It's come to my attention that I may have caused some controversy with my last post, so I would like clarify some things.
I would like to say before I start that what I've written has come from over 30 years of experience as both a competitor in the world of bodybuilding and as a personal trainer. Please realize that while there is no one-size-fits-all way of nutrition, there are some small basic rules that won't fail you. These rules are what I hope to get across.
Let's start with your “messed up” metabolism: there is no such thing as being hopeless. As my mother would say, you just have to be smarter and work harder. Understand that as your body gets what it needs, it will start to speed up. Your body is built with checks and balances, so when it doesn't get what it needs, it holds onto what it's not getting. It’s like not drinking enough water. When you don’t drink enough, your body holds water, but when you increase your water intake, your body lets go of the water it was holding. Most people start looking and feeling better just by increasing their water intake.
Now let's look at the concept of eating throughout the day. Start with a meal when you first wake up to break the fast of the night. This is the way to get your metabolism going. Two and a half to three hours later, have a healthy snack or a small meal to help your body to make it until lunch. After lunch, have another snack, and then dinner. You should try to eat every two and a half to three hours. You should really feel like you need food every three hours, and if you don’t then, that’s a sign that your metabolism is not running as it should. One thing to remember is that you have to eat for your metabolism to run and if you're not eating now, you won't be able to when you get older, as our caloric needs decreases as we age.
As a trainer and not a certified nutritionist, I can't give you specific diet guidelines, but here are a few things to work with that come from Precision Nutrition. Use your hand as a measuring tool. I've used a scale to measure my food before, and unless you're getting ready for something, it's just overkill. Try to make all of this as simple as possible, that way you won’t dread it. For men, use two palm-sized portions of protein, two fist-size portions of vegetables, two cupped hand size portions carbohydrates, and two thumb size portions of fat to fill your plate at each meal. With this method, you will find that the variety and the amount of food will be both filling and satisfying. You can take those same measures and cut them in half for a woman. Remember that if you have a history of some sort of dieting like I have, your body may take time to respond to these changes in eating habits, but it will come around. Just give it time. Your body knows you (and your history) and doesn't trust you, so give it time to realize you're going to follow through with this.
Don't get rid of all fats in your diet. Fat does a couple of things for us. It keeps our joints lubricated and it slows down the emptying process in our stomach. We need some fat so that our body will work correctly. I'd like to use the egg as an example. The yolk is where most of the fat is, but without it, we can't fully assimilate all of the nutrients from the egg, making the yolk very important.
Now let's talk about carbs. One thing to think about is that fat burns in a carbohydrate flame. In other words, without some carbs in our diet, fat loss becomes much harder. Weight-loss can happen by losing water weight and lean tissue, but in order to lose fat, we must burn it off since it's unused energy. Once your body starts to protect itself by storing energy, fat can be the hardest thing to get rid of, and the last thing to go. This means that carbohydrates and the carbohydrate flame are critical for fat-loss.
Most diet plans feed our desire for instant gratification by telling us to decrease carbs or eliminate them altogether. Our bodies respond quickly and we lose 7 to 10-lbs of water weight in a few days, fixing an emotional need, but not fixing the problem of having excess fat. Remember, taking an element out of your diet will make your body less efficient, so when you have something like a bagel or a piece of bread, your body won’t know what to do with it, and into storage it will go.
Scales. The scale only tells you part of the weight-loss story. Knowing what you’re losing is very important, because if you lose enough muscle, your ability to burn fat will be compromised. For the average person some, kind of bio-impedance device, like the one we have at the Studio, is fine to measure your body fat with. If you’re below 10% body fat, you may want a more sophisticated measuring device. At the end of the day, it’s just a measuring tool that gives you a number to work with.
Then there is water. Drink lots of it. It cleanses the system. It's the easiest way to flush fat out. I don't know about using it to keep you full, but I do know that as a country, we are dehydrated and need to drink more water. You may not like it at first, but it will grow on you. I’m not a great water drinker but lemon helps.
The unfortunate thing about eating right is that it's not exciting or trendy or glamorous. Think about most people that look really good all the time. They don't get to join in on the conversation of the diet of the month because more than likely they just have good habits.
Things to remember:
Eat every two and a half to three hours: three major meals and two snacks. Use your hand as a simple measuring tool.
Don't delete fat from your diet. You need it to keep your joints happy and to slow down the emptying process of the stomach.
Carbohydrates are fuel. Remember that fat burns in a carbohydrate-flame, so eliminating them will just give you water-loss, but does little to give you real fat-loss.
Drink lots of water to flush impurities out of your system.
I believe anyone can have a nice body and feel good. Don't make the process too complicated, but let it be something you can live with forever.
Remember these are general guidelines to help you understand that eating healthy doesn’t have to suck and can be done without a Ph.D. As I always say, it’s about getting better habits that give you the outcome that you want, not the quick fix.