Fueling your body for weight loss, performance, or overall health doesn’t mean you have to go “paleo,” follow the Zone Diet, or starve yourself. By choosing real food, composing balanced meals, and planning ahead you can achieve your ideal weight, physique, or fitness level.
Creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is different for each individual. Depending on schedule, goals and overall health, each individual should establish a fitness and wellness routine to meet their needs.
Forget what you think you know about nutrition and everything you have heard about dieting. Dieting is not the best way to lose weight. In fact, recent studies show just the opposite; people who diet end up gaining back whatever weight they lose, plus some.
Stop searching for a quick fix or the diet cure-all. The most effective and healthiest way to shed unwanted weight and gain muscle is to alter your lifestyle. This means making a change that goes beyond a day, week, or month. Transform your lifestyle by fueling your body with foods that will give you sustained energy and optimal health.
Addressing the Problems
To understand what we need to change, we have to take a look at what we are doing wrong. First, the foods that have become the staples of the American diet are killing you. These foods are fake and contain little or no nutritional value. Also, the American plate is outdated and contributes to the U.S. obesity epidemic. In order to make improvements in your lifestyle, health, and fitness levels, you have to eliminate processed foods from your life and fuel your body with real foods.
Your Food is Killing You
We have been tricked into believing that highly processed refined foods that are loaded with preservatives, coloring, flavoring and additives are acceptable. If you paid for your meal through the window of your car or open a bag or box to access your dinner, chances are it is fake. Don’t let the flashy marketing schemes, endorsements, or convenience of prepackaged or premade meals fool you. Foods that can sit on the shelf of a grocery store month after month without spoiling, are dead. Think about what has gone into a food to transform it from perishable to nonperishable. Not only do these foods lack real nutritional value, they contain harmful chemicals and toxins that are harmful to your body.
I think it’s clear that highly refined foods that have been altered from their natural state are hazardous to our health, but how do they affect our body? Simply put, these foods enter the bloodstream like an injection of sugar. Our bodies attempt to use this shot of sugar, or glycogen, as energy shutting down our metabolism in the process. Instead of converting this food to fuel the excess gets stored as fat because there is already enough glycogen in the blood, muscles, and liver. The rise and fall of insulin in the blood leaves you tired, and the lack of nutrients in the fake food leaves you unsatisfied. Thinking that you are still hungry, you continue to eat and the fat storage process repeats itself.
Begin to slowly transform the way that you eat by increasing the amount of vegetables, meats, and fruits you consume while avoiding processed foods and educating yourself about portion sizes. Shift your thinking away from the 3 “square meals” that many of us have grown up on. The days of a meal that consists of meat and potatoes, with little or no vegetables on the plate, are obsolete. Green, leafy and/or colorful vegetables should be the star of your plate, followed by a 4-6 ounce serving of a lean protein source, and a small portion of wholesome carbohydrates like sprouted whole grains or beans.
Instead of looking to instant meals or drive-thru windows for your next meal, start eating real food. By real food I mean food that is fresh, local when possible, comes out of the ground, off of a tree, or from an animal. Real food is perishable; it does not come out of a box or bag. The fewer ingredients listed on the label, the better. Eating in this manner will improve the way you perform, recover, look, and feel.
What should I eat?
Simply put, your diet should be based on lean animal protein, fresh vegetables (green leafy and colorful), some fruit, healthy sources of fat, limited number of starches, and no added sugars.
The number one way to meet your nutritional needs is to consume a diet rich in whole foods. For this reason you want to consume foods that have a high net gain – foods easily digested and utilized by your body. The foundation of your nutritional intake should be fibrous vegetables, fruits, seeds, cold-pressed oils, nuts and other healthy fats.
Fibrous Vegetables: Beets, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Celery, Cucumbers, Arugula, Spinach, Beet Greens, Kale, Green Beans, Broccoli, etc.
Fruits: Apples, Banana, Berries, Pear, Orange, Grapefruit, Cherries, Grapes, Dates, Figs, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Mango, Melon, Peach, etc.
Legumes: Beans (black, fava, kidney, adzuki), Lentiles, Peas, etc.
Pseudograins: commonly known as carbohydrates, these foods are actually seeds or grains that are sprouted or cooked. They are also high in protein and fiber and gluten free. Amaranth, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Wild Rice, Sprouted/Gluten free bread (Eziekle 4:9 brand bread is a good example)
Seeds: Flaxseed, Sunflower, Pumpkin, Hempseed, Sesame Seed, Chia Seed
Oils: (raw, cold-pressed) Coconut, Flaxseed, Hemp, EVOO
Raw Nuts: Brazil Nuts, Cashew, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts
Starches/Whole grains: Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Yams, Oats, Spelt
When and how much?
You have probably heard that when it comes to losing weight you have to eat 6 small meals spread throughout the day. While smaller meals and snacks are best, there is no scientific evidence that shows eating more than 3 meals per day will have an impact on the metabolism or fat burning. With that said, there are studies that show a negative impact on the metabolism if you are not eating at least 3 meals per day.
I suggest 3 meals during the day, with 1-2 snacks depending on hunger and activity level. Try not to go more than 4 hours without eating to keep your insulin from spiking and crashing. Your meals should feature a protein source, healthy fat, and vegetable or fruit. Snacks can be vegetables, fruit, nut/seeds, or a combination of your choosing.
