It can be VERY disheartening to hit the gym regularly, get stronger, feel better and yet most of your gains remain invisible. I am constantly urging certain clients to allow their gains to be revealed by focusing on food intake. Here are some basic points to help rev up your metabolism and shed unwanted fat.
Eat breakfast. It’s cliche, yes…but it’s THE most important meal of the day because it’s the energy your body uses to start the day. When you train hard as hell your body needs good quality calories to help it recover from the last workout as well as to prepare it for the next one. The breakfast choices most people make are full of sugar and empty calories. Instead of coffee, muffins, and sugary cold cereals, eat oatmeal or eggs and a slice of toast with your coffee. Incorporating real, whole foods in your breakfast routine will give you a strong, healthy start to your day without the energy peaks and crashes that come along with insulin spikes. Coffee alone isn’t nearly enough for you and adding milk and sugar is going to kill your energy shortly after having it. Caffeine is a helluva drug! Just be careful—it can kill your body’s natural ability to produce energy related hormones. Keep the frequency manageable.
Cut the sugar. Sugar has the addictive properties of a drug. The sugar industry has had a close relationship with and received subsidies from the US government for decades. The game is and has always been to get us hooked and keep it that way. Sugar shows up in obvious foods like soda, candy, ice cream and cake. It also appears in not so obvious foods like ketchup, salad dressings, milk, sandwich wraps and processed foods claiming to be “low fat”. Fruit smoothies are a killer too. The thing that makes fruit good for us is the pulp that is in them. If you juice them, most of the pulp is removed and what’s left is fructose—nature’s unrefined sugar but sugar nonetheless. I recently saw a film that compared the sugar content of a fruit smoothie to that of a soda. Remember: a gram of sugar is about the equivalent of an individual sugar packet. Consider the number of packets of sugar in all things you eat and I guarantee you will alter the frequency with which you eat/drink these items (if you don’t choose to cut them completely). Be careful with the wrap breads because they can be high in sugar and try to find breads that are low in sugar. Find breads that are low in sugar. Instead of milk, plan to use plain almond or coconut milk in your coffee. Put half as much sugar in your coffee as you do now, and cut that amount in half in a month. Sugar is the enemy to those of us trying to keep our waistlines under control because it stores in the body as fat. It’s also wreaks havoc on our energy levels by forcing our bodies to suddenly increase insulin output and just as suddenly shut it off.
(Note: Carbohydrates are a type of sugar. Not all carbs are the same. Simple carbs, breads, pastas, rice convert to sugar and store as fat in the body. Get most of your carbs from green/leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, fruits and beans. Switch from white rice, bread and pasta to whole wheat and have them in moderation. All carb intake should occur before 5PM.)
Eat good fats. Fat is an important macronutrient and good fats can actually help you slim down. They protect your cells, keep your body warm, feed your brain, aid in digestion and give you a nice feeling of fullness in your belly. Eat a handful of nuts. Add avocado to your salads. When cooking, use coconut oil as much as possible or avocado oil if you can find it!
Snack between meals. Snacking is a critical component to your day. Eating good quality snacks at the same time everyday will also help maintain good energy and boost your metabolism, keeping your body burning calories at a faster, more efficient rate. Your body uses nutrients in these snacks to aid in recovery from your previous ass kicking’ session too. Eat your first snack 2-3 hours after breakfast and another snack 3 hours after lunch. Snacking allows you to avoid feeling starved when you do get to lunch and dinner, which keeps you from gorging yourself with unneeded calories and comfort foods. A slice of bread or an apple with peanut butter (my favorite!) is a SLAMMIN’ snack (as long as you don’t overdo by slathering on the peanut butter). Carrots and hummus (spicy if you’d like) are good options too. In total, I aim to eat 3,000 to 3,500 calories throughout my day, spread over 5-6 meals. Those snacks make a huge difference in my energy levels.
Cut the dairy. This is a sensitive spot, so I’ll tell you my experience with cutting dairy. After cutting it for 3 months, I was breathing better and didn’t have nearly as much mucous in my body. Now, the day after I have pizza, my sinuses feel clogged in the mornings and my breathing during workouts is considerably more labored. From what the scientists are saying, the antibiotics and hormones that are injected into the cows make their way into people who consume dairy as well. Consider switching from regular milk to plain almond milk or coconut milk. It could help your bear/crab crawls and even your prowler pushes/pulls. Food (or drink) for thought.
Keep track of your macronutrients. Lastly, Veronica, you ought to be consuming around 1800 calories a day and maintaining your macronutrient intake to about the following breakdown:
- 50% carbohydrates
- 25% fat
- 25% protein
Cheat every now and then. Have a cheat meal every week. You work hard and have to chill out sometimes or else you risk burnout. FYI. I look forward to my pancakes every Sunday too. Be smart–choose wisely when and how you do cheat.
Eat Smart. Stay grinding.