Flexible dieting and a busy schedule go together like burgers and fries, Bonnie and Clyde or squats and bench presses – they’re a perfect match.
Still though, some guys struggle sticking to tracking macros and counting calories when they’ve got a lot on – hectic job, demanding hours, a frantic family life, a heavy social calendar and so on. But in all honestly it’s not too tough.
You just need to know the right tricks, hacks and shortcuts to staying on your plan.
That’s why I’ve put together this mini article series on flexible dieting tips for busy guys. In parts 1 and 2 we covered how to eat out and still stick to macros and lose fat, then how to guesstimate macros. If you missed those be sure to check them out!
One thing plenty of folk struggle with though, is snacking. There’s a lot of confusion over whether or not you need to snack, but I’d say for busy guys, having your snacks sorted is a great way to help keep you on point and make it easier to keep progressing when life feels like it’s going a million miles an hour.
To Snack or Not to Snack?
Let’s bust a myth – you don’t NEED to snack.
Eating every 2 to 3 hours doesn’t have any beneficial effect on metabolism over eating every 5 or 6 hours. (You should make sure you don’t go longer than 6 waking hours without food, as this can be detrimental to muscle protein synthesis though.)
You can eat 3 meals, 6 meals or 3 meals and 3 snacks each day, or a combination - it really doesn’t matter.
That said, including snacks in your plan does have several positive effects, such as potentially reducing hunger and cravings, keeping your energy levels up, and if you’re rushing around between meetings or pushed to hit deadlines and not sure when your next meal will be, snacks can be a great way to keep you ticking over.
Where Most Busy Guys Go Wrong …
… is that they pick cheap, nutrient-void processed foods for their snacks. We’re talking things like chips, cereal bars, chocolate or candy, and pretzels. All these foods can be included in a flexible diet, but they should make up only a small percentage of your calories, and not be the mainstay in any meals.
Hence, in this article we’ll be focusing on more nutrient-dense sources. We’re looking at snacks that are higher in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and not too high in sugar and fats.
#1 Cooked Meat
Processed meat has been given a bad rap recently, due to the association it has with an increased cancer risk. That said, in moderation, and in the context of an overall balanced, healthy diet, it’ll do you no harm.
You can’t always be cooking up a chicken breast whenever you need it, so stock up on pre-cooked deli meat early in the week, and take some with you each day. If you’re worried about the additives, preservatives and salt, you could always cook up your own chicken, beef or ham at the weekend, and take it with you in Tupperware when you need to.
I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t eat dairy, for fear that it’s not “diet-friendly” … it definitely is!
Not only is it an awesome source of protein, and typically pretty low in carbs, it contains calcium and Vitamin D too.
Greek or low-fat yoghurt, cottage cheese, milk, quark and even regular low-fat cheese are all good options. Just be careful when picking yoghurts that you don’t get a flavoured one with double as much sugar as protein – you’ll need some high macros to fit that in!
#3 Protein Bars
I do like the occasional candy bar, and am no stranger to sweet treats, but for the most part, I’ll pick protein bars when I’m on the go. They’re an easy way to boost your protein content, and generally contain much more fibre than a candy bar.
#4 Protein Shakes
Having a hard time hitting your protein? Then get a protein shake.
Buy a basic whey concentrate or isolate, keep a couple of scoops in a dry shaker in your desk and just add water when you need it.
#5 Nuts and Nut Butters
They might be around 50% fat, but nuts and nut butters should be a staple in any flexible dieter’s plan (nut allergies aside obviously.) They’re a decent source of mono-unsaturated fats and have some protein and fiber too.
Just make sure you weigh your serving sizes due to the high calorie density.
Popcorn gets a reputation as a junk food, and while it’s low in protein, you get a huge serving size for very few calories, so it’s pretty filling. Provided you don’t get sugar-coated stuff, a large serving contains around 15 to 20 grams of carbs and 5 to 10 grams of fat, depending on brand.
They say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and while that isn’t scientifically proven, fruit is a good addition to any diet. For some reason, many folk are scared of fruit, due to the fructose it contains. However, fruit the carb content in most fruits is usually under 50% fructose, and the amount needed to contribute to fat gain would be astronomical, so you needn’t worry.
Any fruit is fine, but you get most bang for your calorie buck with berries, apples, kiwis, melon, peaches and grapefruit.
#8 Tinned Fish
The smell probably won’t make you many friends in the office, but tinned fish is another good choice. Salmon and tuna are both incredibly high in protein, contain virtually no fat, and can be kept in your desk drawer for months without spoiling.
Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail
As a busy guy, you need to prepare for all eventualities, which is why I recommend a two-pronged attack:
- Always have non-perishable snacks in your briefcase, desk and car just in case you need something.
- Prepare a couple of fresh snacks each day so you have some variety.
Whatever you snack on, track it in your macros, and ensure that you’ve got a sustainable approach, including plenty of foods you enjoy. That’s how you’ll make progress, stick to your plan, build muscle and lose fat, no matter how busy you are.