Hype diets and un-healthy gimmicks are a multi-billion dollar industry! Most (purveyors of miss-information about fitness) promise quick fixes and easy solutions. Weight-Loss principals are easy enough, and there's no need to buy over-priced diet meals or an ab machine.
This article provides basic diet and nutrition principles honestly and openly - No hype, no lies, no drugs, and no strings!
When people say they want to lose weight, they are usually talking about lowering their body-fat percentage.
A 225lb man (or a 180lb woman) might be in terrific shape, or they might need to "drop a few pounds"; it depends on how much fat they are carrying around. Arnold Schwarzenegger weighed 242lbs when he won his first Mr. Olympia title, and no-one thought he looked out of shape.
Simply stated, the best way to "slim down", is to reduce fat and build muscle, and this article will show you the most effective way to do just that.
The easiest and most important tips are listed first
The first 4 items are critically important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle; they also happen to be the easiest to incorporate into your daily routine! As you go down the list, the tips become less critical, and more challenging. The last few tips are things an elite athlete would do to reach their maximum fitness potential.
Everyone should incorporate the 'Easy Tips' into your lifestyle. The more advanced tips are helpful, but you should assess your own fitness goals when deciding whether to follow them. At some point, you have to decide what's important to you, and give yourself a break about everything else.
Who cares if you have "love handles" or "a spare tire", as long as you're healthy, right?
Never skip breakfast!
Eating breakfast increases your energy level and helps you lose weight! IE: It raises your metabolism and ultimately helps you burn calories throughout the day.
Skipping breakfast causes your metabolism to slow down, especially if you're a person who gains weight easily! Your body essentially begins to protect itself against starvation by slowing down your metabolism. Then when you do eat, your body (still in starvation mode) will store as much energy as your body-type will allow in order to prepare for the next time you go without eating. This energy is stored as fat! This is a great defense mechanism if starvation is a possibility, but most of us don't have to worry about starvation; so this biological self-defense tool can be annoying, and it can get out of control!
If you eat about 3,000 calories a day, 500 to 1,000 of those calories should be eaten in the morning before you go to work!
Bottom line - If you skip breakfast, your next meal will be stored as Fat!
Never eat dessert or junk-food after dinner!
It's generally a bad idea to eat high-carb foods at night for two reasons:
Desserts and Junk food are almost 100% carbohydrates, and the body uses carbohydrates as energy. Un-used energy is stored around the belly and hips, especially the energy that we sleep on!
Another reason to avoid carbs at night is they can make it harder to get a good night's sleep. A great deal of repair and recovery is done while we are asleep. If our sleep is interrupted, we compromise our body's ability to recover from stress and exercise.
Eat a high-protein snack immediately after exercise!
Your body is starving for nutrition after a workout! If you're goal is to build muscle, this is the most important meal of the day. Your muscles can absorb more protein at this time than any other! More succinctly: If you don't eat within 45 minutes after lifting weights, you're almost wasting your time in the gym. And if you don't eat after a cardio workout, your body will metabolize muscle to get the energy it needs to recover. Replace the word "metabolize" with "cannibalize", and you get the idea!
As a side note: Increasing your muscle mass increases your metabolism, which burns fat at a higher rate! so everyone should include weight training in their overall health regiment.
Don't stuff yourself, ever!
Controlling your portions will shrink your stomach, making it easier to control your weight. There's no good reason to try and win an eating contest every time you get behind the dinner table. While you're reading this you might be thinking of at least a dozen reasons to over-eat, like:
"Eating is fun!", "I'm depressed",
"I just paid for an all-you-can-eat buffet and I'm going to get my money's worth!",
"food tastes good!"
"shut up and let me live my life!". "DON'T JUDGE ME!"
These are all valid reasons to eat till there's no tomorrow. But binge-eating has an affect on your body, even if you only do it occasionally.
A few years ago I was eating pizza with a runway model after a volleyball game. She told me she couldn't eat more than one slice of pizza without feeling stuffed. I assumed she was fishing for a compliment, so I ‘took the bait’ and said
"You can do it. You just need to practice!
