The sun comes out, you get your shorts on, vest is squeezed into, and yet all you can see are the wobbly bits, hang overs, moobs (man boobs) and stretch marks/cellulite. So you decide to diet. Strip your cupboards of the sweets, bread, anything that has the word "fat" in it, leaving you with a piece of celery and a glass of water.
You've got this NAILED.
No, no and no.
On the hand, you believe you eat well. You eat a well balanced diet of cereal in the morning, sandwich for lunch, fruit as snacks and whole meal pasta for dinner.
Yet, you aren't the lean, chiseled beautifully toned model you believe you should be.
Both of these factors will have you reaching for the cookie jar, forgetting everything about your goal to change your body composition and all the hard work you have put in to the gym, due to insulin spikes, crashes and feeling constantly hungry.
Looking at nutrition and what you are currently eating on a daily basis can be hard to do. You follow the government’s guidelines so who is anyone else to tell you this is wrong?
The food pyramid or eat well plate should be binned with any thoughts that cereal is good for you, fruit juice gives you your fruit intake for the day, and using carbs as your main source of energy.
1. Insulin resistance - insulin is released by your pancreas. It helps break down glucose (from carbs). Too much insulin can mean it isn't being used effectively by the body, allowing glucose to build up in the blood (blood sugar levels this increase) and is absorbed into cells, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
2. Hypoglycemia - this relates to low blood sugar levels but can also be caused by blood sugar fluctuations, one minute it's really low and the next, really high.
Whilst both of these issues have different effects metabolically, they both affect body composition, energy levels and general health.
Insulin resistance causes metabolic dysfunction and will have you feeling fatigued after meals, craving sweets that doesn't go away once sweets are eaten (leaving you wanting more), increased thirst and frequent need for a wee.
Hypoglycemia causes lightheadedness, irritability, shakiness and fatigue between meals, which is often relieved after eating. If you feel like this during the day there is a good chance you have periods of low blood sugar giving you surges of insulin, rather than chronically elevated levels.
So what does this mean when we look at meals, frequency of eating and trying to lose a few pounds of body fat?
A good protein-based meal with adequate levels of healthy fat and fiber should not raise your blood sugar levels too high. If it does, the portion was either too big, or the macronutrient (amount of carbs, protein and fat) ratio was off. Still a bit confused?
Simply put, have meat with your meal, ensure there are some good healthy fats served with it like a sprinkle of cashew nuts, an avocado or have oily fish, served with some good, fibrous carbs.
Below is a table to illustrate the types of carbs to have with a meal and when. Keep refined carbs to a bare minimum and use carbs to your favour, keeping insulin spikes at bay.
Ok, so we have got it with our carb consumption. We know what carbs to eat after training, vegetables with each meal and how to limit any kind of insulin spike. But, what about the rest? Aren’t fats going to make us fat? Too much protein will have us looking like the hulk? And where does alcohol all come into this?
I don’t want to bore you with more science. I’m pretty confident you have probably looked at the pictures and skipped the bore fest on insulin and hypoglycemia. Wait, wait, wait, I’m not getting back into it. Come back!! To be nice and precise, fats and proteins are good for us. We need them for weight loss. A quick brief on why….
Fats – supports metabolism, cell signaling, the health of various body tissues, immunity, hormone production, and the absorption of many nutrients (such as vitamins A and D).Having enough fat will also help keep you feeling full between meals and avoid any crazy snack cravings.
Proteins – our bodies need proteins and amino acids to produce important molecules in our body – like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies – without an adequate protein intake, our bodies can’t function well at all.
Protein helps replace worn out cells, transports various substances throughout the body, and aids in growth and repair.
Consuming protein can also increase levels of the hormone glucagon,(glucagon is released when blood sugar levels go down, causing the liver to break down stored glycogen into glucose for the body) and glucagon can help to control body fat.
It can also help to liberate free fatty acids from adipose tissue – another way to get fuel for cells and make that bodyfat do something useful with itself instead of hanging lazily around your midsection!
Consuming more protein may help maintain an optimal body composition (in other words, help you stay leaner and more muscular) and a strong immune system, good athletic performance, and a healthy metabolism. It may promote satiety (i.e. make you feel full longer) and consequently help you manage your body weight.
So, what does this mean in regards to HOW MUCH we should eat? Going back to the first example used of stripping all food out of your deit, by reducing actual calories to a bare minimum (below 1,800 for women and 2,000 for men) hunger signals will increase, causing us to crave (and maybe eat) more.
The net effect leads to a much lower rate of weight loss than you might expect. In some cases, it could even lead to weight re-gain.
To add insult to injury, a rise in cortisol from the stress of dieting can cause our bodies to hold onto more water, making us feel “softer” and “less lean” than we actually are.
So don't think by eating less to the point of leaving yourself starving you are a fat burning machine. More likely than not, you are causing yourself some detrimental health risks and be piling on the weight when you begin to eat "normally" again.
To ensure that we have food in our cupboards and a healthy plate, include these foods and approaches to in your diet for low levels of body fat
So lastly, alcohol. Do I drink? No. Not because I have ever been a raving alcoholic but because I know once I have one drink I want to go out, party and not get to bed until 2am. I like going out and being a wild card. However, I love training more. Anything to set me back from that I tend to bin. Therefore, I made a conscious decision to give up alcohol five years ago. I have since had a drink at my brothers wedding, gone out on a couple of nights out and been home by 11am remembering why I don’t like to drink. So, thus, another 2.5 years have gone by with absolutely no booze.
But what if you do enjoy a drink?
Drinking small amounts of alcohol every now and then won't risk your health or promote any kind of weight gain. Any alcohol consumption above low to moderate levels (more than twice a week) can displace nutrients, increase health risks, and make you act like a degenerate at parties.
So, if you are a social bunny and out with friends, you like the odd drink out and you don’t end up on the SOS bus because they found you paralytic outside a pub, then the occasional drink won’t do you the world of good but it also won’t do you the world of harm.
However, if you drink because you feel stressed out, it’s a habit, mates don’t want to “drink alone” or you believe its “good for you” then maybe try to cut it out for six weeks and see how you feel.
Eat smart. When I put together a nutrition diet for clients I don’t always get it right first time. They might not like the breakfast I recommend, they might feel sluggish after a couple of meals or they might be gnawing at their own arm in-between meals. Its trial and error and finding the right thing that works for you.
As long as you don’t cut out all food and find you’re on some kind of dust diet, eat a balanced 3-4 meals a day including carbs, fats and proteins you are on to a winner. Stay hydrated and look after your body. You cant expect it to look like a walking god(dess) if you are treating it like a garbage can.
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