Nutrition Basics

chicken1

Chicken Breast with Sweet Potatoes/Carrots

We all struggle with trying to find the perfect diet. The problem is the word “diet”. This, in my experience, is the wrong way to go and can lead to much unneeded stress, disappointment, and discouragement. A diet is simply unsustainable. We become entrapped in an endless cycle of diet, failure, new diet, and then failure again. Each time we put ourselves through this psychological seismograph we inevitably emerge angry and scarred by a lack of progress. The only way to jump out of this cycle of torment is to create a true lifestyle change.

Diets, by their definition, are temporary objectives that people adhere to in order to lose fat or cut weight as fast as possible. A lifestyle change is something that becomes habitual, gratifying, and sustainable. When you systematically alter the food you ingest while understanding the purpose of this change, you can create a healthy and fulfilling daily menu. It is a very simple concept that is hard to master. It takes time, energy, and forethought to consistently eat the correct foods that will allow you to reach the goals you set.

First, it is wise to understand how the foods you eat affect your body. There are three main macronutrients that your body can utilize to create amazing results or disappointing consequences. The macros are: Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates. Each is necessary for your body to mold itself into the figure you desire. Too much or too little of anyone of these macro nutrients and the balance is thrown off. Your body will attempt to compensate for the imbalance to dire effects. A great beginner guide is to consume 45% protein, 25% fats and 30% carbs on a daily basis. So you should aim to eat mostly lean protein and a small portion of fats and carbohydrates with each meal to hit this breakdown. As a rule, think of how your plate would look with almost half the portion being protein and the other half split between fats and carbs. This is a very well rounded starting place and can help you begin your fitness journey. Everyone’s body is different so later on down the road you can adjust your macros to suit you. Let me explain each nutrient.

steakQ

Steak with Quinoa

Protein:
This is the building block of muscle. It provides the most powerful energy source for your body. When you workout, you are basically destroying your muscle fibers and protein is the best way to help those muscles rebuild themselves.  Not only is protein needed to build muscle, it is also necessary for muscle maintenance and energy stability.  Without adequate protein, your body will shrivel and your energy reserves will be at constant negative.  The target is lean protein sources that are not fried. Frying anything has a way of destroying some of the goodness that the food provides and adds a bunch of not so good fats to the mix. Always try to grill, pan sear, or bake your protein sources instead of adding unnecessary fats to the equation. A meal plan rich in protein will open the door for you to excel in all of your fitness goals.  Great sources include:  chicken, lean ground beef, fish, pork tenderloin, venison, lean steak cuts, protein powder, and eggs.

Fats:
People have a big hang up about this macro nutrient. From birth, we are basically trained to avoid all fats at all costs.   The problem is that there are many fats out there that do wonders for you body and you will need them to help boost your ability to shed pounds.  The best fats are omega-3s, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. Good fat sources are: Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, peanut butter, salmon, and coconut oil.  These will help you burn more fat, keep your heart healthy, and allow you to stay fuller for longer periods.  Beware, some bad fats do exist.  Trans fats are the killers of positive gains and can be found in many fried or heavily processed treats.  Avoid these no matter what. Saturated fats are not too terrible but need to be limited in a healthy eating plan.

Carbohydrates:
This macro nutrient can either be the bane of your existence or the answer to all your prayers.  In simple terms, you should think of Carbohydrates as sugar. Sugar will either be released slowly or very rapidly, depending on the type of carb you are ingesting.  There are slow digesting carbs such as: sweet potatoes, wheat breads, wheat pastas, whole grains, quinoa, brown rice, and vegetables.  These are great during the day and provide a steady source of energy that your body can use to fuel your activities.  Then there are fast digesting carbs like: candy, white bread, potatoes, processed snacks, chocolate, cakes, and basically anything that tastes too good to be true. If eaten during the day, these will spike your insulin levels too quickly and force your body to store the excess sugar as fat. (Fruits fall into this category but are full of good nutrients. Just limit how much you eat and keep them closer to the A.M. time frame so your body can use them as energy to start the day.)

porkpasta

Pork Tenderloin with Wheat Pasta/Light Red Sauce

If you have a crazy sweet tooth, do not panic! You can still eat your treats, if you time the consumption perfectly. After a tough workout, your body is depleted of all its resources and is begging for reinforcements to be called. Eating some fast digesting carbs within 30 minutes of your workout will help speed recovery and provide your body with the the much needed energy source it is screaming for. Don’t go overboard. 25-40 grams of the sweet stuff will be just enough.  I like a single serving of gummy bears or three packs of smarties after my intense sessions.

This is a crash course in nutrition. There are many tweaks, additions, subtractions, and formulas that can be used to create your perfect meal mix. I like to start off simple. Just plan your meals ahead of time with the right mix of protein, fats, and slow digesting carbs. In my experience, it is best to eat smaller portions about every three hours. This keeps you satiated and helps rev up your metabolism throughout the day. The change will be difficult, but once you get used to the preparation and understand how the food you eat affects your body, you can dine with a purpose. Ask yourself before every meal: Will this food help me reach my goal? If the answer is no, make an adjustment and eat for positive results!

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