The PERFECT Meal – What to Eat to Lose Fat & Build Muscle

As you know, I love to share all of the unique hybrid strength training &  conditioning concepts we use with our clients and athletes at Performance U. But, let’s face it – what you eat and how you eat it can really make or break the effectiveness of your program, regardless of how good it is.

what to eat after a workout

“Food is an important part of a healthy diet”

In today’s post I’m going to share with you the simple to understand and easy to apply nutrition advice we provide to almost all of our clients & athletes to ensure each meal they eat will help them more effectively burn fat, build muscle and improve their overall health!


We aren’t nutritionists or dieticians. So we don’t provide specific, individualized diet plans. We’re fitness professionals who read the scientific literature and rely on the expertise of top nutrition and supplement specialists to provide us with general guidelines that work universally for both men and women of all ages and abilities.

 By following some basic, generalized and universal eating guidelines – like what I’ve provided you below – We’ve found that rarely is it necessary to use more specific and complex strategies unless we’re dealing with a medical condition, cutting water weight, etc. Which, is beyond the scope of this post.

The Perfect Meal

The two most common questions we get from our clients and athletes are:

-What do I eat to lose fat?

-What do I eat to build muscle?

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Our answer to both questions is usually the same – Eat a Complimentary Meal!

A complimentary meal consists of these four basic food components:

-Lean protein (eggs, chicken, fish, bison, beef, low fat dairy, etc.)

-Fibrous carbohydrate (fruits and vegetables)

-Starchy carbohydrate (sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)

– Healthy fat (monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, Omega-3 fatty acids – avocado, nuts, olive oil, etc.:)

 Additional Complimentary Eating notes:

– Emphasize fresh/ local fruits and veggies, high-quality meats /eggs, fish

– Limit processed foods, simple sugars, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils and alcohol.

– Instead of eating three large meals (breakfast, lunch dinner), cut those in half and eat 4-6 smaller meals.

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 Why does Complimentary eating work?

 We call it Complimentary Eating because each component of the meal compliments the other to maximize the nutritional benefits.

– Protein is the building block of muscle

– Starchy carbs are a great energy source

-Fibrous carbs are used to move it all through the body (and energy).

– The healthy fat to decrease inflammation, joint health, heart health, disease prevention and cognitive function.

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 How big should my meals be?

The answer to this question is: It differs for every person and should be based on how you feel and how much fuel your body requires that day.

In general, we recommend sizing your complimentary meal portions in this manner:

– Make the protein & fibrous veggies the largest portion on your plate

– Make the starchy carb and fruit smaller than the protein and veggies.

– Make the healthy fat the smallest serving on your plate.

 Additional Complimentary Meal Portion notes:

-Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3s provide many health benefits, but as with any type of dietary fat, too much fat in any form provides excess calories in the diet.

– Some foods are multitasking, like Fish: it’s both a healthy fat and protein source. So it can remain a larger size portion on your plate.

 – If you are left feeling hungry within an hour or so after finishing your meal, you probably didn’t eat enough. On the flip side, if upon finishing you feel full for hours – you probably ate too much. It really comes down to common sense, intuition and simply listening to your body.

Complimentary Eating, Fat Loss & The Thermic Effect of Food

A calorie is a measure of heat. And, your body is a heat machine! The term “thermic effect of food“, or TEF, is used to describe the energy expended by our bodies in order to consume (bite, chew and swallow) and process (digest, transport, metabolize and store) food. In other words, certain foods require us to burn more calories than others simply by eating them.

 Here’s the general breakdown:

FAT — is very simple to digest. Your body simply keeps breaking down the fat molecules smaller and smaller, so it does not require much work to digest.

Ratio of 100:5 -For every 100 calories of fat you ingest you will burn approximately 5 calories in the digestive process

 COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES — take more effort to digest because of the glucose molecules.

 Ratio of 100:10 -for every 100 calories from complex carbs that you ingest you will burn about 10 during digestion.

 PROTEIN — requires the most work to digest because it is made up of 22 amino acids

 Ratio of 100:25 -for every 100 calories you eat from protein, you will burn approximately 25 calories just to digest it.

- 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate/protein equals only 4 calories

 Based on TEF, if you eat most of your meals in the manner as I described above, you end up consuming less calories and burning more. That’s pretty damn cool!

Final Thoughts

As I stated from the jump: Complimentary eating is not a specialized diet plan to peak you for a bodybuilding show or for those with medical concerns. What I’ve given you here is simply the GENERAL eating strategy we’ve found to be tremendously successful for almost ALL of the clients and athletes we work with.

No one is perfect and neither are the typical situations life throws at us through work, travel, family responsibilities. etc. So we don’t expect every meal our clients eat to be “perfect.” We simply ask them to do the best you can. And, to use our simple eating strategy to empower themselves with the ability to see through the confusion created by informercials and confusing industry expert jargon.

I mean seriously, it’s no wonder people (even health professionals) are confused about what to eat when there are 500+ page nutrition books on the shelves, which rarely provide us with more practical eating knowledge than I just did here in less than 1000 words.

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