1. Eat smaller amounts more often. In order to control your appetite, regulate your blood sugar to stay energized and focused, and build lean mass (i.e. muscle) you HAVE to eat small meals or snacks approximately every 3 hours. Eat breakfast within thirty minutes of waking up, and then eat a snack or small meal every 3 hours from that point. Let’s use the analogy of building a fire. Breakfast is starting the “metabolic fire” (DON’T EVER SKIP BREAKFAST), and then eating every 3 hours is like throwing a log on the fire to keep the metabolism going. The scientific name for this is called the “thermogenic effect of food”, which actually accounts for approximately 10% of the total amount of calories your body burns in a day.
2. Watch portion sizes. This is the best way to avoid overeating. By eating smaller amounts, your body is better able to digest all of the nutrients from food. A good rule of thumb is a piece of meat (preferably lean meat – i.e. chicken, fish, or turkey) is 3 ounces – about the size of a deck of cards. A serving of starch is 1/2 cup, which is the size of the palm of your hand – or an ice-cream scoop.
3. Watch the type of carbs you eat. Carbohydrates are necessary in your diet, but not all carbs are created equal. Your diet should consist primarily of complex carbohydrates (ex: oatmeal, brown rice) instead of simple carbohydrates (i.e. most pastries, sweets, etc.) Use the glycemic index as a tool to help you make wise choices in carbohydrates. Eating foods lower on the glycemic index will keep your blood sugar from peaking and then dropping.
4. Make sure you eat enough protein. Protein is critical for muscle building and repair. However, you need to eat enough and not too much. Your body needs enough protein to repair its tissues and promote healthy cell growth. However, if you eat too much without enough carbohydrates, then your body will use the protein for energy (which is the primary job of carbohdrates… to supply energy) instead of muscle repair. Roughly speaking, you should try to eat .6 to .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, people who exercise regularly need more protein than people who don’t.
5. Eat the good fats. Years ago, “fat-free” was the way to go with dieting. However, we have since learned that eating the right kinds of fat is optimal for good health. Fats release energy slowly, keep you full longer, lower the glycemic response of other foods, and they have some powerful antioxidants and nutrients to repair joints, organs, skin, and hair. The best kind of fats are olive oil, flax, and fish oil. You should eat unsaturated fats, and avoid saturated and trans-fats – as these are the ones that raise cholesterol levels and are bad for your heart.
6. Eat the right combination of foods. As a rule of thumb, when you sit down to eat a meal, think of 1-2-3. You should have 1 part fat, 2 parts protein, and 3 parts carbohydrates with each meal. Of course the time of day and your activity level will also impact your choice of foods. Remember that carbs are energy food, and protein is tissue-repair food. So, in the morning to break the fast (i.e. breakfast) – you need energy food. This is a good time for multigrain bread, cereal, or oatmeal with some protein like skim milk, egg whites, turkey bacon, or something like that. At night before bed, that’s usually a good time to switch to eating a little more protein and a little less carbohydrate. I like to eat plain yogurt with stevia sweetener as my before bed-time snack.
7. Use supplements. It is virtually impossible to get all of the nutrients your body needs in a day. It’s even harder when you work out regularly. This is because whenever our bodies endure stress – whether physical, emotional, or environmental – our bodies are damaged on the cellular level. The response is that we will have a heightened amount of free radical damage to the cells. If these free radicals are not neutralized by antioxidants, then the immune system will be compromised leading to frequent illnesses and perhaps disease. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to take quality supplements. Personally, I take a whole foods supplement that consists of 17 different fruits and vegetables, because it’s loaded with antioxidants. I also take a protein supplement in the form of a shake after my workout. It’s important to consume a protein from a quality source soon after working out to replenish your amino acids; it’s also important to eat a complex carbohydrate after working out to replenish glycogen stores. So, planning is key when it comes to post-workout recovery meals and snacks.
There you have it. When you incorporate these 7 keys into your daily eating, you will see and feel remarkable results if you do this consistently over time. Several of my clients have told me that they feel more clear-minded and alert when they eat like this. Your cravings for the wrong kinds of foods will also diminish. You don’t have to make grand sweeping changes all at once, but seek to incorporate these into your routine little by little until you find a system that works for you! Let me know how you’re doing with it! I’d love to hear from you.