3 Sneaky Reasons Dining Out Is Sabotaging Your Nutrition


If you sit down at a restaurant and order a grilled chicken breast, a big salad and some steamed rice, you’d naturally assume that you were eating a healthy meal that will fuel your muscle gains and also help you achieve your fat loss goals. Unfortunately, you might be wrong. In fact, in many cases, you’re almost certainly going to be wrong.
Let me explain why.

Reason #1 Most Restaurants Use Very Low-Quality Ingredients:

Restaurants are in the business of making money. Yes, there are some really great independently-owned restaurants that are run by chefs and owners who have a restaurant because they love creating delicious food. But most restaurants are corporate chains that are in the business to make a profit. The lower the expenses are, the higher the profit is.

The greatest expense for a restaurant, even one specializing in low-cost meals, is the food. This is also the one expense that gets tweaked the most. All corporate restaurants have very strict guidelines about how much managers can spend on food.

For instance, in one international casual dining chain, managers are only allowed to spend between 13-20% of their weekly revenue on food. Any higher than that, and chances are good that the general manager is soon to be out of a job. While managers can control how much food they waste through over-ordering, over-prepping and mistakes made on the cook’s line, the best way for them to keep their food cost low is to order cheap ingredients.

Even when the corporate office decides what products the manager can order, those products are selected for their pricing, not their quality. That means the cheapest, commercially-raised poultry and fish, low-grade beef and pork and produce that is frozen or of poor quality. If you’re having a hot vegetable at a chain restaurant, chances are excellent that it was frozen shortly before it hit your plate.

Let’s look at that chicken breast you like to order. More than likely, even if you’re at a local, independent restaurant, that chicken was raised on cheap feed loaded with pesticides, herbicides and genetically-modified grain and that feed is supplemented with…(guess what?) chicken. Yes, chicken raised in large livestock operations are often given supplemental feed that’s loaded with chicken by-products. Its cheap protein often manufactured by the chicken operation itself.

The chicken that breast came from was also pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.

You probably already know all the ways that these things can ruin your overall health, but what does it mean for your muscle gains and fat loss?First, there’s far less protein in these chicken breasts than in organic or pasture-raised chicken. Second, the hormones in that chicken are damaging your own hormonal balances, upsetting your levels of testosterone and HGH, among others. This makes it harder for you to gain muscle, no matter how hard you work out or how much protein you (think) you’re eating.
Next, the pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics damage your digestive tract, making it hard for your body to absorb nutrients to fuel muscle gain and also making it harder for your body to rid itself of wastes and toxic buildup. At the same time, slowed digestion decreases your metabolism and makes it harder for you to lose fat.
Reason #2 Portion Control at Restaurants is Next to Impossible:
While restaurants do strive to keep the costs of ingredients down, they’re very generous when it comes to piling those ingredients on your plate. There’s a mercenary reason for this. Plenty of marketing studies have been done that showed that large portions give the diner the perception that they’re receiving a better value. Many diners also rate “feeling full” as an important measure of how much they enjoy a restaurant meal. For whatever reason, when we pay for someone to prepare our meal, we attach a higher value to volume. This is a psychological issue, since we don’t feel it’s as important to stuff ourselves when we just pay for the ingredients and prepare the meal ourselves.Restaurants cater to this “perceived value” by serving enormous portions and they also have another interesting trick for making “healthy meals” look sensible while still piling on the cheap food. The typical dinner plate we use at home is 10-inches in diameter but did you know that the typical restaurant plate is 12-inches in diameter? We don’t always recognize that we’re seriously overeating.For instance, in most calorie/nutrient counting books, the portion size of a side of pasta is half a cup and the entrée size is one cup. In restaurants, the typical side of pasta is 1-1 ½ cups and an entrée can weigh in at 3 cups!Let me give you some scarier numbers:

1 cup of standard fettuccine Alfredo has 450 calories. That really popular Italian chain’s fettuccine Alfredo dinner has 1,220 calories.
A slice of homemade chocolate cake may have 420 calories, but the giant piece you get for dessert at a restaurant might have as many as 900.These huge numbers of calories aren’t the only problem. You’re also talking about huge amounts of fat and sugar that are going to pack on plenty of weight, but not the lean muscle you’re working so hard for. That fat and sugar intake is also going to wreak havoc on your insulin and blood sugar levels and on your hormone levels to the extent that you’re going to be predisposed to adding body fat even if you turn over a new leaf and clean up your diet.
Reason #3 Food Safety is an Issue:
We’ve all seen the videos and newspaper articles about restaurants run so badly and unsafely that they got closed down. But you’d be surprised at the number of safe food handling violations and simple careless mistakes that take place even in the nicer places.

I’m talking about things like raw chicken being stored on a wire shelf above raw meat. The chicken juices run down into the meat and contaminate it. Or the cantaloupe that isn’t scrubbed or peeled before slicing, so the knife that’s used to cut it drags pesticides, parasites and even fecal matter through the melon with every slice. Even an unintentional mistake such as holding cooked foods at too low a temperature or putting a slice of cheese on a cutting board that was just used for prepping raw fish.

All of these things lead to contamination and while you might not get noticeably sick from some of these, you are taking parasites, bacteria and other nastiness into your body. Those things then enter your digestive tract, seriously disturbing the balance between good and bad gut bacteria and taxing your immune system as well. Both of these cause system-wide inflammation that stalls both muscle gain and fat loss.

These three reasons should be enough to  compell you to start eating in much more often. If cooking is the main issue, consider a custom meal plan and nutrition coaching from PI4L Fitness or have your meals delivered through Personal Trainer Food. Please ask for details by contacting us.

Thanks Vince Del Monte for this awesome article!

Keeping my eye on you in fitness and nutrition,

Mark Lani CPT, CSN