Guest Blog: Making a Sustainable Nutrition Plan w/ Max Caron

As a former athlete and strength and conditioning coach, I understand that many of us have a Love/Hate relationship with food. When most people think about their diet in relation to their training, the mind goes to 1 of 2 places; what we feel we have to eat to stay healthy and in shape…. and the delicious assortment of goodies that we will eat when we get there!

The reality is that having a plan in place for our diet is just as important as having a plan in place for what we do in the gym. Rather than close our eyes, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best, our time and effort is best served when we put a system in place that supports our lifestyle and fitness goals.

My #1 focus when building a nutritional plan to support my training goals is to make sure the plan is sustainable. When I have a training AND nutrition plan that support each other and function harmoniously with my life, then I can maintain the progress I make when life gets hectic. When I think of sustainable meal choices, I think of 4 elements; delicious, homemade, healthy and simple.

While making a nutritional plan healthy is self-explanatory, an emphasis on taste and flavour is sometimes neglected. When we enjoy what we eat, our motivation and commitment to the plan will stay high. Simply put, it is always harder to stay on the plan when our taste buds aren’t stimulated. 

Homemade choices are another important element because finding healthy choices outside of your own home is hard and often times the choices aren’t as healthy as they seem. It is very tough to get consistent results when we don’t know exactly what is going into our bodies. Furthermore, the healthy choices offered often come at a steep price, which gives us even more reason to save some money and learn to make home cooked meals.

So we need a home cooked meal that is healthy and delicious; the final piece to this is our meals must be simple to be sustainable. For many, the demands from work and our personal lives leaves little time to prepare meals. The best choices are meals that we can prepare in 30-45 mins max. We must anticipate that we won’t always have time to throw together the perfect meal. Meal prep strategies such as making extras, pre-cutting vegetables or making and bottling homemade dressings and marinades are great ways to help shave off some cook time.

I also recommend “mastering” the prep time for 1-3 meals that you love to eat; so when your crunched for time you will know exactly how long it takes to churn out your favourite choice. This can be tough if we try and learn 7 recipes all at once, so stick to just a few favourites. Remember, the whole strategy is to eat homemade, healthy, delicious and simple meals on a consistent basis. This is the key to a sustainable meal plan which will help deliver sustainable results. Happy Cooking!


 Max Caron is a strength and conditioning coach at OPEX Calgary Central.

As a previous CFL player for the Calgary Stampeders, Max was a 16th overall draft pick in the 2014 CFL Draft as well as a 1st Team All-Canadian and CIS Football Major Award Winner.

His playing career was cut short due to injury, but his proudest moment was returning to play after suffering 2 ruptured achilles tendons in back-to-back seasons.

With his professional athletic career behind him, he now gets to help others be their best selves and reach their health and fitness goals.

When not coaching, Max enjoys playing sports, training, cooking and spending time with his wife and their two kitties. 

IG:            @max.caron43
Twitter:    @MaxCaron43

Are your expectations limiting you?

I recently started training with a personal trainer again. I love it. I need the accountability. I like the encouraging messages to keep me going and the fact that I have someone else to answer to if I don't follow-through. I like the variety and the push so I can just dive in and trust that someone else is keeping a finger on the pulse of whether or not I'm on track with my goals so that I can just show up. 

This morning's workout as usual involved a number of strength exercises as well as a series of three 500 m rowing sets at a "brisk pace". This meant, not quite a sprint but more than a leisurely row. Last week I had completed a 500 m "test" to see how long it took to row at my max. Based on my sprint pace, my trainer set a goal to pace myself to complete the 500 m in 2:15-2:25.

The first set felt good. I watched the clock intently to gauge the pace I was needing to maintain. I didn't want to go too fast and burn out in one set but I didn't want to go too slow and miss the mark that had been set. Knowing I had two more sets to complete after this, I tried not to give my all on this first set. I finished at 2:19.8. Sweet. I was happy, and in my head it gave me leeway to slow down if I couldn't maintain the speed and still remain in the prescribed time range. 

The second set felt surpisingly good too. It was easier to set and keep the pace, probably because I had a recent set to reference. Set two was faster coming in at 2:16.4. 

