The following guidelines are to help you lose fat, build muscle, fight inflammation and hopefully prevent disease in order to live a healthier life. See if it works for you. Enjoy! – Lori Marino, BS.
- EAT EVERY 2-4 HOURS
If you eat every 2-4 hours, that will be between 4-6 times per day. You may be saying to yourself, “I can’t do that! That is too much food!” You are not eating 4-6 huge meals per day; Eat how much you want. However, understand that if you aren’t hungry enough to eat the same amount 2-4 hours later, you are eating too much. Simple, yes? Using this strategy will help you manage your calories without having to think about them; it also helps you by keeping you from eating way too much at one meal.
A major benefit of eating more often is hunger management. Curbing your calorie intake into smaller portions allows your body to have a manageable rise in blood sugar, and a manageable amount of insulin in response. This helps to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar=hunger, tiredness, irritability, etc.). Another benefit is that you will most likely be eating nutritious, satisfying food more often.
A meal doesn’t have to be huge. An example of a meal can be a protein shake with fruit after a workout, a handful of nuts with some low-fat cottage cheese and pineapple; a turkey sandwich with avocado, lettuce, and tomato on grain-free bread, a cup of turkey chili made with black beans and peppers or go with something traditional like lean steak, a small sweet potato, and some grilled vegetables.
- EAT FOOD THAT IS MINIMALLY PROCESSED AND WITHOUT ADDED SUGARS
Processed foods are foods that have been altered from its natural state in some way. Processed food has nutrients removed and replaced with less expensive, long-lasting fillers to help the food last longer and increase the taste of the food. You are feeding yourself chemicals (trans fats, refined sugars, and oils, dyes, etc) which leads to a heavier body and decreased health. Processed foods include packaged dinners, chips, pretzels, cookies, drinks, some cheeses, canned meats and vegetables, and many bread products.
Over the years, nutrition research has shown that people who eat the most processed food have the highest risk of heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, and premature death. Those people who eat vegetables, fruit, and nuts have the best health outcomes. Eating minimally processed food gives you the opportunity to eat wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and unrefined grains.
How can you eliminate processed foods from your daily eating? The switch is not easy. However, you can make gradual changes and slowly replace processed foods from your diet. Instead of serving frozen french fries for dinner, make homemade baked sweet potato fries. Make your own hamburgers instead of buying fast food burgers or using frozen burger patties. Instead of buying yogurt with fruit on the bottom, use plain Greek yogurt and add fresh berries. Eat fresh fruit instead of canned. Make your own salad dressings or make your own spaghetti sauce.
You may not completely eliminate processed foods from your diet and that’s alright. Do your best and you will be doing something wonderful for your health and your family’s health.
- EAT VEGETABLES AND FRUIT WITH YOUR MEALS
Fruits and vegetables are mostly carbohydrates but do contain some protein and fat. You should use vegetables and fruit as your primary source of carbohydrates. They have a high nutritional density and are lower in calories. A great benefit of eating vegetables and fruit at every meal is you can eat more and not feel so hungry when you’re trying to lose fat. You can pretty much eat as many vegetables as you like because vegetables can give you lots of bulk to your meals, are packed with nutrition and are low in calories. Work on eating vegetables every time you eat your meal.
If you are grilling some steaks or chicken, grill some vegetables. If you are going out to eat, start your meal with a salad or a vegetable appetizer. Feature a vegetarian dish as your main course when cooking dinner. Should you drink or eat your fruits and veggies? Don’t worry too much about it. However, the better way would be to eat your veggies.
- DRINK NON-CALORIE-CONTAINING BEVERAGES
We can all drink more water! Because we are made up of about 60% water, we need to maintain a good level of hydration. Water helps are our everyday functions: digestion, blood circulation, absorption of nutrients, and maintaining body temperature. Water helps our muscles maintain optimal performance. When muscle cells are dehydrated, they shrivel up and we experience muscle fatigue. Hydration is important before, during and after exercise to help maintain performance and aid in recovery. Water helps digestion by keeping things flowing smoothly, helping to prevent constipation. It also helps the kidneys in excreting toxins. If your urine is darker in color, you know you are not drinking enough water. It should be clear and light in color.
From a weight-loss perspective, eliminating calorie-containing beverages will make a huge difference in reducing your body composition. Eliminate those extra calories! They are a waste. When you want to drink something other than water, try drinking some tea. Green tea has been shown to aid in weight loss; teas also contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which can improve your health.
Here is how you can start eliminating calorie-containing beverages: If you like to drink Coke or Pepsi, try the diet version like Coke Zero. Then eventually work up to reducing drinking diet drinks even further. Sports drinks like Gatorade contains a good amount of sugar. You may get away with drinking one after an intense workout or practice. However, if you are trying to reduce your body weight or just trying to improve your health, you can make your own electrolyte drink with a squeeze of orange and lemon juice plus some Himalayan sea salt. Drink unsweetened tea or artificially sweetened tea (I know there are some of you reading this that think artificial sweeteners are bad for you too but we will not argue about that here and now.). Try to stop drinking high-calorie coffee drinks. Instead of a frappuccino, try having a latte with skim milk. Then work your way to coffee with a little bit of cream. Once you’ve been able to change your full calorie drinks to less caloric drinks, you will see and feel a difference in your body.
