DIY Healthy Diet

 

The-Problems-With-Low-Calorie-Diets-Article

Many of us find ourselves with more than ideal amounts of body fat. Listening to a Physique Science Radio podcast the other day, Layne Norton said something that resounded with me; talking about the national obesity problem he stated that, contrary to what one may think, we are actually really good at losing weight. Many obese or overweight people lose a significant amount of weight at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, statistics show that over 90% will gain it back within 3 years. What’s the problem?

Sustainability

Can you see yourself eating this way in 5 years?

The best diet is the one you can stick to [forever].

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If you’ve had success (weight loss) on diet xyz but gained the weight back, that diet didn’t work. It wasn’t sustainable.

This is why I’m a fan of the “moderation” approach, also called flexible dieting or if it fits your macros (IIFYM). No food is off limits and neither is the occasional alcoholic beverage. In my experience, restricting or excluding foods from a diet tends to increase cravings for them and the chances of binging on them at some point in the future.

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Life is too short to exclude delicious foods. Sometimes, I want to enjoy a homemade spaghetti dinner with my family, a glass of wine with a fancy dinner, or a sundae with more whipped cream than ice cream. More so, I definitely do not want to feel guilty.

In this article I’m going to outline the steps I use with myself and clients to change eating habits for the better.

Steps to a Sustainable Diet

Take your time with these tasks. Spend at least one week focusing on each step, and don’t be afraid to hang out on one level for a month, a couple months, or a few years.

Step 1: Track Food Intake

Record food amounts as accurately as you can, using measuring cups or a food scale when available. Tracking food, while tedious, gets you acquainted with the amount of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) associated with certain foods as well as the average amount of macronutrients and calories you consume on a day to day basis.

Tips:

  • Use a phone app such as MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+
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  • Don’t judge yourself for what or how much you eat. You are an amazing, awesome person–that has nothing to do with what or how much food you eat! Approach this like a scientist: observe your food habits with objectivity and without emotion. There are no “right” or “wrong” foods or amounts.
  • Consider purchasing a food scale that measures food in grams and ounces

Step 2: Track Food Intake + Meet Protein Goal

Continue tracking food. In addition to this, gradually increase your protein on a daily basis up to your target amount.

Protein is one of three macronutrients in food (carbohydrates and fats are the other two). Protein is what muscles are made of, and consuming protein helps fuel, build, and repair muscle during and after workouts.  Protein increases satiety, and it is also very difficult for the body to store protein as fat.

To calculate target protein, multiply current body weight in pounds by 0.8 to 1.0 (0.8 if not very active, 1.0 if you enjoy protein or workout regularly) and the product is the number of grams of protein you should eat in a day. For example, for a person who weighs 150 pounds, the daily protein goal is 120 grams if he or she does not workout regularly and 150grams if he or she does.

Protein sources (not limited to): chicken, tilapia, tuna, salmon, really any fish, eggs, egg whites, jerky, turkey, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whey.

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Tips:

  • Center each meal around a protein source
  • Aim to consume 20-40 grams of protein at a time
  • Protein shakes or smoothies are a convenient way to get more protein
  • Make a list of protein sources you like to eat and keep your pantry stocked!

Step 3: Energy Balance and Macronutrients
Track Food +Meet Protein Goal + Meet Calorie Goal

Continue tracking your food and meeting your protein goal. Additionally, hit a daily Calorie goal. Keep reading to learn how to calculate yours.

Eric-Helms-Muscle-Strength-Nutrition-Pyramid

The foundation of the “nutrition pyramid” is energy balance. Energy refers to Calories. The goal is balancing the amount of Calories one expends during the day with the amount of Calories consumed or slightly altering them to gain or lose weight.

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To find a starting point for your daily Calories, multiply your current body weight by 13, 14, or 15, depending on your level of daily activity (low activity or sedentary job=13, high activity or active job=15). If your goal is to lose some weight, multiply by 13.

Example: 150lb X 13 = 1,950 Calories

Protein has 4 Calories (energy units) per gram, so if a 150 pound individual is eating 150 grams of protein, he or she is consuming 600 Calories of energy. Subtracting this amount from the daily Calorie goal: 1,950-600 = 1350 Calories remaining to be “spent” on the other macronutrients, carbohydrates and fats.

Step 4: Micronutrients
1 Whole Food Meal Each Day + 1 Serving of Veggies

In addition to performing the previous 3 steps’ tasks, incorporate one meal comprised of whole food ingredients each day and one serving of veggies. For bonus points, have your serving of veggies with your whole foods meal.

Whole foods: foods that contain only 1 ingredient and haven’t been processed by mankind in any way.

  • Salmon, asparagus, and a baked red potato with a little butter (real butter)
  • Eggs/egg whites, walnuts, green chard, and coffee with coconut oil
  • Salad with canned tuna, sunflower seeds, and vinaigrette

Vegetables: spinach, kale, asparagus, peas, corn, chard, squash, zucchini, broccoli, radishes, and more. Boil, roast, steam, or sauté them and season with salt, pepper, garlic, etc.

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Work up to eating a couple servings of veggies each day (most days) and consuming mostly whole foods with a few “fun” foods here and there.


