It’s no secret that I’m a fitness addict and find joy in eating to fuel my workouts properly. Follow me on Instagram and you’ll see video clips of my workouts and the occasional post of what I eat throughout the day (see below). Consider it my open journal to inspire others, hold myself accountable, and stay creative with meal planning and workouts!
**update since original post: I tried her method of the 4×4 diet cutting starchy carbs in the evening for about a 6 week period. What I noticed the most was my lack of energy to fuel my workouts (3 days strength training and 2 days HIIT) by weeks end. My body required more rest days than I was previously taking and determined this approach was not suited for me. It’s simply a myth. Thankfully I learned dropping carbs in the evening was not going to help me reach my goals faster! In fact it slowed me down.
I firmly believe in longterm adherence. Cutting starchy carbs at night was not as easy as it sounds and cutting anything from your diet just means you’re setting yourself up for failure (unless for allergy purposes)! Cutting anything from your diet is doing nothing more than allowing a calorie deficit which can be done without eliminating (or working around mythical time frames) and is better for longterm results. I love what Alan Aragon writes HERE : “There are no night-time insulin fairies ready & waiting to store carbs in the fat tissue — at least not at any greater rate than they would do so during the day.”
I’m also getting better about not labeling any food as “bad” or “good” and even try not to call things “healthy” or “clean” anymore because it’s all arbitrary. Everyone’s macro needs are different based on several factors and it’s a moving target based on your overall fitness. Eat whole foods as often as you can but don’t go bat-crazy trying to create an environment that you can’t sustain longterm….
So…what is a 4×4 diet?
Erin Oprea, personal trainer (Carrie Underwood being one of her clients, mkay…) and author of “The 4×4 Diet- 4 Key Foods and 4 Key Exercises” developed this program. Her program is a simple two-part philosophy, eat clean and get lean. Eating clean consists of four key habits and getting lean consists of a four minute style tabata workout.
She recently shared one of my workout videos on her Instagram feed…MADE MY DAY!!
I’m only going to touch on 1 of the 4 key food habits which is to cut out starches at night. Months prior to reading her book I was striving to make dinners less and less dependent on breading, pastas, and breads. Carbs are not the enemy as she will also firmly tell you, but the idea of cutting them at night when we’re less active has proven results for her clients (I look at this as nothing more than a jumpstart…)
Pictured below is an example of my “diet” on a typical workout day (snacks not shown):
Meal 1, Breakfast: 1 egg + 3/4 cup egg whites with 2 turkey sausage links and Trader Joe’s sriracha sauce-of course-and a side of roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and a bit of smoked paprika (I loooove roasted sweet potatoes).
Meal 2, Lunch: Open face sandwich featuring Trader Joe’s sprouted wheat bread and pizza burger with 1/4 avocado and a salad with Bolthouse Farms Ranch dressing (love their dressings!)
Meal 3, Dinner: 1 large zucchini spiralized into noodles topped with my #1 Homemade Sloppy Joe recipe
Snacks included: leftover protein pancake with almond butter, grapes with nut thins and 2oz low sodium turkey, bedtime snack was non fat plain greek yogurt with a touch of honey and pistachios.
And another example:
Meal 1, Breakfast: 2 eggs + 1/2 cup egg whites with 2 turkey sausage links, Trader Joe’s sprouted wheat toast with 1/4 avocado schmear
Snack 1: Raw almonds with a few dark chocolate covered espresso beans
Meal 2, Lunch: Trader Joe’s no salt albacore tuna mixed with greek yogurt, whole grain dijon mustard, 1/4 avocado, a few chopped bread and butter pickles with a bit of Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet mustard spread on a FlatOut Italian wrap + strawberries.
Snack 2, Mid-day: small green apple sprinkled with cinnamon and 1TB almond butter.
Meal 3, Dinner: Normally I eat more than this for dinner but it was a busy on-the-go-night! Costco cranberry chicken salad cup with 1 zucchini sautéed with thyme and smoked paprika.
Snack 3, Bedtime: Rice roller (bought in bulk at Costco) with 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s cottage cheese
The exercise portion of 4×4 is perhaps my favorite part! I get SUPER bored REAL quick following any kind of exercise program. You? I love to implement some Tabata rounds after resistance training for a little finisher.
Erin’s tabata style workouts consist of 4 minute rounds broken down to 20 seconds of intense work and 10 seconds of rest. I simply use a free Tabata timer on my phone set for 8 rounds (that’s 4 minutes), then hit repeat for as many total rounds I want or can complete! She explains it really well in her book and goes into a bit more depth but the idea is simple and you can adjust the workouts and rounds to meet your fitness level.
Here’s an example of a killer arm workout I created and shared on Instagram (see full description below video):
Lifting weights alone will get your heart rate up, especially Tabata style, but on arm day I like to throw in what I call a “finisher round” to really max out the intensity.
So the workout went like this:
-Tricep side push-ups (one side), 20 seconds/ 10 seconds rest
-Alternating up-up-down-down commandos (tight abs & straight back), 2o seconds work/10 seconds rest
-Tricep side push-ups (other side), 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest
-Bicep curl to press and twist, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest
***Repeat 1 time through, so essentially 2 sets of each to complete the 1st 4 minute Tabata. Repeat (4 rounds was enough for me!)
FINISHER ROUND: throw in 3 sets at the end or incorporate a set in between rounds if you’re getting fatigued and losing form!
-Bent over row with twist, 10-12 reps each side + 30 seconds alternating high knees. Repeat x3.
And here’s a leg and heart burner:
5 rounds (20 minutes) and my legs were torched:
-Squats with dumbbells
-Butt kicks with in and out arms
-Plie squats with dumbbells