This amazing March weather has me thinking about the spring and summer to come. It's closer than we think.
Time for a "spring cleaning" that includes making positive changes to our bodies - how we feel, how we move and yes, how we look. Good or bad, to some degree we live in a physical culture which puts a lot emphasis on things like bigger arms and more defined abs. And now that it is almost spring and Memorial Day is just 12 weeks away, it's just about time to trade sweaters and coats for tank tops and swimsuits. What can you be doing to make sure you like the way they look on you? Well, you are what you eat! READ ON!
While what you do in the gym is important, what you put into your body seven days a week is even more imperative, so we will start this week with seven nutrition tips that are essential if your goal is a leaner, more toned body.
1) Eat Breakfast – Eating a balanced breakfast is the best way to kick-start your metabolism for the day. It is best to get a mix of lean proteins and complex carbohydrates within thirty minutes of waking up in the morning. Adding a fruit or vegetable to that mix is ideal. And because our modern food supply is lacking in many of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function properly, it is essential to get a good multi-vitamin supplement every day. I take VGF 25+, made from more than 25 organically grown fruits and vegetables. This is better than those that are synthesized in a lab.
2) Your Body Is A Furnace – Think of your body as a furnace that functions best when you throw a log in every three to three-and-a-half hours. If you throw too many logs into the furnace at one time, it smothers the flame. If you wait too long before throwing in a log, the fire dies down. That fire IS your metabolism, your body’s ability to burn calories (instead of storing them as fat), so feed the fire frequently and you will burn up the calories you are taking in much more efficiently.
3) Sugar Is Your Enemy – It is sugars (and white carbohydrates and processed foods that your body treats as sugars) that turn to fat in your body. When you eat these items, your body releases too much insulin which in turn shuts down it’s ability to produce it’s only fat-release hormone, Glucagon, effectively locking in fat storage. Your body is either a fat-storing machine or a fat-burning machine, depending on it’s hormonal balance. Which would your prefer yours to be? To get this balance right, avoid sugars, white carbohydrates and processed foods, opting instead for lean proteins (egg whites, fish, chicken), complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, brown rice, yams) and fruits and vegetables. If you’re shopping and cooking at home, the “good” foods will be found in the periphery of the supermarket, while the “bad”, processed ones will be found in the aisles in the middle. You can also refer to Page 2 of my Supportive Nutrition Guide which lists the “best” and the “good” foods for each macronutrient type. ; Make a copy to put up on your refrigerator and one to take with you to the supermarket.
4) Protein Is Your Friend – If you want to BE lean, EAT lean. Try to get a source of lean protein into every meal. This has a double effect that can be magical when it comes to building the leaner, more toned body you desire. First, because proteins are complex and require energy to break down, you burn up to 25% of the calories you are taking in just in the process of digesting them. Second, proteins also ameliorate the negative impact of any of the sugars that you ingest with them so that they are more likely to be burned for energy and less likely to be stored as fat. The best sources of lean protein are from egg whites, fish, lean meats and poultry, so be sure to get plenty of these into your diets. That said, if you have trouble finding the time to eat meals frequently enough, making/buying a shake with Whey Protein can be a decent substitute from time to time.
5) Good Fat, Bad Fat – Our bodies need some fat in order to survive, but some fats are helpful while others are very harmful. Your body needs and cannot produce “essential fats” – the fats that come from things like fish, nuts and avocados. In addition to be healthy, eating more of these fats will be helpful to your quest for fat loss by making your body less apt to crave the bad fats. I also VERY strongly encourage adding a fish oil supplement to your diet. Most of us simply don't get enough Omega-3s which is essential. These Omega-3s raise good cholesterol, decrease bad cholesterol and have an anti-inflammatory effect. They also help with fat loss through better regulation of glucose and insulin sensitivity. Once you're getting the good fats, you want to minimize those that are not as healthy. The saturated fats in your diet, fats that are solid at room temperature such as butter and the fat in steaks. These are not terrible, and more and more evidence suggests that they are okay, just don't overdo it. But, the fats to absolutely avoid like the plague are the hydrogenated fats, also known as trans-fats; these are enemies to every cell in your body and some of the very worst things you can eat.
6) Calorie Count – I believe that most people do not need to count calories. Rather, if you eat breakfast early, eat until you are satisfied but not “full” and then do it again every three to three-and-a-half hours, you should be getting the correct amount of calories for your body. That said, if you’re a numbers person and want to be very specific, you can calculate how many calories you use in a day. This is known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure and you can calculate it here. In order to lose weight safely and consistently, eating five hundred fewer calories per day is recommended. To add muscle to your body and gain weight, eat five hundred calories more than you burn each day.
7) Water, Water Everywhere – Maybe you have heard that sixty percent of the body is made of water? In order to function properly and, yes, that includes the ability to store fuel as muscle and process and burn fat, one must drink enough water every day. While there is some disagreement as to how much is needed, an absolute minimum is one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight. So drink up!
Getting the right nutrition is the foundation for starting the process of getting lean and toned, for developing that “swimmer’s build” or “gymnast’s body”. There is a maxim in fitness which says that you cannot out-train a bad diet. And it’s absolutely true. Every small change that you make will have a huge impact on how your body looks and feels. So start now.
Stay tuned for the best, most efficient exercise tips for moving toward your goals.
Greg Rothman, MS PT, is a fitness professional, writer and the owner of Empower Fitness in NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has twenty years of experience in the fitness and rehabilitation fields. He believes that absolutely anyone can have the body of their dreams once they understand how to eat and exercise in a way that supports their goals. It is his mission to Empower as many people as possible to do just that. His “Recession-Proof” Fitness Programs are an affordable way to find dramatic physical change over the course of 10 weeks. Greg is happy to hear from you if you have questions about any topic related to fitness or nutrition, and can be found at www.GetEmpoweredFitness.com.