Fresh, natural whole foods provide us with an abundance of nutrients we need to stay healthy and fit. Fresh food is just fine the way it is, there is nothing good or needed in food that has been overly processed, and shouldn’t even be considered food! Fresh fruit and vegetables deliver an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and phytonutrients that help us metabolize our foods, fight off disease, regulate our hormones and supply us with energy in the form of fibrous carbohydrates.
Plant foods help build a foundation, while high-quality proteins deliver a source of aminos needed to build and maintain lean muscle and keep us strong. Additionally healthy fats from natural sources such as olives, avocadoes, whole eggs, seeds and nuts help aid in hormonal balance, while also helping stimulate metabolism.
Bottom line, do your grocery shopping from around the perimeter of the grocery store, where the fresh natural foods are, and whenever possible buy organic to reduce exposure to other chemical toxins, pesticides and hormones that can disrupt hormonal balances, cause unnecessary inflammatory responses, lower immune response and disrupt your ability to build muscle and burn fat!
Even if you’re eating plenty of good calories, staying lean and trim for life requires some form of control over your eating. If you eat too many calories, and don’t workout enough you will end up gaining weight, or maintaining weight instead of burning off anything excess you’ve consumed. However, remember that diets with too much calorie restriction can also work against you, resulting in muscle losses, weight loss and muscle building plateaus and metabolic slow down.
Instead of extreme dieting, pick a diet that works with you and one that you can maintain for the long run. If you have excess to lose, then of course you will need to eat less, but once you reach your goal maintain your new body for life by maintaining a calorie and nutrition regime you can stick with— one that gives you enough energy to power through your workouts, get through your long days and maintains a body you love! Most weight-maintenance diets are equal to 12 to 15 times your body weight in pounds depending on the amount of activity you perform. Experiment and determine what type of diet will give you enough energy to get through your day, and your workouts.
Eat Frequently, Avoid Fasting Diets
No, eating frequently doesn’t increase metabolism, but what it does do is maintain a constant energy balance. Eating too infrequently can lead to drops in blood sugar, and result in cravings and hunger, while also disrupting hormonal balance and raising cortisol levels. It has been shown that fasting diets are particularly unhelpful when it comes to healthy diets for women.
Recent research showed that fasting could negatively impact female hormones, and cause excess cortisol secretion. When cortisol is high, fat burning hormones and metabolism are slowed down, while hunger cravings increase. This is because cortisol raises demands for blood sugar in the flight or fight response, causing a drop in blood sugar, which ultimately results in an increase craving for sugar! This results in the body maintaining an elevated cortisol level during fasting, leading to storage of fat instead of burning it off. Even more interesting one study showed that even short periods of fasting over one or two days was enough to increase cortisol levels and disrupt hormone balance in women.
For best results eating frequently, about four to six times per day depending on your need, and eat roughly the same volume of food at each serving.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating diets that are excessively low in carbs and excessively high in protein may result in fast weight loss, but once you’ve lost the weight that diet will get very hard to maintain for the long run. Building and maintaining a lean and healthy body for life, doesn’t require extremes just consistency.
A diet that provides macronutrient ratios including 40 percent protein— about 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, 30 percent carbs and 30 percent fat, will not only maintain lean muscle, but will also provide you enough energy to power workouts! These ratios may change slightly depending on your goals, your activity level and your current weight.
Eat a variety of high-quality protein sources including hormone-free, free-range meats, poultry, whole eggs and organic low-fat dairy. Carbohydrates should consist of low-glycemic fruits like berries and apples, squashes, root vegetables and whole grains, while fats should come from natural sources such as olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, seeds and coconut oil.
Listen to Your Body
We often get caught up in diet advice because we think it will be the “magic bullet” that will solve our fat-burning problems quickly, instead of spending the time to listen to our bodies and observing what works and what doesn’t work. While basic principles of nutrition may apply to the masses, it doesn’t mean it will work for you, too. Take time to understand how your body reacts to the food you give it. Do you need more or less calories for optimal performance, do you work better on higher amounts of carbs and less protein? Everyone’s metabolism is different; the rate at which you burn off food, how your body reacts to food and how you utilize that food is completely individual. Pay attention; use a food tracker app to monitor how much you’re eating, when you’re eating, how food makes you feel and what types of food give you better results. By observing your own eating habits, you’ll be able to better understand what works and what doesn’t work for you.