The primary goal of the majority of people starting out their journey to improved health and fitness has always been to get in shape or lose weight. They usually start with a great enthusiasm and with the best of intentions but have no clue where to start. Nowadays, with the Internet and the abundance of information on the subject, it’s easy to get lost and get your head spinning from all the conflicting advice that is frivolously presented in the tens of fitness magazines, especially those written for women, which leaves people disoriented and with a poor basis of knowledge from which to start.
This article is meant to clear up the fog and present you with a few basic guidelines on starting up the right way. There isn’t any groundbreaking info here, and some of the info you probably read already, but it wouldn’t hurt to remind you of the key principles of nutrition that will help you achieve your goals faster.
Drink more water. Pretty basic. You might think that you are already drinking enough but it’s very likely that you aren’t, and if you don’t make a conscious effort to drink more water throughout the day it’s very likely you are dehydrated. Chronic dehydration causes a lot of list of issues too long to be explored in this article in depth. However, drinking more water can help you with anything including improvement of your skin tissue, weight loss, lowering cholesterol, helping digestion, eczema and preventing fatigue. If we take into consideration that the human body is made up of 60-80% water, we can see how important it really is.
Try replacing all of your daily drinks with water. Your body will greatly thank you for it because water is always better for your digestive system than a soda drink full with CO2, as well as your wallet since it’s a lot cheaper and you don’t even have to buy it from the market, you could drink tap water. It’s important to note that caffeine-free or low-caffeine drinks are also a healthy alternative, as well as green or herbal teas.
Vegetables and fruit
It’s something we were told to do ever since we were kids. Eat your veggies, eat some fruit, our parents would say. And rarely did we listen. But there are too many benefits to eating them and ignoring them would be very unwise. The best option would be to eat those that give you the best bang for your buck health wise. If you are eating a lettuce salad it won’t be of much use to you, but if the salad consists both broccoli and spinach you will at least be sure that you’ll be getting some benefits out of it.
Experiment and try to find some recipes that will make you enjoy these salads the most. It might mean adding some dressing to them to make them bearable but try to add only small amounts. You want to eat a salad, not a soup.
As you know, protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to muscle building and weight loss. However, almost everyone trying to improve their body composition and are failing to do so is likely to be deficient in the amount of protein he is consuming on a daily basis. Protein has many vital roles in our bodies, mainly growth, and repair, but consuming it also makes you fuller and prevents you from having food cravings for longer periods of time.
Another important fact about why you should include protein in your diet is that the protein’s thermic effect is many times greater than that of fats and carbs. This basically means that the body will spend more calories to process and digest it, and it’ll continue to do so, even while you are resting. Include protein in every meal, as it has the effect of blunting the impact of everything else in the meal, which in turn will keep the blood sugar levels stable.
Foods that are rich in protein include all forms of red meat, and if you are a vegetarian, fear not protein can also be found in milk, eggs, nuts, cheese, lentils, beans, seeds, legumes, cheese, and quinoa.
If you are resistance training your daily protein intake should be in the range of 1.3 grams per kilo of bodyweight if you are doing endurance based exercises to 2.5 grams per kilo of bodyweight for those who are bodybuilding or strength training. If you are not working out, the minimum should be 0.8 grams per kilo of bodyweight, but the more you consume, the better.
Carbs are an essential macronutrient and the body’s primary energy source. However, the majority of people overeat them on a daily basis without even realizing it. They consume too many sugary sweets and drinks and neglect the types of carbs they should be consuming. The former can keep your insulin level chronically elevated, they lack fiber (which suppresses your hunger) and can cause insulin resistance in the long-term, making your body’s cells unable to use the insulin, which makes them prone to storing the food consumed into fat deposits. This can ultimately lead to diseases like hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia and Diabetes Type II.
That doesn’t mean that all carbs are bad. The brain runs on carbs as an energy source, and if you stop consuming carbs your body will switch into a condition known as ketosis. Whenever possible, try getting your carbs from whole grain products such as sweet potatoes, brown rice (basmati for example), oats and fruit, even though fruit has a bit higher sugar content, it is also rich in fiber which slows down its digestion and bad impact.
You might be wondering, why fats? Aren’t they the worst thing you could eat when it comes to healthy dieting. Not exactly. The first thing that would pop in most people’s minds would be eggs and bacon. But what we’re really talking about here is the consumption of good fats.
Here’s a list of them:
- Saturated Fats. They increase your testosterone levels. An example would be cooking a breakfast with butter, red meat, and whole eggs.
- Monounsaturated Fats. They prevent cancers and heart diseases. They are found in mixed nuts, fish oil, and ground flax seeds.
- Polyunsaturated Fats. They too increase your testosterone levels, decrease digestive system inflammation and help with fat loss.
Not all fats are bad. Those mentioned above are essential to your well-being. Deficiency in any of them can cause increased appetite, increased cancer and heart disease risk, depression and high cholesterol. What’s more, fat can reduce your food cravings for a longer period of time.
What matters is the total amount of calories and the food quality, not when you consume them
There is this false notion that’s spread like a virus in the fitness community that you should eat every two to three hours so that keep your metabolism revved up and burning more calories. That’s how a car would work, not your body.
The only thing that matters is the amount of calories you consume as opposed to the amount you expend and what your body does to the food that you consumed. Without going into too much detail, if you are insulin resistant, your stomach and intestines are constantly inflamed or your hormone levels are completely off balance, then your body will not be partitioning the macronutrients in the food as good as it should or use them in an efficient manner, which increases the chances of the food consumed being turned into fat deposits.
Granted, this is a rather simplified way of looking at things, but eating all that candy and sugary beverages all these years has most definitely done more damage than you would otherwise think. But there’s an easy way to fix this by changing your eating habits and start eating healthier foods. Cinnamon is one good example since it makes your body more sensitive to insulin.
Implement the 80/20 rule
Those who are a bit more optimistic will want to make this the 90/10 rule, which means they’ll try to eat whole solid foods 90% of the time with the remaining 10% consisting of well-deserved treats, but if we’re being realistic, that’s probably not going to happen, especially if they are just starting out with their diet.
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The trick is to make reaching the target percentage as easy as possible at first, most of the time, and still give your body a break with a cheat meal here and there. This does not give you the permission to go on a binge. We’re all human after all and everyone has a vice when it comes to food choices. Treat yourself once in a while.