It’s true: You can’t outwork a bad diet. The problem is that some still aren’t sure what to eat. Wonder no more! We give you the info you need to plan your meals.
Losing weight, gaining muscle and getting in better shape is the goal of most. No matter what your health and fitness goal is there’s no doubt that it’s hard work. Nothing comes easy. You’ll hit plateaus. You’ll miss a workout or a meal. And, you’ll feel like your goal is impossible. That’s normal. It is achievable though and you need to believe that.
Whether you are looking to lose some weight to feel healthy again or want to pack on some muscle, it involves a process. Working out is just one piece of the puzzle. To reach your goals you must also focus on the nutritional aspect. From including more fruits and veggies in your daily simple diet plan to finding a new type of fish to try, there are many food combos that will help you become the lean, mean nutritional machine that you strive to be.
There is a lot of info on the Internet. To be honest there is too much and for some who are not familiar with a topic, it can be info overload. Nutrition is one thing. Every week, there is a new fad diet endorsed by some celebrity that shows how you can lose plenty of pounds and inches in a short amount of time.
From the Atkins Diet to the Beverly Hills Diet and many more in between, the first question you should ask should be is the diet sustainable?
Can you keep this diet for the rest of your life and feel good, getting all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and calories your body needs to go through its everyday activities?
Most diets aren’t. Instead of calling it a diet, call it a nutritional plan. Getting the word diet out of your vocabulary can be a weight off your back.
Everyone differs, from food allergies to other health issues, but the United States Department of Agriculture has general recommendations for healthy nutrition that everyone can live by.
Those include: Making half your plate fruits and veggies, reducing sodium and saturated fat intake, drinking more water, eating whole grains and leafy veggies, as well as avoiding processed foods.
Those are some of the many recommendations that everyone should follow if they want to live a healthy lifestyle, regardless if they are looking to lose or gain weight.
You Need Carbs
Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient that everyone needs. But, according to the Atkins Diet, carbs are the devil.
Will you lose weight if you go on a low-carb diet?
Chances are pretty strong you will, but if you are looking to take your health and fitness to the next level, carbs are a key ingredient.
Despite their bad rep on the net, carbs supply us with our energy. That includes the instant energy we need when working out because they are the easiest macronutrient to break down. They also help promote a healthy digestive system.
For an athlete, carbs are necessary for training. Without carbs, you would not have that energy needed to push yourself and your muscle growth would stagnate, as carbs are important in preventing muscle breakdown.
Are there bad carbs?
Yes. Much of your processed foods including chips, cereals, breads candy bars and coffee creamers are high in carbs. There are good carbs that your body needs, though. Fruits and veggies, as well as whole grains, are vital carb sources that supply your body with much-needed nutrients. Whether you are looking to gain muscle or lose fat, stick to the good carbs.
There are foods that are high in nutritional value. They include such items as apples, which are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help take out damaging free radicals in the bloodstream. Then there are blueberries. These are high in antioxidants and fiber.
Sweet potatoes are high in folate and vitamin A. As well, there’s broccoli, which has cancer-reducing and anti-inflammation properties. Beans are very high in fiber and antioxidants. Meanwhile, whole grain rice helps reduce risk of disease. These six foods are prime examples of easy to include into your meal plan carbs.
Remember, in with the good carbs and out with the bad ones. This will keep you from overeating, keep insulin levels in check and keep your motor running on high gear.
You Need Protein
The second macronutrient that is the hot topic among many gym goers is protein. Proteins are the building blocks for not only muscle and bones but also skin, blood, cartilage, hormones, and vitamins. Simply speaking, proteins are the carpenters of your body. They are essential to its function.
Good sources of protein include lean meats such as beef, chicken, and turkey. Others include eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and beans. Don’t forget to consider protein powders. This is a multimillion-dollar industry itself.
Do protein powders have a place in your diet?
Sure, but getting your protein from natural sources is more important.
How much protein should you take in each day?
For a sedentary adult, the recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 g per kg of bodyweight.
A sedentary adult is not breaking down their muscles in the gym, hitting the pavement running or being an active person. An active person will need more than that.
It is recommended for active adults and athletes to consume 1.2 to 1.7 g per kg of bodyweight. When you exercise, you break down muscle tissue in an effort to build it back up bigger and stronger. If your body is low in protein consumption, the muscle-building process stalls and muscle tissue is broken down.
On the flip side, if you over exercise and your body is depleted of carbs, muscle tissue can be broken down and eaten by your body to provide its energy. Find a good exercise balance and supply your body with sufficient protein.
You Need Fats
The last macronutrient that your body uses for energy is fats.
