Diet and Exercise Basics
Hey guys! In these posts, I am going to attempt to answer a bunch of questions I often get when beginning with clients who are looking to get into better shape. People ask me questions about things like what they should be eating, what kind of cardio they should be doing, and how often they should be working out, just to name a few. The answers to these inquiries can be applied to people of any age, fitness level, and gender. With this in mind, you should understand that there are many different ways to improve your fitness. I am just going to be sharing with you some methods that have proven to be both more effective and efficient than others.
In all aspects of life, I believe in both working hard and working smart to achieve a goal. This is especially true when it comes to fitness related goals such as losing weight. For many, simple hard work in the gym will not be enough. You need to attack these problems in intelligent and calculated ways.
When it comes to choosing a diet or nutritional plan, it is important to strive for balance and density. What do I mean by this? In short, you should only be consuming nutrient dense foods that offer your body the best building blocks possible. That means that “simple,” nutrient deficient foods, like sugary sweets, should be the first thing to go when designing a diet plan. Second to go would be any grain product that is not low on the glycemic index. If you are not familiar with the glycemic index, not to worry! Just realize that foods that are high on it tend to have a large effect in increasing blood sugar levels. This leads to increased weight retention and weight gain. If left unchecked over time, this will greatly increase one's chances of an contracting illnesses, like Type II diabetes. Also, avoiding all transfats is very important. These can drastically increase inflammation and weight gain in the body, both of which have serious repercussions.
So, now that we have focused on what not to eat, let's also focus on what you should be eating. First off, let me be clear that I am not advising anyone to move towards a no-carb diet. You do need a certain amount of carbohydrates present in your body to fuel your brain and to keep from feeling totally drained. This is especially true if you are physically active. So, in our optimal diet, we need a mixture of dense carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. As far as protein goes, it is really difficult to consume too much. Some scientists and nutritionists theorized that consuming too much protein would lead to kidney and intestinal problems. This has been largely disproven in recent years. In multiple studies, scientists have found that consuming more protein helps to maintain satiety and increase lean mass. This notion has helped many individuals with fat loss as well. So, to keep this as simple as possible, do not be scared to consume large amounts of protein. The only exception to this might be for someone who is at risk for or who currently has gout of. Members of this population should avoid excessive protein consumption.
Over the years, fats have gotten a bad reputation. Granted, some negativity towards them has been warranted; however, some of it has been due to false accusations. Like I mentioned previously, trans fats are something you want to avoid at all costs. Other fats, like polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, have been proven to be healthy and beneficial to those who are looking to lose weight. These would be the fats that you would find in foods such as fish, olives, and nuts. A good percentage of your daily calories should come from these types of sources.
Other important aspects of your diet should be, surprisingly, cholesterol and saturated fat. These have been misunderstood for many years, and our understanding of them has changed fairly recently. Cholesterol, when in the human body, is most abundantly found in the brain. The brain itself is about 25% cholesterol, and cholesterol is often seen as “food” for the brain. Cholesterol is also very important for producing certain hormones within the body, and has a large effect on mood regulation. It is needed to maintain overall brain function. So what does this mean for you? Basically, a healthy diet definitely should include cholesterol, and a fair amount at that. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory, “available research shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.” This means that even if you have a fair amount of cholesterol in your diet, your blood levels probably will change much.
With regard to saturated fats, many people still view them as a leading cause of heart disease. However, a recent meta analysis encompassing at 21 different studies and almost 350,000 people (11,000 of whom developed heart disease), found no correlation between saturated fat intake and heart disease incidence. This is definitely not to say that you should consume large amounts of saturated fats, but I will say that they are not as problematic as we once believed. You do not have to throw out those egg yolks, or skip that steak dinner. Just remember - “Everything in moderation!”
So, to recap what I just covered:
Avoid sugar as much as possible
Avoid carbs that are high on the glycemic index, such as white bread, most pastas, breakfast cereals, etc.
Consume lots of protein
Eat healthy fats
Do not eat transfats
Due to its seriously negative metabolic effects, you should consume alcohol in moderation. You do not have to abstain from alcohol all together. But instead of having a glass or two of wine every night, consider only having one glass on Saturday and Sunday.
Extra Bonus Info!
I typically do not have people count calories for a number of different reasons. For starters, the act of counting calories and keeping track of macronutrients can be stress inducing, and therefore counterproductive to weight loss and other health benefits. I am not saying counting calories does not work because, in fact, it does for many people. However, I do think that there are simpler ways to attack the weight loss problem. If you are consuming the right foods that are nutrient dense, you should feel full after eating a meal. Yes, it is always still possible to over eat, even when talking about healthy foods. However, over eating does happen much more frequently when people are consuming the wrong foods, such as empty carbohydrates.
I hope you have learned something new from this blog post. If your diet isn't up to snuff already, I hope you now have the knowledge to make some good changes!
My next post will be focused on efficient cardio training! Stay tuned!