It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in the gym pushing the weights or running on the treadmill— what you put into your body determines what you get out! You will not reach your fitness goals without a solid nutrition plan, because it is impossible to fuel recovery and keep muscles tight or your body lean without proper nutrition. So if feed your body a lot of sugary carbs and an inadequate amount of protein, you will end up looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy. But if you feed it high-quality protein, lots of fruit, veggies and fibrous carbs, you will obtain the sculpted, sexy body you want!
The good new is that whether you are just starting out in fitness or have been working out for some time, the same easy nutrition rules apply when it comes to getting lean, losing body fat and putting on muscle. Here are five rules you need to start following today!
RULE #1: Know Your Calorie Count
Whether you are trying to lose weight or put on some muscle, you need to be sure you are eating the right amount of calories. Your body needs an adequate amount of calories to keep up with daily bodily processes, recovery processes and refuel energy stores after a workout. Muscles need calories, while weight loss and burning fat require a calorie deficit. To determine your calories, consider this rule of thumb if you are trying to maintain your weight and your current muscle— multiply your current weight by 15 calories per pound of bodyweight. If you are trying to lose weight and burn fat, multiply your current weight by 10 calories per pound of bodyweight. So if you weight 125 pounds, that would be 1,250 calories for weight loss and 1,875 calories for maintaining muscle. Note: Do not drop below 1200 calories.
RULE #2: Don’t Skip Breakfast
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. During sleep, the body uses up the fuel from the previous day to aid in recovery processes. If you want to get your energy levels re-charged and revitalized, you need to eat! In fact, it has even been shown that those who skip breakfast tend to eat more calories throughout the day than those of us who eat breakfast. Even if you are performing fasted morning cardio to get into super lean condition, you should have a serving of BCAAs or whey isolate to feed and save those muscles from being used as fuel during your session. Great protein options are a source of complex carbohydrates such as sprouted grain bread or oatmeal, along with egg whites, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt!
RULE #3: Protein Portion
If you want to be sure you are getting the most out of your fitness plan, you need eat the right amount of protein. Protein is the building block for our muscles— the foundation! Without it you can forget about making any real gains, whether your goal is to add muscle to your frame or lose weight. The benefits of protein go beyond just helping you build muscle. Protein has an appetite-suppressing effect and even better, it also has a thermic effect in the body, which means it takes energy to burn and utilize it as fuel! If you want to be sure your fitness is on track, consume at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, which should work out to about 40 percent of your daily calories. For the 125-pound woman, that means consuming 125 grams to 188 grams of protein each day. As for what kind of protein, keep it clean and lean; eat plenty of chicken, whey protein, egg whites, extra lean red meat, fish and even dairy products like non-fat plain Greek yogurt or non-fat cottage cheese.
RULE #4: Keep it Small and Frequent
Although it may seem simple, many people mess up this rule by eating less frequently than they should, instead only eating when they are so hungry that they end up eating huge meals of everything in sight! Eat every 2.5 to 3 hours throughout the day. Make sure to break each meal into about the same amount of calories to maintain energy levels and keep blood glucose levels in check. Construct each meal to contain a source of protein, and either a source of carbohydrates or a source of essential fats. Eating protein frequently is important; it ensures you are getting a steady supply of amino acids to your muscles, keeping them fueled for recovery and building! For our 125-pound woman example, that would mean consuming five meals of 250 calories for weight loss, or 375 calories for weight maintenance.
RULE #5: Eat Before Bed
Many people are under the assumption that eating before bed is a no-no, but it’s actually far from the truth. The reality is, what you eat before bed can have an influence on your fitness outcomes. During sleep, muscle recovery processes are in full effect and if we don’t supply our bodies with the right nutrients it is hard to make a full and complete recovery! Now, it is not necessary to get up every few hours and keep feeding your body, but there are some great protein options that take a long time to digest, which means they can provide a steady supply of amino acids to help repair muscles. Consume a dairy-rich protein like caseinate protein powder, a blended milk protein powder, cottage cheese or even Greek yogurt. And to really slow down digestion, combine it with a source of fats! Add a tablespoon of your favourite nut butter or a slice of avocado!