When it comes to rocking that fit life, your diet is the star of the show and exercise plays a supporting role. That’s right – how you eat is responsible for 80-90% of your appearance. Exercising allows for some change in your physique, and certainly determines your athletic abilities, but what you feed your body has the greatest impact on how you look.
So how and what should you eat? Most diets are overly complicated and make it far too difficult for most people to follow for any length of time. If you saw any signs that Your Fitness Program Sucks, then be sure to read on.
Eating right should support and maintain a healthy metabolism, provide sufficient energy, maintain muscle, decrease body fat, balance hormones and most importantly, create a healthy mentality when it comes to eating.
You Are What You Eat, to a Degree
Is dieting really as simple as eating fewer calories then you burn and moving more? Yes and no. Your calorie intake is the chief part of the equation when designing nutrition plan. However, we are more concerned with how you look (body composition), how you feel, your energy levels, your level of health and whether or not you can maintain such a regimen for the long term and that’s not as simple as calories in v. calories out.
Not all calories are created equal! Your body utilizes certain types of nutrients differently, using them for many different bodily functions such as building and maintaining muscle tissue, transporting nutrients, fueling various organs, using and storing energy. Do you want to lose precious lean muscle tissue and create a smaller, squishy version of yourself, or do you want to reduce your body fat levels while maintaining a tight, toned body? This is where WHAT you eat comes into play as well as how much you eat.
Setting the Table
So, what’s the best diet plan? The one that you’ll actually stick with day in and day out! Stop following the latest fad diet and use these foundations of a solid nutritional program to lose weight and feel great.
- Determine your estimated daily calorie needs. Don’t grumble over it. How will you ever know if you are eating enough, overeating or consistent with your intake if you don’t even know what your body needs to function daily. You can easily determine your needs here.
- Create a mild calorie deficit. First things first – one pound of fat = 3500 calories. Simple math dictates that if you want to lose ONE pound of FAT (not muscle) per week you need to be eating 500 calories less per day. This can be in the form of caloric reduction, exercise expenditure or a combination of both.
A basic formula I like to use is to decrease your estimated daily calorie intake needs (from above) by 10-15% to start. For example, if your estimated intake is 2000 calories per day, decrease it by 200-300 calories and add a small amount of exercise.
Notice I didn’t say add two hours cardio per day. See here why this is not required? The method to starve and over exercise to lose weight faster backfires, I assure you, and in a very evil, rebounding kind of way.
- Keep track of your daily intake. I know, I know. Boring. Who has time for that? Luckily, you do and there is an app for that (just like everything else in life). It takes less than five minutes of your day to plug your food into a tracker such as My Fitness Pal or Daily Burn. Seriously, a 10-year-old can do this. Input food and it does the math for you.
You need to track it ALL. Every little M&M you stole from the reception desk at work, those 10 french fries from your kids Happy Meal and those few sips of your husband’s smoothie. All the calories count. Awareness is empowering!
- Set your macronutrient intake. Are you scratching your head asking “what did she say?” Simple – set your amount of calories from each of the following categories: protein, carbohydrate and fat.
- Protein: Protein is then used to repair and rebuild muscles. These are the building blocks of a leaner physique and you need to include them in each of your meals. Every body is different. Your fitness level, genetics and diet can influence how much protein you need, but a general guideline is one gram per pound of lean body weight. Opt for lean sources such as chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef, fish, beans and eggs.
- Carbohydrates: Your body’s ideal source of energy. When consumed, they get converted to glucose (sugar), and then used to provide energy to various body functions. NO carbs do not cause you to get fat. Too many calories do. Want to know why you got fat? Click here. Breads, pastas, rice, grains, fruits and vegetables are all carbohydrate sources.
- Fat: First things first, dietary fat does not make you fat. It is a vital macronutrient critical to many bodily functions on the cellular and hormonal level. The right fat sources are a necessity: avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, etc. Notice I didn’t say donuts.
- Eat REAL food. This is not some revolutionary concept. Eat less junk, and eat more foods in their natural state. Different foods have very different effects on your body, which will affect your body composition and athletic performance. You KNOW deep down that eating things that came from the ground, sea or flew in the air is better for you than things that came from a factory or fast food joint.
This goes for prepackaged “health” foods as well. While certain supplements can certainly be convenient and useful, such as protein powder, it is always better to get your nutrients from a whole food source if you can. Not only do we want you to look good but FEEL good as well. What’s the point of having a killer body is you feel like crap all the time?
- Drink more water! Hydration plays a huge role in your athletic performance to help you sustain your workouts and avoid injury. More water in, the less water your body will hold contrary to whatever garbage magazine you read. Even more, water is crucial in the digestive process and how you break down your food.
Dehydration can play tricks on your body as well, such a fuzzy brain, fatigue, muscle cramps, false hunger pains and just a general feeling of blah. We recommend a minimum of four liters per day. Get guzzling!
- Stop skipping meals. Oh, you were trying to save calories for later by skipping breakfast and lunch? Did you end up raiding the cupboards and eating everything in fridge when you got home from work? Skipping meals can lead to overeating later in the day.
Do you crash mid day and feel the need to take a nap or grab a 5-hour energy drink? Odds are you haven’t eaten enough during the day and at regular times. Do you need to eat eight meals a day? Nahh, but eating every 3-4 hours is ideal for blood sugar regulation, energy and satiety.
And last, by not least…
- Keep it simple. Our bodies are complex systems. We really are a living and breathing machine. Our bodies are smart. Push it too much one-way and it will swing back ten times harder in the other direction. The quality and nutritional makeup of your food intake plays a big role in not only your immediate results, but also your long-term level of success. Starvation doesn’t work. Cutting food groups doesn’t work. Balance does.
The amount of calories consumed and the macronutrient ratio differs from person to person depending on their body, goals, and activity level.
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