Complete meal: 4-6 oz of chicken, 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil, and all you can eat roasted veggies. Yes, it’s that simple.
Snacks: 3+ hours before a workout: 2-4 oz of lean turkey breast, 1⁄2-1 cup broccoli, 2 tablespoons avocados. Because of the protein, fat, and fiber contained in these foods, it is best to allow for digestion before a workout.
If you become hungry throughout the day, try one of these healthy snacks instead of starving yourself or hitting the drive- through. It is the smaller portion size that constitutes a snack.
Modify Your Food Intake based on Your Activity level
Because you do not burn the same amount of calories every day, consider changing your food intake based on your activity level for the day. On days that you are not training, or exercise at a low intensity you will not need to consume as many calories or carbohydrates as you would on a heavy training day. On recovery or low activity days limit the amount of grains and starches opting instead for lean proteins, vegetables, and fruit. Simple, fast digesting carbohydrates will also play a less critical role, as you will want to consume medium glycemic fruits like pears, apples, and berries.
Time Your Carbohydrate Consumption
1. Front-load your carbohydrates, taking in the majority of your carbohydrates earlier in the day. You will be more likely to burn these excess sugars throughout the day, and it will not affect your insulin levels before bed. Breakfast, mid-morning snack, and lunch might feature pseudograins or sprouted bread, and then the second half of the day would feature fruit, healthy fat, veggies, and lean protein.
2. Fuel your workouts with easily digestible carbohydrates. Ideally, you would want to consume a whole-food meal about 2 hours prior to a workout. Then, 15-30 minutes before you can consume a pre-workout snack.
In workouts that are conducted at a low intensity or last less than 45 minutes, you
will not need to take on excessive amounts of carbohydrates because your body will be carrying a sufficient amount of glycogen to be used as energy.
For training sessions that are conducted at a high intensity or last 60+ minutes you will want a pre-workout snack that is made up of simple carbohydrates (high glycemic) such as fruit. Dates, banana, mango, a handful of pumpkin and sunflower seeds with raisins, or other fruits work great here.
Eating a snack after training is not required. If you prefer or are able to eat a whole food meal within 45 minutes of training, a well-balanced feeding will suffice.
3. Take advantage of the post workout recovery window, consuming a snack within 35 minutes post workout. After a workout, the best snack is a simple carbohydrate, similar to those consumed before the workout. However, you want to limit your intake of fats and protein. Ideally, you want to take in a ratio of 3:1 simple carbs to protein. Then, after about an hour has passed you will want to take in a complete, whole food, nutrient rich meal.
What to Avoid
Stay away from added sugars, artificial flavors and sweeteners, and processed carbohydrates. The most obvious examples include candy, soda, chips, rice, bread, and pasta. These high glycemic carbohydrates cause the blood sugar to rise rapidly during digestion resulting in the storage of fat and insulin sensitivity. High glycemic carbohydrates wreak havoc on blood sugar, creating insulin sensitivity resulting in degenerative diseases such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Opting for low glycemic carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants will improve your energy levels, promote weight loss, and satisfy hunger.
Eliminate Inflammatory Foods
Corn, wheat, gluten, dairy, peanuts, and soy are foods that can cause inflammation in the body. Without knowing it, many people have developed intolerances or sensitivity to these foods because the body cannot digest them properly. They may leave you feeling bloated, cramped, and unsatisfied. Attempt to slowly remove these foods from your diet over the course of a month. Try one at a time and record how your body responds. Do you feel better, worse, have more energy, less discomfort? Make lasting changes to you diet based on your observations.
Do not drink your calories. Drink water, brewed tea, and black coffee. Hold the mayo, be weary of the salad dressing, and don’t add salt.
Truthfully, it is that simple. Follow these basic guidelines and you will see a change in your body composition, energy levels, and overall well-being.
Take Action; How To Implement This Guide
1. Identify your fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle goals, be specific and realistic. How long will it take to achieve these goals? Identify a timeline for completion of these goals, checkpoints along the way, and obstacles to your success.
2. What foods will help you reach these goals? Prepare a list of foods you use as a template for trips to the grocery store. Keep a notebook or spreadsheet of foods, meals, and recipes that you enjoy. Expand your palate, knowledge of food, and your cooking skills. Do not purchase foods that are not on your list or those foods that will keep you from achieving your goals.
3. Stock up on Tupperware containers that will be used to store prepared meals and snacks that you can take with you to work or on the road. Purchase a lunchbox or collapsible cooler to transport meals and snacks, so that you will not be tempted to make a stop for fast food when hunger strikes.
4. Plan ahead. Develop a menu for the upcoming week. Grocery shop according to this menu, purchasing the ingredients you will need for your weekly menu comprised of foods that are from your approved list.
5. Set aside one day to prepare, cook, and store meals for the week based on your menu. Prepare foods in bulk. Pack Tupperware containers with proper servings of your foods, and load up the fridge. You can also create snack size baggies of nuts, trail mix, vegetables, and sliced fruit for the week ahead.
6. Enjoy your new, healthy lifestyle without having to think about what you are supposed to eat, when, or how much.