Nutrition Information

19 Jun

Heather (21)

After my recent competition, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who asked me for nutritional advice. While I would love to tailor a plan for each individual based on what I’ve learned, I know my body and what has worked for me. That said, a person can Google “best diet”, and he/she will come up with a million hits. The problem is that there are so many “diets”–or ways of eating–out there that it is hard to know what is right for you and what will work. Here are a few key things that I go by.

*Remember, what I have learned is applicable to active individuals, for those that are either lifting at least three to four times per week, doing High Intensity Interval Training, or who maintain a workout routine. Eating as I have outlined below will not work if you are a sedentary person.*

General Nutritional Guidelines

Many of these key points I learned from the amazing Shaun T, (, trainer of the popular at-home “Insanity” and Team Beachbody workouts. He is inspirational and has indirectly served as a catalyst for my fitness journey (read previous posts for more about that).

– Think of food as fuel, 

not as something you turn to when you’ve had a long day, are feeling tired, are bored, or just need something to keep your hands and mouth occupied.

– Food = energy. 

There are two main energy sources that our bodies use: one is fat; the other is carbohydrates. (All food can be classified into one of three main food groups: carbs, fat, and/or protein.) The contagious trend over the last few years has been to avoid carbs. People are flocking to this phenomenon in the form of gluten-free, paleo, and Atkins diets. Here’s the thing about those darn, misunderstood things: carbs are not evil.

What I mean is good, complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs offer all of the nutrition our bodies need to function and pump out energy when we exert ourselves. The problem is we do not need an abundance of any carbs sitting in front of a screen for eight to ten hours per day. Complex carbs come in the form of vegetables, whole grains, and cereals. I am careful when choosing my complex carbs since I have Celiac’s disease (a gluten allergy). My favorite sources of complex carbs are:

veg carbscomplex carb








  • brown rice
  • Ezekial bread (gluten-free versions available)
  • oatmeal
  • rice cakes (made from brown rice, not corn)
  • sweet potatoes
  • red potatoes
  • broccoli
  • brussel sprouts
  • spinach
  • spaghetti squash
  • zucchini

I always start my day with oatmeal and add protein powder and a small amount (half of a serving size) of peanut butter to it so that I get the energy (carbs) from the oatmeal plus the protein to balance it out.

– Eat your largest meal(s) earlier in the day.

Do not be afraid of breakfast! There are a couple of reasons for this. First, we have to literally break the fast under which our bodies underwent over the night. Second, we need to jumpstart our metabolism so that our bodies and minds are awakened and ready to rock. Most bodybuilders start their day with a small serving of oatmeal and 8-9 egg whites. That is a lot of food in the morning! For the average person who works out three to five times per week, you probably only need two egg whites and a half serving of oatmeal. Again, it is all about balancing the carbs with some protein (protein is vital in maintaining and building muscle).

Make sure you identify a few nutritious options for breakfast and start your day off with those.

– Hydrate all throughout the day.

Contrary to what you might think with where one of my jobs is, I do not mean with coffee–I mean with water. I purposely am writing this immediately after discussing breakfast because you should try to drink at least one glass upon waking up. I personally have about two cups of coffee in the morning while working at my desk, then about 10 a.m. I switch to water. I keep my water bottle with me at all times, fill it before it gets empty, and just keep swigging. Most active people need a minimum of a gallon per day; when competing or bodybuilding, it is recommended that athletes drink 1.5 to 2 gallons per day. *Remember, if you are drinking alcohol, 1 glass of water to each alcoholic beverage (1 beer = 1 glass of wine = 1 shot).*

– Replenish depleted energy sources after your weight-lifting or HIIT workout by consuming protein + carbs within the first hour.

I strategically choose to drink my protein shake within 30 minutes after my workout. I usually add a banana to my chocolate-flavored protein powder and blend it to make a lil’ milkshake, which is a huge treat when competition dieting. You do need carbs, though, too after exercising. I have a rice cake or two with some natural peanut butter on it. This should not be a big meal, just more of a snack to replace what you lost during exercise.

– Eat well prior to your workout.

I try to eat complex carbs (usually brown rice or sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli or green beans) within two hours before my workout. Ideally, I like it to be an hour or so before when getting lean so that I have energy in the gym. One of my good friends who does Crossfit told me she was eating only a salad for lunch four hours prior to going to her Crossfit workout. About two hours after eating the salad, she would be starving and automatically went for what was on hand: the processed candy (jelly beans, M&Ms, Skittles, and gummy worms) on display at her work. Her body was craving some good carbs. Involuntarily, her body knew that, which is why she was drawn to the “bad” (i.e. simple) carbs made from high-fructose corn syrup. Don’t set yourself up for failure before or after your workout!

– Eat lighter as the day goes on, with your last meal being the lightest.

This concept goes back to our body being able to burn calories throughout the day while we are active. Think about it: why would we physiologically need to eat half of a pizza prior to going to bed? Our bodies are not going to do anything with that exorbitant amount of an energy source while we are sleeping–except store it as fat. If you were running a half-marathon the next morning, I’d say go for it! But most of us don’t do that on a daily basis, nor should we eat like we do. I do not believe in having no carbs after a certain time of day. It all depends on your energy expenditure and what you are eating. I try to have vegetables all throughout the day, but I definitely consume more of them at night. My last meal of the day will typically be a salad topped with vegetables and chicken breast.

