1 2 3’s of Nutrition

Nutrition is am immensely complex subject that can actually be boiled down to some very simple steps. Here is a quick rundown on how to easily get your nutrition back on track and dialed in…

Step 1 is to make sure that you are having 5 feedings a day spaced about 3-4 hours apart. Nothing else really matters if you are not getting up, eating breakfast and then making sure to eat something every 3-4 hours after that.

Not that this is the best scenario but if you have a choice between a Snickers bar and nothing at all, eat the Snickers bar. Of course, having some nuts or beef jerky on hand to fill in those gaps would be better but the take home message is to make sure that you are eating every 3-4 hours, period.

Once you have Step 1 down and are consistently eating every 3-4 hours you are ready for Step 2.

Step 2 is to make sure that you are eating some protein and carbs with each meal. For most people eating carbs isn’t that hard, it is getting some protein in as well.

For something to count as a protein source it has to have at least 10 grams of protein. This means that peanut butter does not count, folks! Protein is eggs, beef, chicken, fish or a serving of whey protein. The easiest way to fill in protein gaps is to have a serving of whey protein as this will give you 20-30 grams of protein and really help to balance out any feeding.

Once you have Step 1 & 2 down then you are ready for Step 3. Step 3 is pretty simple – stop eating refined carbs and eat more fruits and vegetables. Breads and pasta are metabolic nightmares for your body and are very calorie dense and nutrient poor. Simply cutting them out will do wonders for your energy levels and body composition.

So there you have it – the 1 2 3’s of good nutrition. Don’t try to implement all 3 steps at once as this is a good way to frustrate yourself. See where you currently are – if you don’t even eat 5 times a day then start by making a commitment to do that for the next 3 weeks. Once that is a habit move to Step 2 for 3 weeks and then to Step 3.

Trying to do too much too soon can sabotage even the best of intentions so don’t fall into that trap. One step at a time you will find your eating habits getting much better with minimal frustration.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Eric Jensen says:

    The biggest problem I have is getting protein throughout the day. Portability is the issue for me, which is addressed by your whey protein suggestion. I would like to find a source of jerky that I trust, as that would address the portability issue as well.

    The best thing I have found is canned fish: salmon, tuna, or sardines. They don’t need to be refrigerated (except for leftovers, if you leave any), and a can of sardines doesn’t even need a can opener. A can of sardines gets you about 20g of protein.

    Another nice thing about sardines is that they are low on the food chain, so there’s much less of a concern of mercury accumulation compared to fish that are higher on the food chain, like tuna. Most packaged sardines leave the bones in (which you eat), so you even get a bonus shot of calcium.

    Reply • September 25 at 9:02 am
  2. Jo, Uk says:

    Interesting – personally I’m already broadly applying these principles, as I discovered earlier this year I get low blood sugar. The regular eating of a protein/carb combo really helps. I didn’t know about the peanut butter though – damn! (although my PB jar says it has 24.9g per 100g – so do you mean the protein source needs to have 10g per serving??).

    However, I was under the impression that: “Most active women need around 66- 80g protein per day, men need 84-98g. Four small eggs, or two mouthfuls of chicken or 1 pint of semi-skimmed milk will provide almost 60g protein, so it’s not difficult to eat enough.” (

    So can I ask: why do only some protein sources make the grade, in your opinion? What about beans/pulses – Is houmous not good enough? There are some very strong vegetarian riders out there, even the odd vegan, so their protein sources can’t be that disastrous.

    Another thought: Do the principles in your article apply to endurance riders? Surely they need more carbs?

    Finally, what about pre-race carb-loading, that seems to be going out of fashion? Another bikeradar article:

    Reply • September 26 at 11:38 am
    • bikejames says:

      I think that you need to get at least 10 grams per serving of something to count as a real protein source. This is just something I use with clients and not really based in any science. I just need a way to let people know that eating some peanut butter on some toast in the morning is not enough. Peanut butter has protein and eating it along with more protein (peanut butter on toast with a glass of whey protein in milk, for example) is great but by itself isn’t enough.

      The science behind almost all protein recommendations is not as exact as you would think and while I don’t disagree with the recommendation you mentioned, I wouldn’t write it in stone.

      There is a difference between adequate and optimal. It is very tough to get the optimal amount of essential amino acids from plant based sources. Unless you are meticulous with your food or supplement you can not have optimal protein consumption. A lot of it breaks down to rate limiting amino acids but at a certain point eating more amino acids without the right ones doesn’t do any more good.

