How To Plan Your Meals For An Active Lifestyle

An active lifestyle is intense. Whether you are into Crossfit, BJJ, Kickboxing,MMA or just want to work out…you should applaud yourself.  What you do requires dedication, drive and above all the right fuel to get you through the entire workout of the without crashing. Just as you have discipline for your fitness needs, you should have discipline in your nutrition planning. Remember, “Failure to plan, is planning to fail.”

MMA gym AlhambraIf you go workout on an empty stomach you risk not having the strength to finish as well as the possibility of lower performance. If you eat before you go, you risk meeting ol’ Pukie the Clown, one of the unofficial mascots of the active lifestyle. There is a balance that needs to be struck between being fueled and being full and it is a very fine line indeed. The problem with this balance is there is no universal truth and absolutely no magical formula for finding it. Yes, that means you may have to do a little trial and error.

Know Your Body

One of the best ways to help figure out when you should eat, how much you should eat and what you should eat before hitting your workout is knowing your own body. The more attuned you are to your body’s signals, the less likely you will be to end up doubled over on the floor making an embarrassing spectacle of yourself. For some people that means that two hours after eating is the minimum for getting the job done correctly while for others, more or less time is needed. The best idea is to put yourself through a fairly grueling workout (at home) at various stages of digestion to see where that proverbial sweet spot is.

If you are fueling your body correctly, you should be able to handle even the most grueling workouts without having to stop for a snack in the middle.

Don’t Confuse Thirst with Hunger

It is very common for people to think they are “starving” during their work out and start to fantasize about food. This leads them to being distracted and increases their risk of injury. It can also lead to food binges after the gym time is complete, undoing everything they have just managed to do for themselves and slowing or completely stopping their results. If this sounds like you, ask yourself if you are truly hungry or if it is possible that you are thirsty instead. Many Crossfit Gyms, BJJ/MMA Schools are barebones and often do  not have air conditioning so it can be very warm inside. You are doing intense body movements that are done back to back often with very little break in between. If you are not hydrating correctly your body is going to send out signals to get some water right away because you need to replace everything you are sweating out. Even if you don’t feel like you are sweating more than usual, you will still need frequent water breaks. This is another instance where you really need to pay attention to your body’s needs.

If you feel lightheaded, dizzy or even faint, you could be overheated or dehydrated. If you are not at risk for medical conditions you should try eating at least a small snack before your next session to see if you feel better.

After Your  Workout

MMA gym AlhambraRefueling your body thirty minutes after the workout has been completed is vitally important, for a number of reasons. First, you have just expended plenty of fuel in your efforts. Second, this is the best time to feed your muscles- the fuel you add now will be used to make repairs to hard worked muscles to give you the definition that you are looking for. Taking a proactive stance to post workout eating will prevent you from succumbing to the starving monster that might kick in afterward. If you wait until you start feeling hungry you will be less likely to be reasonable and make good choices.

On top of satiating your hunger, post workout is great time to introduce nutrients your body has been depleted of to begin the repair process. I recommend a light carbohydrate with about 30grams of carbs and also some protein powder with about 15 grams of protein and about 5grams of Branched Chained Amino Acids (BCAA’s) about 3o minutes after your consume your carb/protein. In addition to providing the gateways to repair, this will also help with hunger cravings.

The post workout starvings will make rational people eat an entire pizza because they “earned it”. Remember: you cannot out exercise a bad diet. One bad choice will not undo all of your hard work but repeated “earned” meals will. Have a plan in mind, have a snack at the ready and head off that monster before he destroys the village.

The Calorie Difference Between On Days and Rest Days

People get too fixated on calories and forget that every day is different and so should their calorie goals. You are obviously going to need more calories on Crossfit days than you will on rest days, that is a given.

But, that does not mean that you need thousands of extra calories just because you are going to go to the gym- there is virtually no one in the average world that needs to bump up their calorie count by that much just because they are spending an hour or two in the gym. Even a pregnant woman who is busy growing a whole new person only needs to bump up her calories by roughly 500 calories or so. You will need to adjust your calories up and down but the differences will not be staggering and may be as simple as an extra snack or a slight increase in protein for “on” days.

Some people do the reverse- they cut calories on their gym days because they think it will force their body to burn more reserve fat for fuel. While in theory that sounds good but the truth is that the body may simple burn muscle instead, saving the fat reserves because it thinks it is starving. This is especially true for people who have very sensitive systems or very slow metabolism.

Calorie cycling, which means eating higher calorie one day and then lower calories the next can be effective if done correctly but can be difficult to figure out in terms of the right balance and may not work for everyone. Some people require steady state caloric intake or their system is thrown out of whack. Be mindful of how your body works and adjust your calorie intake for your own, best results.

What I Recommend

Yes I know, everybody is different, but as a competitive martial artist and coach to literally hundreds of people throughout the years I believe that I have found a general guideline that should help you out. I have organized it below into (2) general categories the AM exerciser or the PM exerciser.

Early AM Workout

Upon waking consume 5grams of BCAA’s. For those that can tolerate caffeine have a cup of coffee at this point, go take a shower, brush your teeth an about 15 minutes later have alight protein shake with the following:

No later than 5:30 AM

3oz of frozen berries, or 1/2 banana

4 oz of kefir (fermented yogurt drink) or water

1 tbs peanut butter or EFA’s (essential fatty acids)

6AM Workout- Kill it!


1 scoop of carb powder like MusclePharm Recon

1/2 scoop of protein powder

30 Minutes Postworkout-

5 grams BCAA’s

60 Minutes Postworkout

A nice balanced meal with good quality proteins, carbs, vegetables and fats from whole foods. This is the optimal time for repair and will ensure that you have enough energy for your day

PM Workout (After Work) basically around  7pm

Most of us have day jobs that require us to meet our fitness needs after the “daily grind” has been done. If this is you please read below.

5pM- Preworkout Meal

Quest Protein Bar

15 Minutes before your workout

5grams BCAA’S

1/2 scoop protein powder

7PM Workout- Kill It!


1 scoop of carb powder like MusclePharm Recon

1/2 scoop of protein powder

30 Minutes Postworkout-

5 grams BCAA’s

60 Minutes Postworkout

Unlike the AM workout, your meal here won’t be as big. Your main concern is providing the necessary nutrients but you don’t want to overeat, because you will be going to bed.

I recommend a light meal consisting of a slow digesting protein like Greek Yogurt or Casein protein. Here’s a quick little recipe:

3/4 c. Greek Yogurt

1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder

6 oz strawberries

12 walnuts

The most important thing to remember is to have fun! No matter what your exercise choice is, applaud yourself for doing what only 18% of Americans do regularly. And if you are looking for a workout and live the in the Los Angeles/San Gabriel area, I invite you to come down and check out the 30 Day Free Trial at my martial arts school, by Clicking here or call (626) 282-2012. We have MMA, Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing and Exercise Classes for Men, Women and Children.


Jason Selva





Head Black Belt

Selva Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts

(626) 282-2012


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