I was starting second year in college down in Cork and I just got my picture taken for my new student ID. I was waiting to collect the little laminate card that guaranteed me discounts all over the "real capital" and then my name was called. I collected it and had a quick look at the picture and got a slightly sick feeling. My face pretty much covered the entirety of the little square, my cheeks were high and pressed up to my eyes and I had a red flushed look across my hat rack. I quickly grabbed the 1st year ID and did a compare and contrast. It looked like a different person! I went and weighed myself and I pretty much knew where I stood. In the first year of college I put on about 3 and a half stone,that is roughly 22 kilos and as much as I tried to delude myself it wasn't muscle.
Retrospectively, after studying nutrition and working with FFS Nutrition I can see how idiotic my mindset was but at the time my prevailing and very embarrassing belief was "I'm a jet engine you could throw an old tyre in me and I'll burn it off" - direct quote. The guys that I played and trained with were all of the same opinion. The more we put in, the bigger we will get and the better players we will be.
When I was in school I trained 3-4 times a week and generally played 2 games a week. I would have 3 meals a day and a few snacks. I'd go home for my lunch. Most of my meals were prepared by myself or my mother and they were made from the ingredients that she bought. They were wholesome, fresh and bloody tasty. Here's the thing... when I went to college I trained more! I had better facilities, more options in terms of sports and training types. One area went undetected....things changed big time on the food front without me even realising it.
Here was a sample day of my intake (Thursday)
Breakfast : 4 weetabik with a banana and a lot of honey (3-4 table spoons)
Lunch: College Canteen (the fancy one) Chips, Mash, Chicken Dippers, Carrots, Gravy & Mayo (Huge portion)
Drinks: 1-2 Powerades during the day because if it was good enough for Drico it was good enough for me
Pre-Training: Package student deal BLT sandwich, crisps and a drink from the college shop
Dinner: After a tough training so I needed a "big feed" to refuel . White penne pasta, tesco value pasta sauce, tesco value sausages. (pot sized portion)
Night out with teammates: Cheap cans of beer
Takeaway at the end of the night
That was more than 15 years ago , we were all pretty excited about having polyphonic ringtones. We didn't have smart phones or a fitness culture and we didn't have the knowledge base we have now. I never reflected in the whole year on what my intake was during the day. If I did, even with my limited knowledge, I would have realised it was pretty crappy and even worse if I multiplied that scenario 3-4 days a week over a college term I was going be physically in a poor state. Which is exactly were I ended up.
Here are my top tips for how to prevent fat gain during college or how to start to lose fat during the term.
Learn to Cook
People who prepare their own meals are generally happier with their body composition, performance and overall health.
I regularly heard of guys and girls going anaemic in college, they weren't out at sea on rations they were basically living exclusively on takeaways, student deals, meal deals, family deals anything that was highly processed, usually fried and came in a cardboard box, a silver tray or a brown greasy bag. These "deals" might seem cheap but they aren't as cheap as fresh veg, good quality carbs and lean protein when you know where to look. If you were reared to a point in your life were you can't work a washing machine then cooking can seem daunting but it's not! If you can turn on a switch and read the time on a clock you can cook.
There are so many youtube channels, tv programs , books etc to show you how to cook. Learn one or two basic dishes and it will snowball from there. Check here if you need inspiration
Top tips to get you on track. If you have the option to go in with a few mates you can get serious value, if you're on your own you can still haggle and get a decent deal. For tips on working the trolley see Supermarket navigation
Butchers operate great deals, buying one chicken fillet might seem expensive but when you are buying 20-40 the savings are incredible. Ask him/her whats on special, whats on offer, what are they looking to shift and you can pick up great muscle building bargains. Independent butchers are the best to go to as they can determine their own prices ...don't try it in your local big chain supermarket or you might get a few funny looks.
The missing link in most students diets. Vegetables are bang for your buck one of the best things you can have. They are fibrous (leave you feeling fuller longer) packed with vitamins (immune system) and delicious if prepared right. They are very hard to over eat and if you are looking for that "big feed" packing your plate with more veg is the way to go. Fruit & Veg shops often have deals and discount on stuff that is coming to it's shelf life (but always has time left in it). You can also go the frozen route which isn't preferable but if it means the difference between going with or without definitely hit the fridges.
Frozen Chips, Waffles, Noodles and White Pastas are all staples for students but you want to concentrate on carbs that will give you sustained energy. You can save a fortune here if you are going for super food carbs. Wholegrain (think wholegrain rice, quinoa) Legumes & Beans (Kidney Beans etc) Potatoes (Sweet, Roosters etc). The quantities and price of these carbs are excellent. Markets are excellent for potatoes and beans, for rice speciality stores can be great 2-5 kilo bags are often in single euro figures.
