If you are a little confused about what a healthy diet is, I will start by telling you it does not have to be a very specific list of foods and restrictions. A clean diet can include a wide variety of things you enjoy as long as they have the right nutrients and are eating them at the right time of day. You can even slip in some dessert. You might be able to eat whatever you want and exercise enough to not gain weight, but if your diet is unhealthy you won’t lose fat and you won’t build lean muscle.
Contrary to popular belief, muscles are not built in the gym. While you are working out, your muscles are actually being torn down. Heavier weight or resistance to our body means more damage to our muscles. The appearance of swelling or growth after lifting weights is actually “hypertrophy” which is only temporary. It is within 30 minutes of working out that our muscles begin to use available protein to rebuild tissue.
1. Eat often!
Finding time for six small to moderately sized meals per day may be a difficult feat for some people who work long hours or attend school all day long, but aiming for at least four meals per day should be doable for everybody, and is crucial for people on a workout plan. If you can manage at least 4-6 meals per day, you will fuel your body properly as you burn fat and build muscle. I highly recommend having a large breakfast (within an hour of waking up) around 6 AM, light snack at 9 AM, moderate to large lunch at 12 PM, light snack at 4 PM, and moderate dinner at 7 PM. Adjust these times according to your sleep schedule and workout schedule.
2. Feed your muscles!
As I described above, it is important to eat protein within 30 minutes of working out. You also want to have protein for every moderate meal of the day, especially breakfast. The amount of protein your body needs depends on things such as your weight and how much you are exercising. Plenty of protein and other nutrient intake calculators can be found online.
Carbohydrates are important for energy as well. Your brain needs a certain amount of carbs each day to function, so do not deprive your body of carbs! Men digest carbs faster than women, so it is more common for women to be on a low-carb diet. Sodium should not be ingested immediately before a workout because it will cause you to dehydrate, but it is important to have during and after a long workout. Your body also requires fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.
3. Drink water all day!
Water is the most vital nutrient for our bodies. It is required for every single body system and function. If you are thirsty at any point in the day, it means you are not drinking enough water. Thirst is the first symptom of dehydration. Try to intake at least 64 ounces, or 8 glasses, per day. Your urine should be almost clear on a regular basis, and you should never feel parched. Also be sure to stay hydrated during exercise!
4. Eat fat!
Some people think that if they stop eating all fats, they will lose all of their fat through exercise. This is an extremely unhealthy diet for your body. Actually, your diet should be composed of up to 20% fat. If your body becomes deprived of fats, it will switch to “starvation mode” and begin to store all the fat it can. That’s because your body NEEDS fat. Fat provides 9 calories of energy per gram, compared to protein and carbs, which provide only 4 cal/g. We need fat to store and use vitamins. Fat is involved in the production of hormones and enzymes which control everything from our digestive system to our reproductive system. Fat provides heat insulation for our bodies, as well as protection for our organs by cushioning them.
The best kinds of fats come from things like nuts, olive oil, and even avocado. Less healthy fats come from animals: dairy, red meat, and fats/cooking oils that are solid at room temperature.
5. Add a shake!
Protein shakes are a great way to jam-pack nutrients into your diet without overloading on calories. If you find a high quality shake you enjoy (such as Shakeology) it can be perfect for replacing any meal. They can provide essential nutrients such as a full serving of protein, which helps build lean muscle, improves skin and hair, supports mental clarity, and reduces cravings, antioxidants, phytonutrients, adaptogens, and probiotics and digestive enzymes which increase nutrient absorption and improve digestion.
Follow these nutrition guidelines and you will burn fat and build lean muscle more efficiently. Having more lean muscle also in turn helps you burn even more fat! I would love to answer any questions you have about a healthy diet. Feel free to add your own comments and tips about eating right.
For plenty of amazingly healthy AND delicious recipes, follow my friend Lauren’s clean eating blog! She also has some awesome recipe ideas for using with your Shakeology! http://www.kitchenqueeneatsclean.blogspot.com | @kitchenqueeneats