A visit to the food, nutrition and diet section of your local bookstore is a confusing experience. There are books praising the virtues of low carbs, high carbs, low protein, high protein, vegetarian, all meat—you name it, some doctor-specialist-nutritionist-dietitian has a best-selling book about it. With so much contradictory information, how can one find what nutritional information is correct, and what will work? By following these basic guidelines, you’ll not only get great muscle-building and fat-burning results form your training, but you’ll enjoy a higher level of energy throughout the day.
Eat six meals a day. If you’ve been following the typical nutritional advice of cutting back on calories and consuming no more than “three square meals” a day in the hope of shifting your fat-burning efforts into high gear, you may actually be throwing the whole process into reverse. According to scientists at Georgia State University, active folks who skimp on calories and eat infrequently (only three times a day) may be training their bodies to get by on less energy and therefore more readily storing unburned calories as body fat. Instead, these researchers and many
others advise active people to eat frequently (about every three hours) to accelerate metabolism and maintain steady energy levels throughout the day.
Combine carbohydrates and protein at every meal. The simple fact is that our bodies work better with a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Not only is protein essential for building healthy muscle and maintaining a strong immune system, it stabilizes insulin levels, which leads to steady energy throughout the day. One more benefit:
eating protein has been shown to reduce your appetite. So, avoid extreme-carbohydrate nutrition plans and instead balance your protein and carbohydrate intake.
Choose “appropriate” portion sizes. USDA statistics show that because of increased portion sizes, the average total daily calorie intake has risen from 1,854 calories to
2,002 calories over the last 20 years. That increase—148 calories per day—theoretically works out to an extra 15 pounds every year. Portion size is important to weight management. Employ a common sense approach, such as using the palm of your hand or your clenched fist for gauging the portion sizes of food.
Plan meals ahead of time. You may even want to try different recipes and decide what works for you before you begin your training program. Experiment with different seasonings, try a variety of vegetables, and find which microwave settings work best for preheating food. By the time you’re ready to start, you’ll have the supplies you need and the confidence that you know what you’re doing. Then, fix your meals in advance and freeze them. It’s important to shop at least once a week. If you forget, you’ll run out of good food and be tempted to cheat on your diet.
Get containers to store your food. Purchase plastic storage containers, sports bottles, a water jug and a cooler to store and carry your food. Having nutritious meals within reach during a hectic day can keep you on track.
Drink 10 glasses (one gallon) of water every day. It’s especially important to stay well hydrated when following a comprehensive training, nutrition and supplement program. If you have an occasional soda, coffee or tea, you’ll need to drink an additional glass to compensate for the diuretic effect of these beverages.
Use high-quality supplements. Supplements can help make up for any nutritional deficiencies and enhance performance. When purchasing supplements, look for companies that invest heavily in research to maximize the effectiveness of their products.
Find your “emotional reason” for staying on track. Researchers at George Washington University discovered that people who successfully transform their bodies are set in action by some sort of “emotional trigger” that helps to clarify their reasons for deciding to make change. In the study, researchers found that any event which elicited strong emotions, such as alarm, embarrassment, shame and/or fear, actually inspired people to transform their bodies for the better. Take a moment to consider your “emotional trigger” and use it to stay committed to your nutrition program.
Strive for consistency, not perfection. You can be sure there will be the occasional meal or snack that’s not on the recommended food list. When you get off track in this way, don’t allow it to slow you down. Enjoy the divergence, re-commit to your goal, and get back on track with your next meal.