- EAT LEAN PROTEIN EVERY MEAL
You need to eat more protein when you are striving for fat loss. It will help you preserve muscle as well as help you lose fat. When you consume protein as a main source of calories in your fat loss goals, your body’s insulin response is much lower than a higher carbohydrate meal. Also, when you consume more protein, your body will burn more calories throughout the day, you will help your body build more muscle. Having more muscle mass will help your body burn more calories. You will be able to stay active longer. You also look better with more muscle.
What are some protein sources you can eat? You can eat eggs, egg whites, lean breakfast meats, Greek yogurt, protein-packed muffins, or smoothies with protein powder for breakfast. For lunch or dinner, you can eat chicken, lean turkey, fish, extra-lean ground beef, chicken or turkey sausage, or shrimp. For snacks, you can have cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, roasted edamame, protein bars with low sugar and high protein, or protein shakes.
- DON’T BE AFRAID OF GOOD SOURCES OF CARBOHYDRATES EATEN AT THE RIGHT TIMES OF THE DAY
You will not get fat by eating carbohydrates in the right quantities as part of a balanced diet. Read that again and try to accept that statement. Don’t be afraid to eat carbohydrates. You can also eat starches. There are many types of carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, and starches. Starches include rice, bread, pasta, cereal, quinoa, barley, corn, potatoes, oatmeal. There are two times in the day where eating starchy carbohydrates are ideal: first thing in the morning and right after exercise.
In the morning, your glycogen levels are low. The liver stores glycogen which is a sugar that the body uses as energy when needed. Your liver’s glycogen stores are low in the morning because even though you are sleeping, your body is still functioning and using up energy. Having a starchy carbohydrate in the morning is a simple and effective way of replenishing those glycogen stores before you begin your day.
Another benefit of eating starchy carbohydrates before you begin your day is carbohydrates can prevent your cortisol levels from rising. In the morning cortisol, a stress hormone is higher. Excessive levels of cortisol lead to muscle breakdown and fat storage. If you skip breakfast, your cortisol levels rise and can also put you in a bad mood. Eat a starchy carbohydrate during this time in order to help keep your hormone levels in check. Then your body is ready to process carbohydrates and keep your hard-earned muscle on.
After exercise, consuming starchy carbohydrates are ideal because you have depleted stored glycogen from your muscles. Your body wants to replenish this deficit and be ready for the next workout. Fat storage is not a priority during this time because the muscle cells are ready to take in these carbohydrates. Skipping eating during this time may make it harder to reach your fat loss goals because you decrease your body’s ability to send carbohydrates to your muscles and instead go to your fat cells for storage. Should you eat your starchy carbs immediately after your workout? Not necessarily; you can go home and shower, prepare your meal and then eat.
Since many of us are so used to eating starches throughout the day this exercise in control may be a challenge at the start. What do I eat? Instead of having a sandwich for lunch have a salad, or roasted vegetables with your protein. Eat chili or stir-fry with lots of vegetables and no rice. Eat something satisfying without the starchy carbohydrates. How about dinner? You haven’t exercised and you usually have pasta. Try zucchini pasta or spaghetti squash instead.
- EAT A SOURCE OF HEALTHY FATS WITH YOUR MEALS
Healthy fats are important to have in your meals. They raise your metabolism and help you burn fat. Fats have a higher caloric density. It will be easy to get an adequate supply of fat in your meals so be careful to not consume too much, about a tablespoon should be more than sufficient. When you cook, use good sources of oil like olive oil, coconut oil or other nut oils. Eat avocado, nuts, cheese, or fish with fat, like salmon.
- VARY YOUR NUTRIENT SOURCES
Don’t keep eating the same thing over again like chicken and broccoli. You know you get into a rut. Rotate your nutritional sources to help make your meals more interesting and appetizing.
Those are a good amount of guidelines to follow but they can help you improve your health quickly. You can still “live a normal life” without going on an extreme diet. You can have a more permanent fat loss because these strategies become foundations in your daily life, not just something you do for 6 weeks. You can still eat great tasting food while taking good care of yourself through a healthy diet.
Here’s one final note. Research and information are always changing. You have probably read information that is contrary to what I have just shared with you. For example, when is the best time to eat starches? Some new research is suggesting eat starches at night for better fat loss. This can be confusing and frustrating. There is no need to panic. My suggestion is to use what works for you. Not everyone has the same body. The guidelines presented here have proven to be effective and are healthy for you to implement in your life. If you find that skipping breakfast is best for you, great! Do what works for you. I hope this information is helpful to you on your journey to good health.