For now, let's forget about the Zone Diet, the Protein Diet, the Egg Diet, the Broccoli Diet...whatever. In fact, let's forget the word "diet" altogether. This isn't because diets are bad or are nutritionally unsound. I like diets, and I like dieting. Not all the time, mind you, but I like to occasionally put myself through body-altering experiences, just to see how it feels. But this is not why most people diet. Most diet to improve athletic capability, because they have a physical illness, or to lose weight.
Let's move right into the latter category and debunk our first myth. There is only one way to lose weight, and that is to take in fewer calories than you expend. Very simple, really, but something most people don't want to believe and, in turn, makes many authors of fad diets rich. Many fad diets are nutritionally unsound and if you know nothing about nutrition, I would recommend consulting a nutritionist before embarking on one. Some are sound, and most of these have to do with altering your body's metabolism. This is not a bad thing and something we will go into later. For now, let's stick with the basics.
- There are six major nutrients essential to healthy living: water, vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. What you should eat is determined by the physical demands of your lifestyle. If you eat in excess of this, you will become fat. If you eat less than your body demands, you will over-train and become fatigued. Long-term abuse in either direction will cause serious health problems.
- If you are athletic, you may find that a well-balanced diet may not be adequate for full replenishment of used-up substances, and supplementation may be needed to maximize your body's work capacity, and speed up recovery.
Three steps to improved nutrition
Here are three simple rules to follow that are guaranteed to enhance your body's utilization of what you eat.
- Eat five to six times a day. This serves a couple of purposes. From the angle of not overeating, you will be less hungry if you eat more often. Your body will not go into periods where your glycogen stores get very low and you feel ravenous, which we all know leads to binge eating. It also keeps your metabolism steadier, which is something we will go into next month.
- Eat meals that are based on what you will be doing over the next three to four hours. For example, if you are sitting at a desk, you will want to eat light, whereas if you plan an intense workout, you will want to eat something that will sustain you throughout it. Post workout meals will be discussed in detail in subsequent articles, but basically this is a good time for your body to absorb supplements.
- Your meals should fit somewhere into the 40-30-30 or 3-2-1 schemes. It is a debated subject so I will use MY experience here. 40-30-30 (40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, 30% fat) works well for me when I am doing a lot of anaerobic exercise, or any very intense training. 3-2-1 (3 parts carbs, to 2 parts proteins, to one part fats) works well when I am more sedentary or doing moderate cardiovascular exercise. I often alter between the two, depending on how I am feeling; of course, I often also alter between eating whatever I want as well! I only pay strict attention to what I eat in cycles, though I acknowledge it would be healthier to do it all the time.
Now if you still insist on all that talk about dieting, how about this: do the above diet for the next month. It doesn't have many rules and shouldn't be hard to follow. See if you can start to feel how your body utilizes food because, like I said last time, learning to understand your body is the best thing you can do in relation to healthy eating. If you can do that, you should be able to follow next month's diet fairly easily.