      A lot of success also breaks down to mental toughness, natural physical talent and training. Nutrition is huge but someone eating a super clean yet less than optimal diet and possess advantages in the other areas will beat someone with a better performance diet but not as gifted. Trying to extract too much from pro riders that are vegetarian regarding performance nutrition can be misleading in my opinion.

      You can eat more carbs based on training but you would still want to limit them to mornings and around training times. They would also need to be as clean as possible. However, if you are not following these basic habits then odds are there are gaps in the big picture that need to be fixed before you worry too much about specific techniques.

      That is pretty much my stance on carb loading. Carb loading and high carb diets are progress enhancers, and both work, but eating enough protein, eating enough meals and eating enough fruits and vegetables will slow down progress. Take your foot off the brake before trying to gas it harder.

      Reply • September 27 at 12:32 pm
  3. Pete says:

    I use cottage cheese too for a protien source during the day- though it does need to stay cold. You have to watch out what kind you buy though- many are barly cottege cheese.

    I eat vegies every day but often when pressed for time I start eating more fruit– since I don’t eat hardly any grains the amount of fruit can add up– I wonder if this is ok?

    Thanks for the post

    Reply • September 26 at 4:07 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Cottage cheese is another good protein source that I forgot to include. I’ve never heard of someone getting fat from eating too much real fruit. Fruit juice does not count but I would that you would be hard pressed to eat too much fruit.

      Reply • September 27 at 12:17 pm
  4. Sam Preston says:

    Anyone needing more info on this matter , and a variety variety of ways to follow the 1,2,3’s should check out the book , The Abs Diet , Lots of smoothie recipes and it really sorts out the good from the bad .

    Reply • October 8 at 9:57 am
  5. connor Griffin says:

    Would it be more important to eat every 3-4 hours or eat 5 meals a day

    Reply • January 20 at 5:34 pm
    • bikejames says:

      If you eat every 3-4 hours you will eat 5 times a day over the course of an average day. They kind of go hand-in-hand, although I guess eating every 3-4 hours id the “important” part and the 5 times a day a byproduct of doing that.

      Reply • January 23 at 8:41 am
  6. Randy Harris says:

    An adjunct to the eating 5 times a day, don’t forget to make dinner your last meal of the day, no evening snacks. I don’t have the scientific documentation to provide, but have read from many credible sources that your body needs the evening and night to digest the food and that breakfast should be a full 12 hours after dinner.

    Reply • February 1 at 2:29 pm
  7. Graham says:

    Really useful, straightforward and simple advice. A big helpm thanks. I’m just giving up smoking after 16yrs of it (I’m 32 in a few months). I’m feeling huge benefits already, mainly with energy levels rising (sometimes too high!), which I plan to make the most of on the trails when I ride once a week – I’m going to add a swim or two during the week as well. Is there anything I can be consuming at the moment which may help my body repair from the damage caused by smoking? An unuaul question I know! Perhaps there are foods that I should be avoiding as well?

    Reply • February 13 at 9:47 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Fish oil really helps in a lot of areas, especially in tissue repair and helping with inflammation so I would think that it would help there as well.

      Reply • February 14 at 6:23 am
  8. NINA says:


    Reply • June 28 at 10:12 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Almost any decent whey protein will be low in sugar and fat, just go to your local, health food store and flip over a few and check the labels and you’ll be able to find one pretty easily.

      Reply • June 30 at 9:04 pm
  9. James says:

    I was just at the Baltimore Aquarium and picked up a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Seafood Guide (whew, lots of words). Canned Tuna is on there ((except for troll/poll?) “Avoid” list either because of being overfished or mecury.
    Just thought I’d pass this along, as it is a great, convenient sourse of protein. I used to eat it 3 x wk.!

    Reply • August 31 at 2:18 pm
  10. Cisco says:

    Good one – I focus on eating protein and fats and try to lower my carb intake to 30-50 gr a day max – I have found that this kinda diet helps me maintain a better energy level throughout the day and hopefully slowly but surely I will “force”my body to use fat as energy. I use a spoon of MCT and other healthy fats in my shakes and pore some over my meals, gives it a nice taste and helps me stay full longer – carbs are overrated 🙂

    Reply • March 24 at 4:38 pm

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