I have many clients asking me about diets every day at Extreme Nutrition and the same questions keep cropping up time after time.
There are as many diets as there are questions and each diet seems to create more questions. Is the Atkins diet safe? Does it work? Should I reduce my carbohydrates? How much protein should I eat in a day? What is protein, what are fibrous carbs? The list goes on and on.
Let’s be honest, DIET is as nasty a four letter word as you can find. If you have to measure your food in grams or portions you are on a diet, diets do not work! They never have, they never will. What does work is change of LIFESTYLE AND ATTITUDE!
Lifestyle choices come from education, so allow me to attempt to educate you. Let me give you some basic rules of proper lifestyle choices. These choices address the most common errors we humans make in food choices. If you are fat, they work, if you are an athlete, they work, if you are breathing, they apply to you.
1. Do not eat white carbohydrates (as a general rule). These are carbohydrates, they are sugar and they make you gain weight. This includes bread, pasta, white rice, sweets and sugar only in moderation. These sugar rich foods mess with your insulin levels, overwork your pancreas and may cause problems like diabetes and obesity.
2. Eat lots of vegetables. No one ever died of broccoli poisoning. Steam them, don’t boil them, we even heat our in our George Foreman grill. This helps keep the nutritional value of the food.
3. Avoid fast food. Most are loaded with harmful fat and are largely “non-food”. There is a surplus of nitrates (cancer causing additive) and excitotoxins which are harmful to that precious grey matter between your ears. I read an interesting study where an author ate at McDonalds 3 times a day for one month (Super Size Me). He had his liver enzymes and blood values measured at the beginning and the end of the 30 day trial. The end result was devastating to and would seriously affect his health if he carried it on longer than he did.
4. Eat about six times a day. Keep your body in a fed state and it will reward you. You will in fact lose weight. I lost 42 pounds about three years ago because I was not eating enough! If you only eat two or three times a day, you are putting your body in a stress state or one in which fuel is scarce. It will in turn store or hoard energy in the form of…you guessed it: fat. By the way a Mars Bar or a packet of crisps is not a meal. A meal could consist of a protein shake and a handful of almonds with a piece of fruit. Be creative.
5. Make breakfast the most important meal of the day. Don’t skimp in the morning or you will be trying to catch up through out the day. Stay away from the cereals and breakfast bars. They are far too high in sugar. In the morning your insulin receptor sensitivity is at its most influential. By that I mean if you put too much sugar in to our body in the morning you have set up your body to store fat all day.
6. Avoid sugary foods. The amount of sugar you put into your body will alter your insulin levels. The insulin response caused by sugar in food is measured by an index called a glycemic index (GI). Lots of processed/refined sugar in a food equals a placing high in the glycemic index. Low insulin response causing foods amount to a low rating in the GI. Here is my take home point: you want food with a low GI rating (see our Glycemic Index And Carb Utilisation article). This will stimulate less formation of fat and in turn burn the fat you have stored.
I am amazed at the number of very well meaning parents with children and have concerns about their child being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Most of them give their kids a breakfast of cereal (sugar), toast (sugar), and juice (more sugar). By the time they get to school they are wired and half an hour later, they are wasted. I recommend eggs or oats with some form of food that is not loaded with refined or simple sugar.
7. Get your protein in! Most of the population are protein deficient. You should get at least 1 gram of protein for each pound of lean body mass. That is you minus your fat. Good sources of protein include fish, meat, eggs etc.The nice thing about protein is that is requires more energy to digest than sugars or fat. In essence, you will burn more calories digesting protein than anything else. Protein increases your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories through out the day) and assists your immune system. If you are not eating enough protein, your body will rob it from your muscles!
8. Not Drinking Enough Water. As we know, the body is 67% water, and we should drink lots of water throughout the day.
We must flush the system continually and regularly, regenerating muscle cells through water replenishment and in turn keeping up our metabolic rates.
Drink around 3 litres of a day to maintain proper hydration.
9. Cook for Yourself - Meal preparation is a critical skill!
To be truly successful as a bodybuilder, you should be able to prepare your own food. Nutritionally sound foods eaten throughout the day are necessary to obtain anabolism.
Most male bodybuilders (and more than a few female ones) do/can not cook, big mistake. You cannot depend on family, your partner, restaurants or fast food joints for the endless succession of small, nutritious feedings that are required to manage a serious attempt at building a truly impressive physique.
Not only do you have to come to grips with cooking, but you have to develop a wide and inventive repertoire of dishes and meals. Otherwise you are looking forward to the equivalent of prison food!
The clean foods we athletes choose to contend with day in, day out need a lot of imagination to make a life with clean food enjoyable. Tuna and egg white need not be as good as it gets!
How do the ignorant become enlightened? Comb the magazines, read low fat cook books, assemble your ingredients, set aside some time and try things, reading some cook and recipe books, educating yourself in every avenue you can will help maintaining that fit, toned body more manageable.
10. Eating Too Much
We all know the biology. Excess calories are stored as body fat. For overeating to be at the top of the nutritional false move list is no mistake.
Building muscle is the number one goal of bodybuilding and body fat is the bodybuilder's number one enemy. What's the sense of working an impressive set of muscles requiring much blood, sweat and tears, if it's obscured by a layer of lard?
May I suggest the obvious? If you are overweight, eat less. The simple act on consuming less food will cause you to lose weight. Be aware, however, that if you eat less but retain your current food profile, you will just construct a miniature version of your old self. Less of the same will shrink you, but your proportion of muscle to body fat will stay the same, the end result? You look like your old self, just pounds smaller with no improvement in muscle to fat ratio. True physique transformation lies in losing body fat while maintaining or building muscle at the same time.
To achieve true nutritional success we need to practice nutrient based dieting, to lose fat and retain muscle, besides doing aerobic exercise, you need to eat precise amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat. You need to become nutrient conscious. Read the labels on the food you eat. Remember everyone is different, experiment and monitor to find what works for you.
These 10 points will help anyone improve their dietary habits and should be viewed as permanent changes to your eating plan, we are truly what we eat and that will be echoed in our health in later life and will effect how long it lasts.Back to News Articles
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