But won’t fats make me fat?
Yes, if you eat too much. But, fats, despite being high in calories, are vital for your body’s function. They are required to absorb some vitamins into your body, provide energy and protect your organs. Fats also help to maintain healthy cells, brain, and skin.
Like carbs, there are poor sources of fats. Saturated fats and trans fats are often referred to as the bad fats. In other words, ones that are known to increase cholesterol and risk for heart disease. Trans fats are a common topic in the news as fast food places used to have their foods littered with trans fats. They have now transitioned away from this.
The fats you should be consuming and are known as the good fats include unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Good sources of fat include avocados.
These are ripe in vitamin B and fiber. Also, go for omega-3-rich salmon. It is linked to reducing the risk of memory loss and other diseases. You can also consume your good fats in nuts and cooking oils such as canola, olive, and avocado oil.
While sources such as eggs are high in protein, you must watch your intake.
They are also higher in saturated fats. Other foods in that category include bacon and red meat. Those sources must be consumed in moderation. Whether you are cooking up a meal in the frying pan using canola oil, grilling some salmon, cutting up an avocado or having nuts for a snack, fats should be an integral part of your nutritional plan.
When And How Often Should You Eat Them?
While carbs, proteins, and fats make up your daily meal plan, the next question is what times should you eat them and how often should you eat them. Depending on your body type, age and activity level that can vary.
A general rule of thumb is to eat smaller meals throughout the day supplemented with snacks. By eating smaller meals, you do not overeat, you’re able to keep your metabolism revved up and make your body happy. For example, if you work an 8 to 5 job and wake up at 6:30 am each day, then a good eating schedule would be eating breakfast at 7 am, a snack at 10 am, lunch at 1 pm, a snack at 4 pm and dinner at 6-7 pm. Each meal should include a healthy blend of all macronutrients as well as snacks.
With that covered, you also need to be concerned about pre and post-workout nutrition. As pointed out, the supplement business is alive and well, particularly the protein powder market. Some people, especially those who work out early in the morning, prefer to exercise on an empty stomach. Others who may get their exercise in later in the day or evening, need something to energize them.
A good pre-workout snack should include carbs.
They will provide your body with the energy. Fruits such as an apple or strawberries that are easily broken down in the bloodstream give us that instant kick. Other good pre-workout snacks include nuts or seeds. These provide you with healthy fats that can energize you throughout the workout.
After your workout, protein powders are a good source. They can easily get into your bloodstream to allow your body to start repairing your muscles. Be sure to also replenish your body with plenty of water to regain fluid levels. While sports drinks have plenty of sugar they also have essential electrolytes. These help your system recover.
Food Combinations Find The Right Ones
Carbs, proteins, and fats are three things that make your body function. Depending on what type of each macronutrient you put in your body, it will dictate how well your body functions.
Think of it in terms of a car. If you abuse it and don’t provide it with premium fuel, it won’t function well. If you take care of it and fill it with premium gas, it should operate smoothly.
What are some good combos to mix all three together?
For breakfast, cook an omelet with eggs, spinach and feta cheese in canola oil. You should also have a piece of fruit with a couple slices of avocado.
For lunch, a grilled chicken sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato, and onion is a great option. Eat that along with a side salad of spinach, chickpeas, carrots, cucumber and vinaigrette dressing.
For dinnertime, you could cook up a chicken breast, sweet potato, and asparagus. Quality snacks include a handful of almonds, an apple, and celery with peanut butter. Eating clean is not hard, but it does require prep time.
Before you go grocery shopping, plan out your meals. That way you can get exactly what you need to cook each meal. Cooking can be time-consuming so items such as meats can be cooked in advance, salads can be prepped and snacks can be divided up so they can be grab-and-go.
In the event that life gets too busy and you don’t feel like cooking and aren’t prepared, going out to eat might be your only option. Opt against the usual fast food. Instead order something off the menu that fits all the food groups. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding the food either, especially on what it is cooked in or how fresh the food is. Be aware of what you’re putting in your body.
You Need Sleep
Things such as stress and sleep are also important issues. Stress, whether in your personal or work life, can cause high blood pressure, mood changes and can lead to more serious health issues.
Sleep is also important. It is the time your body uses to recover from the day’s activities. If you are an active person, this is the time when your muscles are rebuilding. Without sufficiently sleep, your body won’t recover, hormone levels will get thrown off and your body can get out of balance.
If you eat well and exercise, positive results will follow. Remember, reaching a goal doesn’t happen overnight. Embrace the process and keep working toward a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
By Adam Clark, CPT