If you're new to basic nutrition and want some guidelines or an experienced fitness guru in need of a new angle, read on. Please consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise or diet program.
Adopting a healthy eating plan is a major facet in attaining a strong, lean body. I've found it to be 80% of the battle. You can bust your butt in the gym in the weight room and on the treadmill, but if you're stopping at the local fast food joint for dinner, you've just undone all that hard work.
You will be amazed at how quickly your body will change and how much better you'll feel, physically and mentally, if you are truly consistent with a clean diet. Check out my other training and motivation articles for additional fitness suggestions and information.
Think about it in these terms: would you feed a baby toaster pastries and soda for lunch? Of course not! So why would you feed your body the same garbage? Your body is like a machine. It needs proper maintenance, and good quality fuel to run efficiently. Our bodies are continuously changing, breaking down and rebuilding.
Our systems are being attacked by free radicals from the environment and toxins we come in contact with. By adopting a healthful diet, taking dietary supplements to help support our diets and drinking at least a gallon of water per day, you'll create a strong, healthy and youthful body.
Tips To Starting
Another extremely important element is to remember that you're human. We have all strayed from our diets, but the difference between those who continue eating healthy and those who don't is the healthy eaters forgive themselves. Just because you ate that cookie doesn't mean you should throw your hands and say "Forget it! I lost it anyway, might as well keep going."
That's a huge pitfall for many, but it doesn't have to be yours. Here's another way to look at it; if you backed your car into a bunch of trashcans at the end of your driveway and your car got dented, would you get out, grab a hammer and finish the job? No, that's ludicrous. So why do the same to your body? Tomorrow is a new day so just stay on track and focus on your goals.
There are three major macronutrients of good nutrition: protein, carbohydrates and fats. There are many recommendations out there on what the ratio should be.
Personally, I have found consuming approximately 1600-1800 calories per day with a breakdown of 50% protein, 30% carbs and no more than 20% from fat. As you progress and your body adapts, you will find that some fine-tuning will be needed to see continued results. Frequency and breakdown of meals is discussed later in the article.
Some great sources of high quality protein are grilled chicken, white turkey breast, eggs and egg whites, lean ground beef (93%) or lean ground turkey, and whey protein powder. If you're a fish fan, orange roughy or tuna are also great lean protein sources.
Pay attention to serving sizes: 4-6 ounces of meat, 6 whites and one whole egg and 1-2 scoops of protein powder would be considered single servings.
Determine Your Daily Protein Needs!
In simplest terms, simple carbohydrates can make your insulin levels spike, thus causing your body to store these poor quality calories as fat. Feel free to see additional articles on glycolysis for more information. Complex carbs are the way to go.
These would include 4 oz sweet potato, 1 c. steamed brown rice, 1/2 c dry oatmeal, 1/4 c cream of rice, or four rice cakes to name a few. Try to eat your complex carbs earlier in the day, as that's when your body will use them most efficiently during daily activities and exercise.
There are also "free" carbohydrates that also do not drastically affect your insulin levels. They're a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals and can be eaten in abundance.
Some examples of these green carbs include: green beans, asparagus, dark leafy greens, green peppers, spinach, cauliflower, celery, zucchini, and cucumbers. So, go crazy and load up your plate with these crunchy, satisfying and healthy gems.
If you eat a simple sugar and protein post workout, the sugar causes and insulin spike, which releases carbohydrates that are utilized by the muscles for recovery and the protein is used for muscle growth. Insulin can also wreak havoc on your system because if you continuously eat sugary high glycemic foods, your body eventually builds a resistance to insulin, and those simple carbs you're eating are stored as fat.
Some excellent quality simple carbs are one banana, 2c. strawberries, 1c. blueberries or one apple. These should be consumed with 60 minutes of workout completion for optimum results.
It's essential for brain function and energy. You want to be aware of consuming good quality fats that are unsaturated. Many diet savvy individuals get their fats simply from the lean meats and fish they're consuming, flaxseeds or flaxseed oil and omega-3 supplements.
See the pattern here? The foods listed are whole natural foods. Eating food closest to its most natural state will ensure that you're consuming high quality nutrients that haven't been depleted through processing.
Putting It All Together
Frequency is also a key part of your new lifestyle. You should be eating every 2 1/2 to 3 hours to keep your metabolism burning and keep you feeling energetic and satisfied. This ensures that your body won't go into starvation mode, thus shutting down and storing fat in order to protect itself. It also protects you from overeating at the next meal.
Do not let your calories dip below 1200. When you reassure your body that it will be consistently fed high quality food, it will be easier to burn off those fat stores. If you're eating a 1600-1800 calorie diet, break your meals down into six smaller ones as opposed to 3 large ones. Make sure to consume your complex carbs in the first four meals of the day.
Obviously, there are times when you won't always be able to spread out your grilled chicken, sweet potato and green beans on the boardroom table or on the run. There are other alternatives such as a good quality whey protein powder. There are tons of great recipes for protein powder so get creative! There are also Ready to Drink (RTD's) available if you don't have a blender or shaker handy.
Whey protein shake is also an excellent postworkout supplement because your body will process the liquid faster than whole foods, thus getting it to your muscles faster. There are so many great flavors available, it's like having dessert.
Another option is a lower to moderate carb protein bar. Make sure you read labels. Some bars are loaded with sugar and lower in fats and others are loaded with fat to make up for the lack of sugar. Try to find a happy medium. Chef Jay's Trioplex bars (cut in half) Doctor's CarbRite bars and EAS are just a tiny example of some great bars on the market.
Don't fall into the trap of using bars for more than one meal per day. They are calorie dense and ultimately will not be as filling as whole foods. Use them as a treat or for time crunches only, not for consistent meal replacement.
There are so many benefits but some of the most obvious include helping to keep you feeling full between meals, aids digestion and other major internal processes, keeps your skin looking great and some research has suggested that is also aids in helping the body burn fat more efficiently. Keep a big jug at your desk, in your car and at the gym and just keep drinking!
If you truly want to change in your physique, increase energy levels and improve overall well-being, a change in your diet is the first step. It will take a little planning and creativity, but ultimately you can find tons of great healthy recipes that will tempt your taste buds and satisfy your weight loss goals and strength gains. Good luck!
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