These should form a small part of your daily intake but they are important. Think extra virgin olive oil/ coconut oils. Nuts, avocados etc. Just remember they are incredibly energy dense, which means a small amount packs a big calorie punch.
Portions, Portions, Portions
A big thing in my uncool circles in college was to eat out of the pot. A whole pot! That is a huge portion. Portion control isn't complicated. You don't need scales, or to count Macros. It's simple. Give yourself a hand , preferable your own, and tell it to guide you. Here's a non complicated way to ensure you are eating the right types of food in the right quantity to get you on the right track.
Portion Control 101
3-4 meals per day
Each of these meals should contain the following:
1-2 palm sized servings of protein rich foods
1-2 entire thumb sized portions (2 tablespoon) of fats
2-3 fist sized servings of vegetables
1-2 open hand of complex carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, porridge) with 2 or all meals per day (of your choosing). Fruit will count as a serving of carbohydrate.
1 whole fruit or 1 cup of fruit will count as 1 open hand sized serving.
Preparation beats willpower
Bulk, batch cooking, preparing your lunches and dinner for the week. Having healthy balanced meals already made so when deadlines come, you have to study or you get invited to some party, that meal is there for you when you need with minimal fuss. It's much easier to say "I've had my lunch already" than "No, I don't want pizza" when you can see and smell it. It's also so much cheaper if you are on a budget which all students are. Meet Will Power Article
Drink: Earn your sauce
Drinking alcohol adds empty calories to your diet (think calories that serve little energy function but add to fat gain) hinders recovery and often has a 24-48 window of non-ideal decision making. What I mean by that is the "drinking session" in itself is not ideal but this is often compounded by not having a healthy breakfast the next morning, ordering in a takeaway the next day because you're hungover and generally just derails you. I completely realise that alcohol is for many great fun but it's learning to appreciate it and being cognisant that it is essentially adding useless calories to your diet. Are you willing to trade that off or put in place measures that get you back on track quickly? A good example is EYS or earn your sauce. Ask yourself do you deserve this drink? In that you made multiple healthy decisions up until that pint. If the majority of your decisions during the week are excellent, then less ideal ones won't have as big an impact.
If each pint roughly equals the calorie equivalent of a large sugary doughnut and you were to add up all the pints you've consumed in a night and we were to put all those donuts in front of you and then you had to scoff them all down. Does the idea of it make you think "that can't be good" then maybe it's time to readdress your intake and try a different direction.
Get Fitter, Faster, Stronger
Join a sports club, gym, activity group. Whether it be rugby or extreme trampolining. Being involved in a club will introduce you to people you've never met and you will probably end up making friends for life. You will engage in fun physical activity that along side your new found love of cooking and food preparation will set you on a healthy track. If you are attending a gym or training outside of a club, here are some top tips - Fitness tips
Don't just do one thing. If lifting weights is your thing don't neglect conditioning. If running on a treadmill is your thing don't neglect lifting weights. Use your time efficiently, try and get as much as you can out of your workouts. Leave the phone in the dressing room, use a watch to regulate your rest time and follow a structured programme that progressively overloads you (make things more challenging so you adapt to increasing stimulus) you want to be engaged in some form of high intensity activity 3-4+ times a week. Check out here on more tips on how to maximise your gym time
Don't wait DO IT NOW
You might want everything to change right now but it won't and that can be an easy excuse when you start something new to give it up or even worse, not even try. Have a look at your day, what are you eating, where does it come from, am I exercising and what form does it take? If you are not happy with some of the details look to make just one change. That could be making your own dinner tonight or taking a trip into the butcher for the first time. The most important thing is to just start. Try and do a little bit more everyday and before you know it you'll start to see progress and that will spur you on and you'll get better and better and better. Your time to act is now!
Training consistency (Regular exercise)
Eating healthy consistently (A high percentage of your meals are healthy ones)
Preparation. Preparing to fit both training and healthy eating into your daily regime (can be as simple as preparing meals, scheduling your time wisely, encouraging those around you to engage in healthy habits and then feeding off their enthusiasm and encouragement)
Moderating alcohol intake
You can't outrun, outlift or outsmart poor nutritional decisions
Be honest and concentrate on getting a little better everyday.This could be as simple as making your own lunch
Have fun, you are in college!
If you are still struggling or don't know where to start check out FFS Nutrition Coaching; for 1:1 coaching to get you into the best shape of your life for the rest of your life.
If you want to know more about training check out our website www.ffs.ie , our insta or craig_ffs for more info.
by Craig McInerney