It’s easy to get confused and eventually frustrated with all of the “new” diet crazes out there preaching the latest research and studies proving their diet works and everybody else is just plain wrong. Not just wrong, but detrimental and near deadly!
You’ve seen them: Don’t drink milk, eat only in this window of time, fast for half of the day, fast for every fifth day, fast and then fast some more.
(Shaking my head) What ever happened to simple, sound eating advice that advocated a diet rich in healthy foods and balanced nutrients? I guess it’s not “sexy” enough to sell products.
Before some of you go straight to the comments section and take your swing at me, I DO believe most diets have good qualities, but if you are new to the muscle-building, fat-burning game then I believe starting with the basics is in order.
Why complicate things this early on?
Below is a short list of some of the essentials if you are beginning a new eating plan. Though not an exhaustive list, it will provide a starting point to build on as you get to know how your body reacts and adjusts along the way.
Have a plan, any plan: Yes, as stated above, the beauty of almost any diet plan is that they are all structured. Sure, they will differ significantly at times but the framework is there. And that is the important factor – to have some sort of plan in place, putting into practice and experiencing the results for yourself. That is the only way to truly discover how it will affect your success.
Mind your protein: Protein is a subject that has gotten a lot of press of late. As a base to many diet plans, protein is very essential to a successful muscle-building, fat-burning diet. Made up of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), protein and all of it’s “magical powers” is an integral part of numerous metabolic processes, hormone regulation and appetite control among many, many more benefits. One gram per pound of body weight is a good starting line.
The right kind of carbs: Contrary to an overwhelming belief as of late, carbs are not all that bad. In fact, they are necessary for the average Joe or Jane wanting to reshape their physique. Choosing the right kind is key. Moderate portions of sweet and white potatoes, brown and white rice, whole oats, wheat pasta and plenty of green vegetables are what’s on the menu. Again, moderation is key – a little goes a long way. Starting anywhere from one to three grams per pound of body weight dependent on your goal is the best range to start from.
Add healthy fats: Protein and carbs wouldn’t be complete without their misunderstood little brother, fat. Playing a vital role in hormone regulation and metabolic processes, enzyme activities and not to mention dietary satiety fat is not only recommended, it is required for longevity of a successful plan of action. Great sources include avocado, natural peanut and almond butters, olive oil and whole eggs. Yes, I said whole eggs. The saturated fat in whole eggs has been proven to support testosterone levels especially during lengthy and calorie-reduced dieting. Fats should comprise about 20% to 30% of total calories.
Water, water, water: I’ll say it again – water. Since we are mostly made up of the wet stuff, it makes sense to drink plenty of it. I am not talking about soda, juice or coffee, I am talking about drinking enough water each day for proper hydration, metabolic responses and satiety. The average 180 pound male, for example, should drink around one gallon per day. Sounds daunting? If you drink throughout the day it’s easy to do. Furthermore, properly hydrating prior to the gym can make or break a progressive resistance training plan.
Don’t freak out: If you don’t wake up tomorrow with a ripped six pack without an ounce of fat on your bones don’t freak out. Anything worth having takes hard work and most of all, time. Additionally, contrary to many story tellers in the trade, the body is not a machine. It will ebb and flow, react and stagnate and resist change at the most inconvenient times during your diet. Have patience, stay disciplined and stick to your plan.
Spread out: Another factor in dieting that has been getting a lot of heat lately is the notion that eating frequently no longer has merit regarding overall caloric consumption. Basically, some (many on the bandwagon) feel that it doesn’t matter how many times you eat during the day, as long as you hit your caloric goals at the end of it. This, of course, bears closer scrutiny when applied to those wanting to build muscle or at least keep it while trying to strip fat. To keep it simple, eat anywhere between three and six times per day. Your body needs frequent feedings to fend off hunger, to keep protein synthesis (muscle-building) churning and to keep blood-sugar levels steady.
Balance is key: Going extreme in any one direction will most likely have a significant effect one way or another (could be good for a limited time or could be an all-together negative experience). What your body really needs is balance. Good, quality, whole foods in moderation catered to your body type and adjusted in small steps if needed. Going too far in one direction is only a temporary fix at best. Balance will give you peace of mind and a realistic look into how your body reacts to certain parameters the healthy way.
Supplement wisely: Yes, supplements are great but the supplement industry is also a marketing monster with their hands readily poised to pluck your hard-earned cash from your fingers. If you sift through the muck of the latest this and the next best that, you will find that only a very small handful of supplements are worth all the fuss and have been scientifically proven to produce real-world results. If you are just getting your feet wet on your fitness journey, do yourself and your wallet a favor and stick to good, solid food sans supplements . How will you learn the intricacies and behavior of your own body if you cram a bunch of overly hyped supplements down your throat?
Adjust only when necessary: Changing too many factors in your diet will only leave you more frustrated and confused than before. If you have traveled down the diet road for a significant amount of time (around four to six weeks) and feel you need to change some aspect of your eating plan, by all means go forward and make a calculated adjustment. However, this is where many overzealous individuals get trigger happy and change way too many things at once leaving you wondering what worked and what didn’t. One step at a time.
Be sure to cheat: Cheating on a diet can be a valuable tool in your physique arsenal especially during times of fat-loss dieting. After so many days of a caloric deficit your body’s functions such as metabolism, hormone efficiency and overall feeling of satiety and well-being begin to wane. You are left with a sluggish system and a declining motivation. One day per week have a cheat meal or two of whatever you like. If you’ve been sticking to a low carb and/or low calorie diet throughout the week, a cheat meal will help rev back up your metabolism and give you a little psychological help as well. Oh, and plenty of fuel to get you through the following week.
Give it time: Anything worth having takes hard work and time - a significant amount of time. If you put into practice the points listed above then you will easily adopt your new plan as a lifestyle and not just another quick fix. Small and steady changes add up to big results over time. Also, have faith in your plan, be forthright in your efforts and weather any storm that comes your way. As mentioned earlier, the body and its behavior ebbs and flows, so it is up to you to press on and come out successful.