Consistency, not perfection, in each of these steps will help improve your dietary habits. Keep things simple, don’t over think the minutiae, and enjoy foods you like!

For more reading, check out Sohee Lee’s Website or her How to Count Macros e-book.

What is your sustainable diet like?

Let me know if you give this a shot!

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Supplement Showcase: BCAAs

What are amino acids? What are branched-chain amino acids? What do these have to do with my workouts, and why would I consider spending money on them?

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules, linked together in chains of thousands of combinations. They wind and loop to make various configurations of proteins, and these are the worker bees of our bodies, the molecules that “do” everything. Conventionally, shorter chains of amino acids are called peptides and longer chains are called polypeptides or proteins.
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Many amino acids exists, but there are 20 standard (or canonical) amino acids encoded by the genetic code (DNA) of our body. How does DNA code for amino acids?

Continue reading “Supplement Showcase: BCAAs”

Fit Food For Thought

I’ve been doing well so far with my resolution to track food intake daily.  My Macros+ is the tracking app I’ve been using because it allows me to input my macro goals, and it shows my accumulations throughout the day. It also has a barcode scanning function to search for foods and populate the nutrition information that has saved me so much time.  I’m also working on getting my protein intake up to 158g per day (which is my current body weight, as of Monday, so I’m eating 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight)

I’ll be real for a second here, tracking food daily is hard for me. It may not seem like a difficult task to many, just logging food eaten, but I’ve struggled with disordered eating and emotional eating through my life, and I subconsciously place a lot of emotional weight around my dietary habits. Holding myself accountable and pre-measuring the foods I eat is challenging. There is a strange association in my mind between sitting on the couch mindlessly eating a bag of pita chips and relaxation or stress relief–which, rationally, I know to be uncorrelated. Today was tough because I’m a little overwhelmed with life at the moment and my normal response to stress is to mindlessly eat.

I’ve been listening to the Physique Science Radio Podcasts by Sohee Lee and Layne Norton, episode 17 to be specific. Their guest on this episode, Steve Ledbetter, a fitness psychologist, says one should view things like scale weight and food logs with as much emotion as one would count the number of white cars in a parking lot. This is definitely something I’m aspiring toward in my pursuits this year. I’m addressing my sources of stress rather than escaping from them with food and constantly reminding myself that the number on the scale is just a number and has nothing to do with my happiness or the quality of person I am.

I’m going to share a couple of my meals from this week (meals I remembered to take a picture of). You’ll notice they are not perfectly “clean” or made of only “good” foods, but they are good enough. I hope these help give you all some ideas of protein-centered meals you might like to include in your diet.

Meal 1 (Left): a handful of Spinach, grape tomatoes, a can of tuna, and half an avocado seasoned with salt and pepper (27g Protein)

Meal 2 (Center): 4 ounces lean ground turkey, refried beans, and 1 ounce of cheese (33g Protein)

Meal 3: (Right): a cup of plain greek yogurt (taste-wise, I prefer the 2% over the nonfat) and half a cup of trail mix consisting of almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries (25g Protein)

Protein is King

  Protein

  • Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acid. To make proteins, they are joined in arrangements of a few dozen to hundreds called polypeptides. Nonessential amino acids are made (synthesized) by the human body and essential amino acids are not made by the body but must be obtained through the diet
    • Essential Amino Acids: Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine, Histidine*
    • Non-Essential Amino Acids: Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Cysteine, Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine, Tyrosine
  • Protein quality: How well a protein supplies amino acids proportionate to the body’s needs. High quality proteins supply the body with all 9 essential amino acids. Complementary proteins are lower-quality proteins that can, in combination over the course of the day, supply all 9 essential amino acids.
    • High quality: proteins of animal origin including eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products
    • Complementary Proteins: generally, beans/legumes plus grains for example, beans and rice, corn and beans, corn tortillas and refried beans, and peanut butter and bread
  • 1 gram of protein contains 4 kilocalories (Calories)

Functions

  • Proteins are important structural molecules, enzymes, and antibodies in the body
  • They are essential for muscle repair, muscular hypertrophy (growth), catalyzing biochemical reactions, DNA repair, and so much more
  • Consuming protein helps to maintain muscle mass, especially while at a caloric deficit (dieting).

Recommendations

  • Recommended protein for sedentary, non-active adults: 0.36g/pound of body weight per day. A 150lb person should consume at least 54g of protein daily
  • My recommendation of daily protein intake for an active individual is 1.0g/pound of body weight or up to 1.5g/pound if dieting. A 150lb person should consume around 150g of protein, with at least 65% of the protein coming from high-quality sources
  • The best way to meet protein recommendations: protein should be divided equally across 4-5 meals daily separated by 4-6 hours each. Each meal should contain30-45g of protein and 3-4g of leucine. Consumption of a leucine or amino acid supplement in between meals is recommended as well.
    • this strategy maximizes muscle protein synthesis and anabolism (i.e. muscle growth and recovery)
    • If this strategy doesn’t work for your life, modifying it to meet individual needs is ok! Consistency is what is most important.

References

Lee, Sohee. How to Count Macros Ebook 2. Sohee Lee 2015

Baechle, T.R., Earle, R.W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition. NSCA 2008.