If you practice stuffing yourself over and over, you'll stretch your stomach enough that you could eat a whole pizza!
It takes commitment, but I know you can do it!”.
Okay; so I didn't take the bait! Here's my point:
If you make a commitment to never eat till you're full, your stomach will shrink, and eating reasonable portions will get easier.
If you have a huge stomach, you won't feel full as quickly and you'll eat larger portions.
You're stomach can shrink naturally: It takes commitment, but I know you can do it!
Cheat once a week, or once every other week.
This isn't a critically important item, but it's fun!
Cheat meals are biologically helpful, especially if you're trying to lose a great deal of weight after years of bad eating habits. The body tends to normalize to your diet, so if you're eating regiment is too strict, your body will react to it and your progress will slow down. An occasional cheat-meal will shake up your eating routine and help with your progress. I won't pretend this makes sense, but it's true; and it works with dieting as well as exercise. Think of it this way: Many things become routine or boring after a while. When you become bored with critical tasks, you are less effective and less efficient. You have to shake things up every now and then to keep them interesting! Our bodies also have a way of settling into a routine.
Personally; I reserve my cheat meals for social occasions. I don't like explaining why I said "no" to cheese-cake at a Christmas party, so I don't!
Unless you're training for the Olympics, these simple objectives will go a long way to helping you reach your fitness goals. Combine these principles with healthy food choices, a reasonable exercise routine and moderate food portions, and you will definitely see results!
If you want to take things to the next level, or if you're not getting the results you hoped for, Part 2 of this article will share a few more disciplines you can add to your lifestyle.
More Advanced Tips:
Meals should start big and get smaller throughout the day.
If at all possible; breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day, with the highest carb content. Dinner should be the smallest meal with the highest protein content.
Don't eat carbs after 6:00 PM.
If you're planning to hit the sack around 10:00 or 10:30, you should stop eating carbs 4 to 5 hours prior to that - 5:30 or 6:00. It's important to go to bed with little to no carbs in your belly, as mentioned above.
When I was young, my wife and I could split a large bag of M&Ms then doze off to sleep with no problem, but that's not the case any more! If I eat junk-food before going to bed, it keeps me awake for hours; or I get to sleep then I'm wide awake two hours later. Also; the carbs I eat at night show up on my waistline within 24 hours! It seams that way at least.
Reduce your stress levels!!!!!
Studies have shown that muscles can't accept nutrition as well when the body is under stress. Long-term stress lowers the metabolism, reduces your muscle mass, and causes your body to store excess energy in the form of fat all over your belly, hips, thighs, etc..
One of the best ways I know to reduce stress is moderate to low-level exercise - biking, walking, elliptical machines, rowing, and yoga are examples of low-level exercise. I also find Meditation(2) helpful.
Your heart rate should remain below 120 to get a good stress relieving benefit from exercise. If your exercise routine pulls your heart-rate above 140, this can act as a stimulant. Intense cardio is great for your heart, but it doesn't relieve stress as much as a moderately-paced walk.
If you are a single mother, an over-worked executive, or an over-trained athlete, you should consider adding low-level exercise at the end of your routine and throughout the week. I see lots of body-builders walking on treadmills at 4mph several times a week. Their weight-lifting routines push the envelope of human capability, which causes extreme stress. They use the treadmill to reduce stress and help avoid over-training. Low-level exercise for 20 to 45 minutes is one of the best ways to reduce the negative effects of stress on your body.
Don't eat just before you go to bed
If you've read the previous tips, this should be obvious. However, I've talked with a number of people who work 2nd or 3rd shift who say this is one of the only times they can eat.
If you must eat just before hitting the sack, then eliminate all carbs from that meal: Protein and fat only. And keep the meal small. It's really not a good idea to sleep just after eating a full meal, so I suggest you avoid doing it.
Men; have you ever seen a skinny guy with a big gut? Try this diet for a couple years and you will!
- Skip breakfast (and maybe even lunch).
- Eat a high-carb meal just before you go to bed.
