Why eating healthy isn't as hard as you think
Eating healthy doesn't have to be a life-changing event regarding making progress and reaching your goals. If you are conscious of not living off Little Debbie's, you'll be able to make small adjustments throughout your diet while eating your regular foods to achieve your desired results.
The easiest start to clean up your diet is by cutting out highly processed foods, soft drinks, and alcohol. Stop buying bad food and drinks and you won't be tempted by them. Highly processed foods are often full of empty calories from sugar and bad fats. Opt for the plain frozen vegetables and cut out the microwavable dinners. Rather than loading on the sauce, using salt and pepper goes a long way towards making a tasty meal. Soda is also full of useless calories, especially since there are 140 calories of nothing but refined sugar in a 12oz can of Coke. Alcohol can be just as bad or worse than soda at 7kcal/gram, especially since it also hinders recovery from training. Following these simple steps can turn most diets into one that makes you feel great while you lose fat.
A more in depth but extremely effective tool for more precise dieting is tracking your intake with apps like MyFitnessPalor MyPlate. These programs break down total calorie intake into macronutrient percentages based on your goals and activity level. Tracking your food might sound daunting at first, but it'spretty simple when you get the hang of it. These apps even allow you to save full meals for future tracking and find cheat meals at many of your favorite restaurants.
Since most of us can't eat the same strict diet for months on end without giving up, this is where cheat meals come in. Cheat meals allow us to maintain a healthy diet long-term. Think of them as a reward for the work you put in at the gym and in the kitchen. To be clear, daily macros should still be adhered to through adjusting for the cheat meal to stay clear of gaining fat.
How to reach your dieting goals
Build Muscle - A calorie surplus is required to build muscle. This means you need to take in more calories each day than the body generally uses to fuel muscle growth. To minimize fat gain, 200-400kcal/day over maintenance is recommended.
Maintenance - This is the amount of calories needed to stay at your current weight. This can fluctuate a bit depending upon off days and workout days. Finding out what your maintenance calories are is essential to knowing how much to adjust your daily calories to match your specific goals. Determining maintenance can be found by putting your activity, age, and gender into one of the apps listed above. Small adjustments (50-100kcal) may need to be made to find your exact maintenance level.
Lose Fat - To lose fat the body generally needs to be in what is called a calorie deficit, which means the body is taking in less calories than it is burning. It is important to keep protein levels at the upper end of the recommended percentages to minimize muscle loss during the cut.
What is a macronutrient?
All food and drinks are made up of one or more of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats). These macronutrients are broken down and digested, each serving specific roles towards fueling our bodies.
Protein - 4 kcal/gram - Protein is the primary fuel for maintaining, building, and restoring muscles. Protein also has other important roles such as strengthening the immune system and providing important enzymes to the body. As a rule of thumb, daily protein intake for active individuals is between 1.7-2.5 gram/kg of body weight. Research has found higher protein levels than this to increase muscle retention when the primary goal is fat loss. Types of protein are not all created equal. Those with higher leucine content, such as whey, casein, and egg protein, are generally regarded as higher quality sources due to its ability to be absorbed within the body, a higher rate of building and repairing muscle cells.
Carbohydrates - 4 kcal/gram - Carbohydrates are starch, sugar, and fibers. They are also the main source of energy for high intensity workouts. Carbs are broken down into glucose, which the glycogen energy system uses as the primary source when fueling muscles. Intake should be between 3-5 g/kg on light days and 8-12g/kg on intense training days.
Fats - 9 kcal/gram - Fats are the fuel for long low intensity workouts. Fats also help normalize hormone levels and some fat intake is essential to maintaining normal function. There are three types of fats: trans, unsaturated, and saturated. Trans fats are highly regarded as being a fat to try and avoid as much as possible. Unsaturated fats are the healthy fats which should make up as much of the fat macro percentage being 20-35% of total daily calories. Saturated fats can make up the rest but should not equal more than 10% of total daily caloric intake.
What is a micronutrient?
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals found in healthy foods and drinks. Micronutrients are mostly found in minimally processed foods (i.e. fruit, vegetables, and raw meat), but are much less prevalent in heavily processed food selections (McDonalds, soft drinks, etc.).
Types of vitamins
- Essential - These micronutrients are not created by the body and must be taken in from supplemental sources such as food, drinks, or pills.
- Nonessential - These micronutrients can be created within the body.
- Water-Soluble - Vitamins that can be dissolved in water and are generally not stored easily within the body.
- Fat-Soluble - Vitamins that can be dissolved in fat and are stored within the liver and fatty tissue for future use.
Types of minerals
- Macrominerals - These are required in much larger quantities than trace minerals by the body. EXAMPLES: calcium, potassium and sodium
- Trace Minerals - Required in very small amounts for specific functions within the body. Examples: iron, fluoride and zinc
- Creatine - Creatine monohydrate has been found to increase performance and lean body mass without any adverse side effects.
- Caffeine - One of the most often used supplements in the world. It has been found to increase muscular endurance and focus.
- BCAA - Leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs have been found to reduce fatigue, promote muscle growth, and reduce muscle soreness.
- Fish Oil - Has been found to help reduce bad cholesterol levels as well as in some cases reduce inflammation.
- Glucosamine - Like fish oil, it is used to help reduce inflammation and also to improve joint health.