Many of you work hard at the gym, week after week without ever seeing the results you are looking for. A personal trainer can help you modify your workouts to get closer to your goals, but one thing that should not be overlooked is nutrition. The truth is, no matter how hard you train, you will hit a wall if you do not make nutrition a priority.
1. Do not skip breakfast
It's true: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is important to break the fast your body was in while you were sleeping. If you don't, your body will believe it is in starvation mode and will become more efficient at storing fat. If you skip breakfast on a regular basis, this is what you are doing. Make sure your first meal has a combination of healthy carbohydrates (see section 3), and protein. I know mornings can be hectic, but it doesn't take a lot of time to grab a banana or an apple on your way out the door. You can even boil an egg while you prepare your morning routine.
2. Have protein at every main meal
It takes longer for your body to digest protein (eggs, chicken, meat) than carbohydrates. Therefore, protein will keep you feeling fuller for a longer period of time. This will prevent you from ingesting more calories than your body actually needs. Beware of high protein diets, however. Your body can only absorb so much, and the excess will go straight to your fat stores. Too much protein is also hard on the liver.
3. Carbohydrates are not the enemy
Carbs have gotten a bad rap lately. Your body needs carbs to survive. In fact, your brain functions on carbohydrates. Carbs are our bodies' preferred source of energy. The problem arises when we do not choose the right kinds of carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are best. Avoid plain white carbs such as white bread, pasta, and white sugar.
4. Don't fear fat
Fat is another nutrient that a lot of us try desperately to stay away from. Again, it depends on what kind of fat and how much of it is consumed. Aim for unsaturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as almonds, avocado and olive oil.
5. Know your portion sizes
Even if you eat healthy foods, if you consume too many of them, you will always wonder why your waistline refuses to budge. Most people don't know what a portion is. If you find the Canada Food guide too confusing, try these guidelines:
- 1 protein portion: the size of your palm, minus the fingers; the thickness of a deck of cards
- 1 starch portion: the size of your fist
- 1 fruit/vegetable portion: the size of your fist
With portion sizes being as big as they are in North America, some of us might have a hard time getting used to these guidelines.
6. Eat smaller more frequent meals
You've probably heard that smaller but more frequent meals are more desirable than 2 or 3 large meals per day. If you consume most of your caloric needs during 2 or 3 meals as opposed to spreading them out over 4-6 smaller meals, your body will store what it does not need as fat. Anything we eat that we do not utilize goes into fat storage. By eating smaller meals more frequently, you keep your metabolism going.
7. It's ok to cheat
Don't aim for perfection, otherwise you will hate yourself when you “fail”. You should allow for occasional indulgences, otherwise, a binge session will surely be in your future. Figure out what your cheating style is. Can you control yourself and have a small treat everyday? Or do you need to set aside one day every week to indulge yourself? You will find, however, that the less you eat “bad foods”, the less your body will crave them and your desire to cheat will decrease overtime.
8. Plan to succeed
One of the best ways to stay on track with your nutrition is to plan your meals in advance. Do your groceries on a weekly basis with a good idea as to what your meals will consist of. Prepare your lunches the night before. Planning ahead of time will make a visit to the drive-through seem less appealing. It may sound like a lot of work, but it becomes easier and less time consuming with practice.
For anyone looking to lead a healthier lifestyle in a fit and trim body, nutrition must be a priority. There is no getting around this. If your idea of a healthy snack is a banana sundae, you should make gradual changes. Changing your eating habits overnight, will almost certainly lead to failure. For example, it might be more helpful to focus on having a healthy breakfast in the morning before tackling any other issues. Bon Appétit!
Marsha Regis, Certified Personal Trainer
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