Diet can be confusing. Simplify it by being your own guinea pig.
The problem with dietary habits is that they are personal and each one of us is unique. This leads into trouble when we try to come up with ‘cookie cutter’ diets to have everyone follow. The best way to find what works best for you is to invest time, experiment, and notice how foods make you feel. From there, eat food regularly that makes your body feel good.
To figure this out, first let us take a look at the principals that will apply to most.
When trying to lose weight, calories consumed need to be less than calories burned. What needs to be considered are the sources of those calories and the fact that a calorie eaten will not be uneaten by a calorie burned during a workout. If it were that simple, we would all be in shape. The quality of your calories matter.
We do not work well with too much sugar in our system. High sugar foods will mess with insulin levels and leave you feeling tired. If you have stress, sugary comfort foods are what you probably crave. Someone who feels tired and stressed will most likely not have the energy to workout. Missing workouts will directly affect how many calories you burn and how much weight you lose.
If you exercise, your protein needs are greater than for someone who does not. Ladies, if you want to ‘tone up’ aka build muscle, you need protein. Keep in mind that protein requires more energy to process than any other macronutrient. This means that a higher protein diet will make you more thermogenic – you’ll be burning more calories even at rest. When increasing protein, make sure you drink more water and eat more fiber to keep your digestion regular. Also, gradually increase protein and make sure most comes from food not supplements. Ask a dietitian to help you if needed.
Fat is not bad. Fat is necessary for several vital processes in the body. The type of fat is what you need to be concerned over. Avoid processed foods with saturated fats and ALL trans-fat. NOTE – Some foods, such as coconut have naturally occurring saturated fats. Foods that have it naturally in them are not processed by the body the same as packaged foods’ saturated fats.
The majority of carbs should come from fruits and veggies NOT grains or processed foods.
Entering the Lab
The above basic principles will apply to most people in some way, but you need to test them out to be sure. How? The best way is to take note on how you feel after eating certain foods.
Do carbs make you sleepy and tired? Perhaps avoid them in mornings and afternoons when focus is needed.
Does eating too much fat before a workout affect your intensity? Avoid eating too much before a session.
Do you find that as you’ve gotten older, you tolerate dairy less and less? Consider cutting back.
Maybe protein supplements make you gassy, or beef upsets your stomach. These are all things one should consider when they are taking a look at diet. Do not just accept something because a study showed it to be true. Many times studies confuse correlation with causation.
Research can be a great tool for uncovering information, but always be cautious because it may not be relevant to you as an individual. Getting the help of a trainer or dietitian is a great way to learn, be guided, and be held accountable. At the end of the day, what you feel is most important.
Motivation is fleeting
There are tricks to get you ready for the beach, a cruise, or your wedding but these are all singular events that will come and go. Diet is the main aspect looked at for weight loss, and is most affected when getting ready for an upcoming event. To stay ready in between, consistently eat foods that make you feel full, energetic, and lean.
Will Power is Limited
Surprise! You only have so much will power every single day. As your day progresses, it decreases. This means if you make decisions in the morning to stay on track (get an egg white omelet instead of a bagel) you may have a difficult time avoiding the cinnamon bun fresh out the oven when you get home from work. This may also effect desire to work out or the actual workout once you make it to the gym. A missed workout will in turn effect motivation and will power for the next day. Instead of letting willpower do all the work, listen to your body dictate what you eat and when.
Adopting this system will take time, but it will allow you to stay in good health for a longer period of time.