5 Tips on how to get started or improve your nutrition
This is a barrier most individuals, either beginning their journey or looking to improve what they do, face. Therefore, remind yourself you are not alone in this, and there are plenty of people looking for answers to gain confidence and control over their food. I’m going to provide a 5 “How to” tips to get you started, or improve, your path.
1: Meal Composition
What is on your plate is a huge factor. Is your plate filled with fried, heavy starch, fatty foods? Or is it boiled, low carb, low fat foods? Let’s first begin by defining some terms.
When something is “low carb” it means the food contains less carbohydrates than either perceived or created to be lower in carbohydrates than its original form. For example, normal bread has a greater quantity of carbohydrates than”low carb” bread. This is also a piece by piece comparison. If you have 10 pieces of low carb bread, it will, more than likely, exceed the number of carbs in one piece of normal bread.
A “low fat” food runs the similar premise. American’s diets are in general excessively high in fat sources, and one great way is to turn to lower fat options when designing your meal. Because fat is 9 kcal/gram while carbohydrates are 4kcal/gram, cutting a gram of fat from a meal is nearly twice the amount of calories than cutting a single gram of carbohydrates from a meal. That’s just something to keep in mind.
A “protein source” means a food item that is majority protein. There are many types of protein: ranging from “fatty protein” to “lean protein” to “vegetarian protein” and so on. Picking the best one for you depends on a lot of things, but in general, sticking to lean sources of protein is preferred. Examples of lean proteins are chicken (hand trimmed), turkey, certain cuts of beef and pork (both hand trimmed), tuna, white fish (haddock, mahi mahi, etc.), egg whites, and legumes. What you pick will depend on the diet you are currently following and what you’re in the mood to eat!
A normal meal composition should be: a protein source (preferably lean), and a combination of a fat/carb source. Sounds pretty straightforward, but there can be a lot more to it. As a general guideline, focus on getting the protein sources first then the rest of the meal. Examples of meals are- haddock, broccoli, and brown rice; chicken, a low cal wrap, and veggies; lean steak and sweet potatoes. The combinations are endless so it’s going to depend on your preferences and what your goals are.
2: Meal Frequency and Timing
As we grew up, most were taught the “three meals a day” system. And that’s all well and good, but we can improve upon this. To really take advantage of our body, we need to better optimize our metabolism. To do this, we need to increase our body’s “metabolic rate” or the rate at which we burn our food sources. Our metabolic rate can be changed by increasing our meal frequency and using meal timing to our advantage.
But Dan, why would I increase the amount of meals I eat if I want to lose weight? And here is the heart of the issue: understand how our metabolism works.
Our metabolism is a counterintuitive system, and it is extremely intelligent. We have to give our bodies more credit- we are adaptable and malleable depending on what we feed ourselves.
For example, I have spoken with many who are on an extreme calorie restriction. They’ve put themselves in a position where they eat under 800 calories day in and day out. They’ve also found that they’re no longer losing weight, and instead, are finding more weight gain. What gives? This person is basing their diet on the “calorie in=calorie out” premise. And it ultimately fails unfortunately.
Your body is a machine. And to power that machine, we need fuel. If we restrict the body’s fuel, food, and do not have a high metabolic rate, your body clicks into survival mode. It has no idea when it will be fueled properly again- therefore, it holds everything that comes its way. In this state, calories are harder to burn off because your body intuitively wants to store everything you consume.
Therefore, in order to properly adjust your metabolism, you need to give yourself the calories back. This is done slowly and over a period of time. Once your metabolism has adjusted, aka realized it does have food coming at normal speeds throughout the day, it can begin to be attuned and worked with.
Think of it this way: do you think high functioning athletes restrict their calories? If Michael Phelps decided to restrict his diet, his body would break down. He needs such a high calorie total in order to perform properly. Obviously, we are not all Michael, but we can take that premise and use it to aid our nutritional development.
As far as it goes for an exact number to have positive metabolism effects, it depends on the person. Between 4-6 meals a day is a general spectrum, but it truly depends on meal composition, activity level, and a number of other factors. Begin with the mindset of: “my body is a car and I need to fuel it properly to get to where I need to go.”
3: Create Alternatives
I love my mother’s cooking. Some of her meals are just awesome, but I know how high the calories are in her meals because I know what she cooks with. You can always create alternatives to food items you currently use to better yourself off in the long run. Here is a list to begin with:
- Butter -> low calorie spray butter
- Vegetable or canola oil -> spray oil
- Full fat cheese -> low fat/fat free cheese
- Whole milk -> skim milk
- Full calorie wrap -> low calorie wrap
- Peanut butter -> powdered peanut butter
- Eggs -> egg whites
And the list goes on and on. There are always alternatives: it’s just about looking for them and making the decision to try them.
4: Create A List and Stick To It
This world is full of temptation, and as humans, we love to be tempted into a variety of things. One of the biggest ways to gain control over your habits is by premeditating solutions to them. When you’re in the grocery store and you pass the cookie isle, what are your initial thoughts? Do you have the desire to go buy that pack of Oreos? What is going through your mind in those moments of temptation?
This is an exercise you can do. Imagine yourself in that isle and ask yourself “what if I left and did not purchase any of these items?” Make a list of what it would mean to you if you decided to leave the isle and resist temptation. Really dig deep here and draw some words that mean something to you.
Now that you have that list, put it somewhere you’ll see it routinely. Make sure you at least see it 2-3 times per day. Let yourself be reminded of what it means to you to resist temptation and make choices you are proud of. Do this enough, and that temptation will melt away and be a thing of the past.
You are capable of powerful things. Allow yourself to do exactly that.
5: Be Understanding with Yourself
No one is perfect. And if you find someone who claims they are, I do not believe them. We all have faults and we all have bad days. This is just a reality of life. And guess what: that’s okay. It’s okay to mess up or do something off track, but you need to recognize it as just that- something that does not align with your goals.
If your goal is weight loss, and you end up going out with friends for dinner and drinks, and you get a fattier cut of steak than you would have liked and a couple glasses of wine with dinner, its okay! It’s not the end of the world. Let yourself enjoy the moment and happiness you can have with your friends. In those moments, it’s much more important to be happy than bring yourself down for potential mistakes you’ve made. Be easy and gentle with yourself. At the end of the day, we are all just working to being happy with life and ourselves.
A good way to combat the negativity that may come up from a mistake is to understand it before hand. Think about the evening prior to going out. Focus on how happy you could be if you just embraced the moments with friends rather than focused on the potential nutritional mishap which may occur. Come in with a plan: “I am going to enjoy the night. These do not happen often. And by tomorrow, I will get right back on track. I am grateful for nights like these.”
LvL up your mindset along with your nutritional choices. They go hand in hand, and I promise it will work in your favor.
If you’re looking for support or additional insight, check out the link here and let’s talk about it. Consultations are always free.
– Dan “Tips and Tricks” Rich