So last week we started the discussion regarding a very pressing issue for most of this time of year, how to get to race weight without affecting performance. Today, we will continue our discussion on how to improve body composition or put another way, burn fat, build muscle and be happy with the number that pops up on the scale.
An added benefit to all this is the positive affect it will have on heart health, which seems apropos as this is Valentine's week.
To begin, the first step is to develop healthier eating habits. Easier said than done and the first step is to eat. Yes you read that right, eat. Commonly, when someone wants to drop weight the first thing they do is stop eating but as we learned last week this is the exact opposite thing we should do. For a quick refresher, review last weeks post. The key here is to get into a habit of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with small snacks through out the day. This help keep your sugar levels consistent, along with your energy levels.
Drink lots of water. I can pretty much guarantee you that you are not drinking enough water. Water is necessary for all process in the body either directly or indirectly. An easy way to determine how much water you need is your body weight in pounds divided by 2 giving you the number of ounces you need. For example a 150lbs male need 75oz of water. That does not include coffee, tea, fruit juices, soda, etc just water.
Next avoid any food which can be bought at a gas station. This means overly processed foods. These foods contain a tremendous amount of sugar along with a myriad of other disgusting ingredients that do nothing to help the body and in fact can do great harm over time.
Avoid anything white. This is probably the easiest but at the same time hardest thing to do to improve ones diet and the subsequent health benefits which follow, This includes sugar, flour, potatoes etc. The reason being is that these 'foods are typically overly processed and contain limited nutrient value.
Now to the real meat and pototoes so to speak. Each and every meal needs to contain 3 things:
Why may you ask are these 3 things so important. Well my friend, the answer is this, Protien is the building block of muscle, the thing we are trying to build. Protein also affects hormonal response for the good and lastly, protein takes energy to breakdown, thus burning calories to make it available to our body. Next is Fat, that thing we were told to avoid at all costs, for so many years. Fat gives flavor to food, gives of the feeling of satiety and because it is slow burning and has 9 calories/gram gives you energy for a long time. Additionally, when we eat fat we learn to burn fat, which is the purpose of this whole article, And finally, Fiber, whats the big deal with fiber. Fiber brings bulk to a meal, meaning we can consume less calories while at the same time feeling full. It also affects how quick things move through our GI track and the overall absorption rate help to reduce those sugar spikes we want to avoid. Lastly, food high in fiber typically are also high is very valuable nutrients, think veggies.
Ok, so we now have an idea of what and what not to eat but that still does not answer the burning questions of how much do I need so I can burn off that unwanted fat. Calorie counting does not work, we either under or overestimate the number of calories and often don't eat enough to properly fuel the machine to keep us functioning. The best method and the easiest method is the hand method. Simply put one hand, yes your entire hand is protein, lean beef, chicken, fish, tofu whatever is your choice for protein, cooked and seasoned as you like it. The other hand is fiber, your fruits and veggies, nuts etc. The fat comes in the form of fats in the protein, oils used for cooking, dressing a salad, avocados, nuts etc. If you are still hungry after the first serving go back for seconds but making sure even portions of protien/fat/fiber such as a fist size serving of protein matched with a fist size serving of fiber. Notice no where is there a mention of carbs. While we want to avoid refined carbs as much as possible, small portions are allowable here and there. As the season progresses and we get into more intense workouts, longer ride and runs more carbs, rice, quinoa, etc can be added in but again in small amounts. A slice or two of good hearty bread is also ok on occasion.
Lastly, the occasional cheat is ok as long as the cheat does not become the norm. A glass or two of wine, a piece of dark chocolate, a pasta dinner, what have you. Remember, one of my first posts was about taking baby steps towards a more healthy lifestyle, to much to quick and denying oneself the things they love usually results in the entire process breaking down and reverting back to old habits. By slowly reducing and eliminating the bad it becomes easier and easier and before you know it, you don't even want it any more.
I hope that helps out a bit. A good place to start is with a food diary, we all think we eat really healthily until we actually read what we ate each day. Write it down, review it, learn from it and substitute where you can moving forward. It is a process and as with anything in life doing it takes time and patience.