Portion Control 101

Raise your hand if you have found yourself feeling stuffed after a meal because your eyes were bigger than your stomach. *Raises hand* There is something satisfying about having a ton of different foods available in your fridge because you have mastered bulk cooking after reading all about it here in Jiu Jitsu Magazine. You did read that article right? But with every positive comes the negative. We may get home from a hard day of training and be ravenous and take double portions or we might not even understand what a proper portion looks like and are habitually over eating. This is ok, it is the same as being a blue belt and trying every submission, sweep and flavor of the week video that shows up on your news feed. We want it all; we are surrounded by too many options, but like on the mats, we need to tighten up our focus and use our will power. Portion control is the single most important aspect of eating well for the long haul. A large meal here and there won’t make you bump up a gi size as long as you maintain proper portions for the majority of your meals. But how much should you be eating? What is a proper guideline on how much rice or pasta we can have without having to bust out the measuring cups? Well, luckily, there are a few tips and tricks that can help tighten up our portions. Let’s roll.


How Much is Too Much?

We all are different shapes, sizes, and require different portion sizes. Caio Terra is not going to be eating the same sized portions as Abraham Marte. We would have to get into calorie counting, body mass indexing and all sorts of variables that nobody has time for, unless you are a professional athlete and at that point, you will probably have someone doing this for you. Leave the calculator at work, don’t stress over reading every label, and definitely do not skip food groups. With the following tips, you can manage how much food you should be consuming in a sitting.

The Methods

A Hand-y Tool: Mother Nature gave us a ton of hidden tools that can be found right at the end of our wrists. Using different parts of our hand to “measure” different types of food will give an accurate guide on the size of a portion we should be eating on average. The variable with this method is obvious that if someone who is a featherweight somehow has massive hands, the method may be a little off. For the most part though, our hands scale with our body size, making this a good practice.


Think in Quarters: If you don’t want to look like a weirdo staring at a piece of chicken, then back at your hand, then again at the chicken, you can subtly use the plate itself as a unit of measure. Think of the plate in quarters and use those quarters as “portions.” This method works best if you are rational and do not try and cheat the system. Piling 4 pieces of steak into one quarter of a plate is not correct. Don’t try and cut corners here, be reasonable.


Proper Portions

03Protein: The average portion size for protein is 4-6oz, based on the meat itself, or the equivalent to the size of a bar of soap. Busting out a scale or even worse, placing a bar of soap next to your food is not high on my priority list.
Hand: 1 palm
Plate: ¼ of the plate.

04Vegetables: Leafy greens, broccoli, and asparagus all measure differently and are hard to fit into the 1 cup measure a serving should be. By using the hand or plate method, we can avoid that headache and load up on our vegetables without doing any math or smashing asparagus into a cup measure.
Hand: 2 fists
Plate: ½ of the plate a.k.a. 2 quarters of the plate.

05Carbohydrates: When we talk about the world of carbohydrates, it is crazy to think of weight measures because a ½ cup of blueberries weighs different than a ½ cup of cooked quinoa. The average serving size should be ½ cup.
Hand: 2 cupped hands
Plate: 1/4 of the plate.

On the left is a dry cup of brown rice, on the right cooked. When reading portion labeling be sure to make note if the label’s referring to a cooked portion or raw portion, depending on the food item.

On the left is a dry cup of brown rice, on the right cooked. When reading portion labeling be sure to make note if the label’s referring to a cooked portion or raw portion, depending on the food item.

Nuts, oils & fats: This is where you begin to factor in olive oil, nut butters, and whole nuts and seeds. Most of the measures are tricky to obtain here. What exactly is a “thumb” of olive oil? So, use your best judgment here, or use small to-go salad dressing containers as a guide. You want 1 oz on average.
Hand: Thumb length
Plate: No measure, use your hand!


How to Execute

Eating in order: Think of your plate like a clock and eat clockwise. Always place your vegetables from 9 – 3 and start at 12. By doing so, you are forcing yourself to satisfy the initial hunger pangs by consuming the bulk of the meal that you are the most likely to skip. Then work to your carbohydrates and then work through your protein. By finishing with the last remaining portion of vegetables, you are more than likely not going to leave the table still hungry.

Take your time: Turn off the TV, close the laptop, and lock your phone when you are eating. Savor every bite and take your time chewing your food. Not only will you find that you are going to eat less and be less hungry afterwards, but also the more you chew your food, the easier it is for your stomach to break it down, which will yield in more nutrients. Oh, and strengthening your jaw may save you from a misplaced choke one day.

07Veg out: If you find yourself hungry after finishing your meal, instead of fixing yourself a full second plate of what tasted best (which usually is the food that is the least good for you). go and have a second portion of vegetables. Nine times out of ten, this will fill up that remaining space you had in the tank and you will gain even more nutrients from your fruits and vegetables.


Forever On Point

You should never be eating to feel stuffed. Think about what eating truly is; it is a way to fuel your body by replenishing vital nutrients burnt throughout living. When your car is full of gas, do you keep trying to pump more in? You sure don’t. By portioning properly, you will be eating enough to bring your tank back up to full but not over. Eat when you need to eat and not out of boredom. If you find yourself still hungry after a meal, let it settle for a few minutes and then wait and see how you feel. We all are different shapes and sizes with different energy levels and outputs throughout daily activities, thus requiring different portions. By using this guide, you will take a lot of the math and measuring out of the equation, and be left feeling fueled rather than full. For some awesome recipes to fuel up with, make sure to check out grapplergourmet.com and ultimately: Eat well. Train hard. Oss.





MacKenzie Arrington is an award-winning chef based in Buffalo, NY. Off the mats, he is the team chef for a professional sports team, runs a healthy meal prep company and is a culinary knifemaker. On the mats, he is a purple belt out of Lake Effect Martial Arts - Checkmat Buffalo. Connect with MacKenzie on Instagram.
One Comment
  • Udemy code
    17 May 2017 at 7:30 pm
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    I read through this article wishing I could write as well as you. I am impressed with your style and presentation. Thanks for sharing it.

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