Principles of healthy nutrition
The key to a healthy diet is not to diet. We have thousands of diets that over-promise, long-lasting success. You can’t be healthy and fit for the long run without adopting lifestyle changes for the long run. Fad and crash diets might help you shed 30 pounds, but are you really only going to eat boiled chicken and broccoli for the long haul? It’s just not sustainable.
We all have reasons for weight gain. We may be genetically predisposed toward heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, or other conditions that make keeping a lean body mass more challenging. However, our day-to-day decisions define our relationships with food and ourselves.
Food may be a coping mechanism; we may “eat our feelings” or reward ourselves with food. This is not just about willpower; this may involve talking to a dietician or therapist. We may not be eating the right balance of fiber or protein, and we may have huge spikes in blood sugars, followed by falling blood sugars. Our bodies crave sugar and carbs when we need quick fuel, and thus the pattern repeats itself.
It’s essential to plan your meals ahead of time. And, unless you have a personal chef, you really do need to cook. Cooking is not hard, it’s all about following directions. There are so many amazing companies that can help, too – they provide the ingredients and the recipes, and you throw it together. There is something very powerful about preparing and eating nourishing food for your body.
It’s not just about calories in / calories out. Not all calories are the same. For example, if you were recommended a 500-calorie diet and ate only popcorn, that wouldn’t work. You need lean proteins, fruits, veggies, and complex carbohydrates – you need balance.
There is a whole movement toward intuitive eating – we need to pay attention to our hunger cues, ditch the diet culture, and focus on eating nutrient-dense foods.
Weight loss isn’t easy, but it can be done in a healthy, sustainable way with the help of a dietician, your doctor, and the right education about the proper way to eat. In addition, if trauma has created unhealthy relationships with food, you can work with a therapist to develop a healthy relationship with food.
Be realistic about your body size and shape, and expect changes over time. Focus on muscle mass and fitness rather than that number on the scale. If you build more muscle, it improves your metabolism. Lost the weight and want the best way to keep it off? Exercise and continued healthy, balanced eating. Check-in with your doctor to rule out any metabolic causes of weight gain.
The benefits of each macronutrient
Exercise requires fuel. If you want your body to run well, you need to provide good fuel. You wouldn’t put crummy fuel in your car, so why put it in your body?
Some foods have more energy per calorie, so you want to use the “fuel” that makes your body work better and provide more “bang for your buck” – stick to the more energy-dense foods.
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats differ in how quickly they supply energy. Carbohydrates are the quickest, and fats are the slowest. Proteins also have slower metabolism and support endurance, while sugars are great for quick energy. Want to avoid gassing out too soon? Skip the pre-run doughnut and black coffee and instead have scrambled eggs with veggies with some healthy fat such as avocado oil. A slice of whole-grain toast with avocado and a fried egg is another option. The carbs in the toast will get you started in your fuel for exercise, while the fats and proteins will provide more sustained energy.
Fats are good for you. Fats provide energy and aids in absorbing those essential fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E & K. Choose unsaturated fats such as avocado, olive oil, flaxseed, and nuts. Hydrate! Sweating is a key to detoxification, and replacing lost fluids is critical.
Don’t skip meals before exercise, and fuel up after! Fasting before exercise is stressful on the body – cortisol rises, contributing to losing muscle mass. If you want to skip a heavy meal before a workout, consider a bullet coffee with MCT oil and some protein to fuel your workout.
Don’t skip the carbs! Especially if you’re an endurance athlete. (> 1 hour per day). Carbs are essential for energy, as they can be used quickly and easily by the body for fuel.
Protein is crucial because it provides the amino acids your body needs to build and repair muscle. It would be best to have around 1.3-1.6 grams/kg of protein per day for those active folks. For a 150-pound person, about 88-110 grams of protein per day. Think poultry, fish, beans, tofu, eggs, greek yogurt, and some cheese. Most recommendations are to eat protein within 15 minutes after exercise to build muscle.
Diets aren’t perfect. I like the 80 / 20 rule. Eat the best things most of the time, and enjoy the beer/cocktails, carne asada, scones, and pizza, just in smaller quantities and frequency.
We don’t want you to fail; thus, you must understand that it’s not an overnight process. And you don’t have to be perfect. The best advice we offer people is to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet. And work on getting adequate, healthy proteins.
The most significant difference in the fuel for new or minimal exercisers is the amount of protein. More exercise? More protein. But overall, the premise is the same.
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