(*Quickly while I have your attention: Apologies for the hiatus from posting — we’ve been trying to drive more readership to the blog. If you know someone who would benefit from this article, forward it along! We’d appreciate it very much. And feel free to ask us anything in the comments section! We’re at your disposal!)
Just getting into working out? Want to lose weight on your terms with no strict regimented diet – eating the same things over and over again? Confused about how to set up a “healthy diet”? We’re here to help, as always. Stick to these principles and although you won’t always be right, you’ll be doing better than 99% of the rest of the American populace.
1)Â Â Â Â Â Eat every 2-4 hours, no matter what.
- I’ve seen the research about fasting (notable points: no muscle loss for the first 72 hours, increased metabolic rate and fat oxidation) and it’s great. It really is. But I feel that it’s left for those more experienced or those who have tried a simpler approach already. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the every 2-4 hour feeding pattern is better for blood sugar levels (it’s not), or that you’ll lose fat faster this way (you won’t). I certainly won’t tell you that you can’t eat anything after 8PM* (*insert arbitrary time here – c’mon people, your stomach doesn’t know what time it is and calories after 8PM don’t magically double). All I’ll say is that after years of observing people/clients struggling through diets, NOT adhering to this approach leads to binging or cheating most often, e.g., “the day got hectic and I hadn’t eaten for six hours and then I realized I was famished so I had a cheeseburger. Sorry.” I’m the first one to tell you that many roads lead to Rome, but try this one first. It’s a willpower issue, so why make it any harder on yourself?
2)Â Â Â Â Â Eat complete, lean proteins with every meal.
- Self explanatory. A meal is not a meal without protein. Protein is satiating (i.e., it keeps you full), and of all the macronutrients, it has the greatest TEF (thermic effect of food/feeding). TEF is a fancy way of saying cost of digestion. Protein costs your body more energy (calories) to break down than carbohydrates or fat. Remember the guy who told you to eat celery because “it’s a negative calorie food”? The ultimate negative calorie food, in terms of net calories lost, is protein – not celery. One other thing I think people often forget is you can’t effectively build or repair tissue (i.e., muscle) without protein. It’s important. Eat it. As an aside, aim for 1g of protein per every lb. of bodyweight once you have ingrained the habit of eating proteins at every meal. Oh, and “complete” proteins denotes that the proteins contain all eight essential amino acids (animal proteins). If you’re a vegetarian, learn which food combos yield complete proteins (e.g., beans and rice).
3)Â Â Â Â Â Eat fruits and vegetables with each meal.
- Start getting into this habit ASAP. It may seem odd or unappetizing at first, but you will acquire a taste for them as you go along. Nothing is healthier or makes you feel better than fruits and veggies; they’re loaded in phytonutrients and antioxidants, among other things. If you’re easing your way into it, get two veggie meals and one fruit meal per day, MINIMUM.
4)Â Â Â Â Â Ensure that the vast majority of your carbohydrate intake comes from fruits and vegetables.
- This goes hand in hand with #3, and yes, this means you cut out breads, cereals, pastas, pastries, etc. If it’s a carbohydrate and it comes in a wrapper, you probably shouldn’t eat it. The exception to this rule is post-workout, where you can have a recovery beverage or meal containing simple carbohydrates. NO WHITE FLOUR!
5)Â Â Â Â Â Aim for about 30% of calorie intake from fats.
- Avoid saturated fats and trans fats (hydrogenated oils often found in baked goods, crusts, sweets) for the healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Sources include extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil, fish oil, and flax seeds/oil. A healthy saturated fat is coconut oil.
6)Â Â Â Â Â Drink only non calorie-containing beverages.
- Again, simple enough. If it has calories in it, don’t drink it. Water, tea, coffee (no sugar/cream), diet soda, and crystal light are fine. I don’t want to get into the diet soda debate here. If you’re against it, avoid it; I’m neutral. This does mean no milk, juice, soda, sugared teas, etc.
7)Â Â Â Â Â Eat whole foods (except during- or post-workout drinks)
- As a general rule, whole foods are healthier, more satiating, and nutrient-dense. Post-workout drinks can be liquid because liquids digest more rapidly – exactly what we want post-workout!
A parting note is that you might want to limit dairy intake when dieting (or try it, at first). Many people have mild, undiagnosed sensitivities to dairy. Cut down on milks and cheeses (you shouldn’t be eating pizza or ice cream, anyway) and see how you feel (eggs are always okay). This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, however, so it didn’t earn its own shiny bullet point like those above, just something to consider.
Alright people, now you have no excuse! Start eating healthier using the guidelines above today. Following these sound principles will usually lead to healthy weight loss and increased sense of well-being, as well as clear up many digestive issues. And as a disclaimer, these are general principles – feel free to make them your own!
Any questions/comments? Drop me a line below in the comments section!