– Eat smaller meals more frequently.

Most of us do not need to consume six 600-calorie meals in a day. But many of us can benefit from five or six 300-calorie meals in a day. It is very important than when eating more often, you limit your servings. Measure food out according to the serving size listed on nutrition labels. A lot of athletes prefer to weigh their food rather than worry about counting calories. That works, too. I try to have about 4 ounces of protein in every meal. Protein alone will not satisfy you, however. I always try to pair protein with either a good fat or carb source. For example, if I have a light-carb dinner like spinach salad, I add hard-boiled eggs on top (protein) and about 8-10 almonds (good source of fat). My target here is to pair the protein with the fat.

– Limit the sugar.

As I’ve already touched on, refined sugar really does damage to our bodies. It throws off all of our internal gauges of how our body is doing and drastically reduces our overall physiological function. Because sugar is not essential to our bodies, try to limit–if not cut out entirely–refined sugar. I try not to purchase anything that has high fructose corn syrup in it. When baking, I use “natural” sugar sources, i.e. raw honey. Rather than reach for a box of SourPatch Kids (my favorite of the gummy candies), choose berries, a banana, dark chocolate-covered mangoes or raisins. If you reduce your intake of unnatural sugar, I promise you will instantly feel better. Give yourself three days to start. Try to stretch those three days to a week. When really having a craving, research what a good alternative is (hello, Google!) and go for a “clean” dessert of some kind. Fruit is always a good option. I love dipping strawberries in melted dark chocolate and putting them in the freezer for a bit. My mom recently told me about a recipe she found for dipping blueberries in plain Greek yogurt. Yum!

– Prepare food ahead of time if you can.

This is the single most important step that I would stress. You must prepare yourself to succeed in eating well and becoming healthier. In order to do so, prep and pack food ahead of time. Here is what my fridge looks like during the week:



The little blue lunch pail is what I take with me to work every day. And I eat nearly everything in it by the time I get home. If I do not eat it all when I get home, it is definitely empty by the end of the day. There are Tupperware containers scattered about; my husband and I just grab one and pop it into the microwave.

Of course, this is ideal and not everyone has time to do this. Whether you go out to eat or simply do not have time to prepare your own food, just make wise nutritional choices. If you’ve been dying all week to have pasta, choose one made from brown rice and opt for a Mediterranean sauce with olive oil and veggies rather than a white pasta made with creamy alfredo.

These are my main points in regards to nutrition. I did not get into the science of how carbohydrates break down into our bodies or what happens scientifically with excess calories. It really comes down to thinking about food as a fuel source and analyzing how we physiologically do not demand the nutrition our ancestors needed. I have many theories about the food industry here in the U.S., but that is an entirely different post. For now, just work on adjusting how you are eating now. Feel free to ask questions; I have learned by trial and error specifically about the gluten-free lifestyle and competition dieting. It’s all about balance.



7 Responses to “Nutrition Information”

  1. Jimmy Wood June 19, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Hey Heather. Thanks for the great post! I really enjoyed reading through it. You put all of your knowledge and thoughts together so well. I have recently refocused on my personal diet as I have definitely learned that I was not able to exercise enough to counter act poor eating habits. Since I have been really eating healthy, complex carbs, protein, avoiding sugar, I have seen gains at the gym like never before and muscle definition I have never had. I will use your tips and plan to continue to reach my goals.

    • hye~min June 20, 2014 at 8:34 am #

      Thanks, Jimmy!

      I also see you’ve found the importance of cheat meals! As a guy especially, that’ll help you make gains. Keep up the phenomenal work!

  2. Brenna June 20, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    Good stuff Heather; it’s been neat to watch your journey from afar. Your success is a great testament to the amazing things a human body is capable of.

    Curious on the specifics of how your calorie and macro nutrient goals change as you go from competition training to day to day life. When your monitoring your intake; do you drill down into micro nutrients, or just stay focused on hitting your macro targets?

    • hye~min June 20, 2014 at 8:33 am #

      Hi, Brenna!

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I mostly focus on the macros and hit certain percentages of those. I do make sure that I’m at least getting the “recommended daily allowance” of calcium and vitamin C. Calcium is extremely important as a female who lifts heavily, partially because we can no longer absorb it as we age, and also because I cut out all dairy (except for whey) from about 10-12 weeks out. Other than calcium and vitamin C, I take a multi-vitamin and fish oil. I up the fish oil and good fat sources in my diet as the competition nears.

  3. Jenna McKenna July 4, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    My first post that I have read! Go you! I’m happy with the progress I have been making with my exercise but it’s my food and drink (beer) that I struggle with. Hope to read some more posts to inspire me 🙂

    P.S. Noticed the gochujang in the fridge immediately 🙂

    • hye~min July 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Thanks, Jenna! I’ll try to post more info–I’ve learned a lot. It’s hard to know where to start. Honestly, it was easier in Korea without the same temptations/sweets everywhere you turn and at every measly holiday…

      • Jenna McKenna July 5, 2014 at 7:25 am #

        My major problem is tthat I work with a lot of mummy aged women that just want to treat me hehe as of Monday I’m going to try my best with cutting out sugar to start with….its kind of taken over my life recently :/

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