You don't even need to eat very much; the timing of your meals will do all the work for you!
If you've incorporated these suggestions into your lifestyle, you should see great results. If you don't see progress, then you're probably cheating! or you're already in great shape. If you'd like to see how far you can go with your physical abilities, here are some more advanced tips to help you maximize your body's potential to create muscle and reduce fat!
If you're interested in minimizing your body-fat percentage and maximizing your muscle mass without taking drugs (and who isn't?), these final dieting tips will help you reach your full potential!
Eat 5 to 9 Meals a day!
Elite athletes usually eat every 2 to 3 hours. If you want an athletic physique, you should do the same. The goal is to provide as much energy (carbs) and building materials (protein) as your muscles can absorb without getting too much at a time. Multiple studies have shown a couple important things about how our bodies react to the timing and portion size of our meals:
- Muscles can only absorb about 15 to 30 grams of protein in a 2 hour period. Everything else is converted to Nitrogen and expelled thru the kidneys, which is not good!
- If you go more than 3 1/2 hours without eating, your body will begin to defend itself against starvation. That means different things for different body types, but it has negative effects on your physical conditioning no matter who you are.
Certainly eat immediately after a workout, but you can also eat again an hour later!
Again; it's important to eat when your body will accept the nutrition rather than store it or expel it. Since your body is in recovery mode after a workout, you have an opportunity to slip in another meal after about an hour! The goal here, of course, is to maximize your body's ability to grow muscle.
Keep a small protein snack by your bed
This suggestion is last on the list for a reason. It is helpful, but not as critical as anything else listed above. If you happen to wake up in the middle of the night, wouldn't hurt to take a couple bites of a high-protein, low-carb snack. Nothing big; just 5 to 10 grams of protein.
I know people who set their alarm and wake-up to get some protein in their system at night. It's true that lot's of muscle repair (therefore muscle building) happens while we are asleep. But it's also true that un-interrupted sleep is critically helpful for exercise recovery and muscle repair. Don't interrupt your sleep patterns, but if you happen to wake up, it wouldn't hurt to eat a small protein snack!
This article only scratches the surface regarding nutrition and diet, but if you follow these guidelines, your success is virtually guaranteed. Please contact us with specific questions or comments.
I didn't talk about exercise because I wanted to focus on the most critically important aspects of physical conditioning - Diet!
Exercise is somewhat important, but it pales in comparison to the importance of a healthy diet.
(The importance of a good diet) is missed by a majority of high-school and amateur athletes who often turn to drugs after becoming frustrated with their progress.
I can't illustrate this point better than an elite power-lifter I met at Power-Shack in Westerville, Ohio. I was intrigued by the lack of time he spent working out compared to the amount of time he spent joking around with friends, so I asked him about it. I wish I could remember his name, but to make the point about diet being of utmost importance, he said
"I work out for about 30 minutes, then I like to sit back and watch everybody else over-train".
Get your diet under control and do a reasonable amount of exercise. You'll be very happy with the results!
(1)I'm not sure of the origins this saying, but there's a similar quote from Abraham Lincoln that is just as true:
When Lincoln was President of the U.S., he was advised to include a certain man in his cabinet. When he refused, Lincoln was asked why he would not accept the man. "I don't like his face," the President replied. "But the poor man isn't responsible for his face," responded his advocate. "Every man over forty is responsible for his face," said Lincoln.
Lincoln On Leadership
Don T. Phillips, Author
Copyright 1992 by Donald T. Phillips II
(2) I'm not advocating transcendental meditation. Rather; I'm using the term 'Meditation' the way it's used in The Bible: Biblical meditation involves finding a truth written in scripture, and then thinking or praying about that verse whenever you have time, or when you find yourself doing mundane tasks. Biblical meditation can be done in a lotus position, but it can also be done while you are driving, if you keep your eyes open!
It would be impossible to list all the experts and books that helped me reach my own fitness goals.
Here are a few people I admire for their accomplishments, their communication skills, and their commitment to share their knowledge openly and honestly:
Jack La Lanne
Dr. David T. Ryan