Tuesday | January 31, 2017
By Richard Harrison, iGenFIT
Many people, including myself at one point, believe they know how to eat healthy and clean. Eat your greens, eat your veggies, get your protein, and limit your fats, right? Wrong!
Somewhere along the line of trendy dieting and infomercials, clean-eating has become a mishmash of fallacies blended together. If you think about, which diet is truly the best one? Does it actually depend on the person? Does it matter which nutrient you limit or increase? Will exercise actually help? What’s a simple way to get started?
That’s what we’re going to discuss today. Were going to answer each of these questions from a science-based approach. If you feel you already know all this science-y stuff, but you don’t want to dive in fully to these dieting programs, skip to the last section to find out a simple way to figure out where your diet is hurting you.
Does it actually depend on the person?
Yes and no. The rules will stay the same no matter who it is, but the results will vary based on effort, time, and consistency. No matter who you are, if you want to lose weight, you need to reduce your calorie intake and if you want to gain weight you need to increase your intake. I would like to note that losing weight is a terrible goal. If you are exercising regularly, you may not lose weight at all, and may actually gain weight, but will lose fat. This is because muscle is more dense than fat and therefore occupies less room in the body. A better goal would be to lose fat, or lower your fat percentage.
Does it matter which nutrient you reduce?
Yes. Depending on what your goal is, losing and gaining weight can be be very simple or a little more complex. If you’re just looking to flat out lose weight, reducing your calorie intake is easy. Eat less of what you like or normally eat.
If you’re looking to become more lean (less fat, more muscle), there’s a little more to it. You’ll need to reduce certain nutrients in your diet while increasing others. For example, you want to increase your protein intake (muscle building blocks) and decrease your carb and/or fat intake (energy stores). This will provide you the proper nutrients to build lean muscle and lose the fat around it.
There are certain types of diet programs that provide results, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the famous Atkins Diet, limits your carb intake. While this will certainly reduce fat, it will also limit your energy. Carbs are a great source of energy because they tend to provide you more enduring stores of energy. If you are looking to exercise intensely throughout the week, I wouldn’t recommend the Atkins diet. You will find your energy depleted midway through the week.
Another type of program is the “sugar detox.” This program is intense if followed to the T, and can actually cause your body to have withdrawal symptoms. Having done it myself, it is no easy task. Try going into a grocery store and find enough food for the week that has not sugar of any form! Even food you think couldn’t have sugar in it, does! You can expect to migraines, shakiness, and nausea within the first week of eliminating sugar, but it works. You will lean out very fast, but you’ll also feel much better.
Finally, one of the more popular programs to follow, but also a time-consuming one, is macro-counting. Figuring out how many calories you should be taking in in the form of protein, carbs, and fats. It’s a little more flexible type of dieting, but can also take a good amount of time to plan your meals, and measure your portions. It too, will provide you the results for lean body mass.
Will exercise actually help?
Yes and no. If you are solely exercising, no matter how many sets, reps, pounds, or miles you put in, your results will be limited by themselves. I worked on getting a 6-pack of abs for over 4 years before I finally realized that the bottom abdominals was all about diet. I did hundreds of crunches and leg raises every gym session, and I could never get them to come through. The reason: my diet was causing me to store more fat in that section of my body than I was burning off.
Exercise will absolutely help, but only if you are also maintaining a healthy diet that is aligned with your goals.
How can I get started?
A very simple way to get started on figuring out where your diet is hurting you is to journal about it. You can use a physical journal if you’d like to, but you will spend a lot more time doing it this way.
There’s a much easier way with technology today. On your phone, download the FREE app, My Fitness Pal. It’s an app designed by UnderArmour, but it allows you to input pre-populated food items and meals into your journal. At the end of the day it totals your caloric intake (calories). If you are willing to pay the $10 a month or $50 a year, you can unlock the premium version that will calculate your protein, carbs, and fats each day.
To get started, sign-up or login with Facebook, set your current and goal weight, weekly goal, and activity level. It will automatically calculate the number of calories per day and tell you in macronutrients, how many of your calories should be in protein, carbs, and fats.
Once you have the app, you want to journal/diary for a week or two. Record every meal, every condiment, and every measurement. At the end of the week, look back at your history and see how many calories you took in each day. Compare it to how many calories you were supposed to take in. You should be able to notice a pattern after a couple days.
The next step is to look at how much of those calories were protein, carbs, and fats, compared to what it was supposed to be. This is where you will find your saboteur. Don’t think it has to be carbs or fats. Not taking in enough protein can have the same effects. If your muscles aren’t getting the nutrients they need to build muscle, they will start eating away at your muscles first since its the quickest form of protein for them. This will cause you to store fat, ironically.
If you aren’t making the progress in your physique that you want, take a look at your diet. The simplest way to start eating cleaner for your goals is to analyze what you’re eating. Don’t waste countless weeks or months trying out a diet, that might not even work. Spend a week, journal in your diary about what you are eating. Then take a day on your weekend to breakdown how many calories, and how many of those calories are protein, carbs, and fats. I’m sure you will be surprised at how your healthy eating is actually sabotaging your goals.
Check back in tomorrow for our post on:
A total-body home workout program that can save you the time driving to a gym, eliminate your excuses, and give you the results you want.