fruit with breakfast.
posted by onecircleaday at 10:34 AM on March 31, 2015

I forgot to say - I was in the best shape of my life when I rock climbed, and to echo other posters above, this is probably due to the strength training aspect of it. You work muscles you didn't even know you had. I went 2-3 times a week and my arms were so cut I got comments from co workers. If you have a rock climbing gym near you, I would totally recommend it. IMO, it's more interesting than plain strength training, and it's also fun with a partner.
posted by onecircleaday at 10:43 AM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm 5'4, 120 lbs and this is how my incredibly lean trainer would LIKE me to eat.

Meal 1: 5-6 Egg Whites, 1/2 cup oatmeal in water, 1 fruit
Meals 2, 3 & 4: 5oz of protein (chicken, salmon), 6oz of carbs (brown rice, sweet potato), 1 cup of veggies (broccoli, green beans)
Meal 5: Protein Shake with water, 1 egg white

Eat a meal approximately every 2.5 hours. Drink 16oz of water half an hour after each meal.
Get 8 hours of sleep

Good luck! It's too boring, rigid, time consuming for me to eat like this. But I have slowly incorporated parts of this into my diet.
posted by doublenelson at 12:39 PM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

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