On the third set (leading up to the entire point of this blog), I hit the wrong button on the rower, so the screen showed my distance but it didn't show me my time or pace. No problem. I set out and found a good rhythm, pushed but didn't feel I was maxing out by any means. If anything, I felt like I may be slower but tuned into myself and knew I wasn't at my max yet was still giving consistent effort. Once I finished, I pushed buttons on the screen until I found the time that was tracked and I was shocked. 2:14.9. Five whole seconds faster than set one. 

So what is my point? Well there are a couple "aha" moments in this for me: 

1 - If I have a goal in the back of my mind it helps to frame my level of intensity. This can work for or against me. This is great if my goals are just out of my comfort zone and will push me harder than I would otherwise. If my goals are too low though, perhaps I'm not realizing my full potential. Perhaps I won't see the need to push myself harder to surpass the moderate and challenge myself further. As with anything, how we show up in physical challenge is how we show up in other challenges.

2 - When I wasn't watching intently at my progress, I actually did better. This doesn't negate the benefit of tracking and checking in with goals, as I did have an opportunity to touch base once I finished. In this case though, I set the goal, went after it and then checked in later. Obviously to some degree, seeing the time caused me to pace myself slower and limit my potential. I find this relatable to what I often discuss with patients regarding their progress also. Everything takes time. Sometimes checking in too frequently or expecting instant feedback can be to our demise. We may miss out on the long-term potential and more importantly our ability to be in-tune to self assess where we are. When someone is losing weight for instance, looking at the scale multiple times a day will not give you valuable feedback. If anything, this may discourage you in feeling that nothing is changing. Over the course of weeks or months though, the minor inevitable fluctuations balance out and you can see the trend of direction you are going in.

3- There is so much value in tuning into your own body. To trust your own gauge of how much you need to push it without the distraction of details. The more we are able to rely on our inborn wisdom to guide us, be it intuition in making a decision or knowing when our choice to not workout is due to needed rest versus laziness, the less we will need to rely on objective measures to change course when needed and we will be able to find that surge from within. With this in mind though, pay attention if you are playing too small. Even the fact that I scaled my pace in the first round was based on the expectation that I wouldn't be able to sustain that. What if I could though? And in fact I improved my time each time. I've noticed this during road or cycling races as well and through the years have realized how much I have scaled my start to have a fast finish. If I had that much reserve though at the end of a race, tells me more that I didn't push as hard as I could at the beginning. 

Much of the above is more self reflection, but perhaps those reading this can see where any of these observations may show up in your own life also. Are your goals big enough? Are your expectations limiting your true potential? Are you gauging your success in whatever you are focused on (work, finances, fitness) on a micro rather than a macro scale? We don't know our boundaries or max output unless we challenge those limits and it is with challenge that we improve and grow.

Bike Philosophy: 4 Lessons from my Ride

I encourage my practice members to have an outlet of some kind. Something they love to do where time passes with ease and leaves them feeling more grounded. For some that may be running, or knitting or reading...anything that allows them to unload their day enjoy themselves. For me, that outlet is my bike. My bike is my happy place.

Yesterday, I went for a ride with the plan to bike to Chestermere. With path closures, and unexpected road race and detours, I decided to head back home instead where I then came across rough roads prepped for paving (bumpy and the opposite of fun on a road bike) and then almost nose-dived when my bike tire was caught in a sidewalk crack. I was in my head, negative and was spiraling because nothing was going as planned. As I was grumbling in my head I caught myself because usually I'm happiest on my bike. I reminded myself that I was choosing the dialogue and considered a different perspective. Here is what I came up with:

1. Sometimes on your bike (or in life) your path will change. This may very well be for your own well-being. Who knows what you avoided with the unexpected change of plans. It also may present an entirely new beautiful route you wouldn't have otherwise taken.

2. You may (or rather WILL) at times encounter a bumpy road. But you're still here, on it, moving forward. It may slow you down but whats the rush anyway? And when you get to the smooth parts, man do you appreciate it so much more.

3. Almost nose-diving is not the same as nose-diving..yeah core strength! The near misses remind us of how strong we really are...and there is no need to add drama where drama is unnecessary.

4. My last lesson/ reminder that came to me at the end of this ride was that I have the power to change my inner dialogue. I know this, I've done it before but there have also been many times I have chose to wallow in my negative thoughts. Like a muscle though, each time we flex a thought or behaviour (for better or worse), it gets stronger and we are more likely to do the same in the future.

I'm a huge believer that sweat, sunshine and thoughts heal. Get outside, get moving, do things that excite you.