It’s time to spring clean your diet
Easter’s come and gone and you might be feeling a bit guilty about your over-indulgences. You might feel like you’re turning into an egg yourself, or regretting all the lovely food Easter brings to the table, not to mention the alcohol. If this is you, it’s time for a dietary spring clean. I know, I know…you’ve heard this all before and it always sounds like mission impossible. You feel bad, so the last thing you need is someone telling you you should become a healthy, nutritional expert, fitness guru and turn into a Greek goddess overnight. I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but it hit me on Easter weekend, Good Friday actually, that I needed to overhaul my eating habits and cut out the crap. If I’m honest, I’d known for a while that bad habits had slipped in, but I kept ignoring it. But the thing about the truth is, you can’t ignore it forever. Martha Beck said that the truth always stands. It does. When everything else falls away, the truth is the one thing you can’t hide from. I actually think it shouts too. Very loudly until you have to listen, because you can’t hear anything else. “For the love of God, no more chocolate. If you want to look good in that bikini, stop eating the damn biscuits. If you want to feel better, CUT THE CRAP!” On Good Friday, I listened. I decided to take myself in hand and spring clean my eating habits.
So, I thought about it and reminded myself of the important things good nutrition is based on and this is what I came up with
Eat the right nutrients to feel great and energised
Watch your portion sizes to avoid eating too much
Work out your body type to make sure you’re eating the right food types for you
Eat the right Nutrients
When I started investigating, I discovered that most people suffer certain deficiencies:
Water (me, definitely)
Vitamins and minerals, namely vitamins D&E, zinc, iodine, calcium
Protein (particularly women, apparently)
Essential fatty acids (95% of people are deficient in these it seems
So, then, the place to start to feel better, less tired, more energised, and to build more muscle and lose fat is to
Eat more protein rich foods
Drink more hydrating fluids
Supplement my diet with essential fats, such as fish or algae oil
Eat foods rich in the vitamins and minerals we all seem to be deficient in
Eat more protein
So, protein is a big requirement, especially if you work out. It helps you build muscle mass and strength and is essential for repairing muscle damage. If you do moderate exercise, like all you lovely 24 fit clients out there, you need about half a gram of protein for every pound you weigh. So, someone who weighs 120lb needs about 60g of protein a day. If you’re a number cruncher, a skinless chicken breast contains 53g of protein, a 300g tub of cottage cheese about 27g of protein, a 160g tin of tuna about 39g of protein and an egg or a handful of almonds about 6g. But, you don’t really need to stress about the maths. To make it simple just make sure you eat lots of lean chicken and fish, snack on nuts and have eggs for breakfast a few times a week. If you like cottage cheese, you could try it on oatcakes or add greek yogurt (no added sugar) to a bowl of fruit. Yummy.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m the world’s worst at drinking enough water. I just find it so, well, boring, so I’m definitely going to check out some of these recommendations. It’s hard to beat a plain old glass of water when you need to get hydrated, but if you’re like me and H2O doesn’t really float your boat, try these alternatives. And by the way, I’m talking about hydrating yourself as a matter of course, not just when you’re exercising. I’m the world’s worst, so this is for me!
Aloe Water – the superfood of drinks. It is packed with antioxidants, has regenerative properties, so it stimulates cell growth, and it is a great detox for the gut
Beet Juice – these ready-made drinks can be sugar traps, but the good stuff (potassium, B Vitamins, magnesium and iron) make them worthy contendersas an alternative
Coconut Water – from the coconut if possible, because pre-packed it has too much sugar. Au naturel, it’s full of potassium and low in sodium. (A little sodium helps your body absorb and retain the water, rather than overloading the kidneys and having to rush to the loo every five minutes)
Fruit infused Water – there are loads on the market, just choose one with minimum sugar, or better still, make your own at home
Maple Water – Never heard of it? Me neither, but I’m going to look out for it. It’s naturally hydrating, with a hint of maple and bursting with nutrients
Of course, good old tap water is the best way to stay hydrated, but whatever you choose to drink, just make sure you drink enough. Current health guidelines suggest about 2 litres a day, that’s eight, eight ounce glasses. Just remember the 8×8 rule.
Get your essential fats
The health benefits of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are well-documented: reduced heart disease and stroke, relief from ulcerative colitis, menstrual pain and joint pain, decreased risk of breast cancer to name a few. So what do you need to add to your diet to make sure you’re getting enough?
The RDA (recommended daily amount) is 1.1g and 1.6g for women and men respectively
To get it naturally, look out for
ground flaxseed (just one tablespoon a day on cereal or in yogurt or smoothie is all you need)
The RDA is about double that of Omega 3
Make sure you eat plenty of
Vitamins and minerals
So, guys, apparently we are deficient in iodine, calcium, zinc, Vitamins D&E.
Iodine is found primarily in seaweed. Now I know seaweed doesn’t feature highly on most people’s shopping lists and so it’s not surprising we are deficient in it, but here in the UK, it’s actually relatively easy to get the right amount of iodine because it has long been added to the diets of dairy cattle and poultry. Consequently, dairy products, grain products and eggs are a good source.
Calcium, as we all know, is found in milk, cheese and other dairy products. Less obvious sources are broccoli, cabbage and okra, soya beans, tofu, nuts and fish like sardines and pilchards, where you eat the bones
Zinc is plentiful in oysters, beef, spinach, pumpkin seeds and poultry
Vitamin D is tricky, because there are few natural sources for it, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel and fish liver oils being the only ones (you see your grandma was right all along)
Vitamin E is basically found only in plant seed oils. Just 1 tablespoon of wheatgerm oil provides 100% of your daily requirement
So, the bottom line is to start with the right nutrients. Get that right and you should already start to feel better, because you’re giving your body what it needs to function properly. Eat lots of healthy foods like lean chicken, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, some dairy, eggs and lots of leafy vegetables and you won’t go far wrong. The first stage of you dietary spring clean is done!
Watch portion sizes
How many of you count calories when trying to lose weight? A lot, I imagine. I know I’ve done that so many times in the past and it actually works too. Eat less calories than you burn off and you will lose weight. And you’re in good company too. This way of losing weight is called the energy balance theory and Harvard Medical School and the Institute of Medicine support it. I don’t know about you, but I find counting every calorie so boring and scanning every packet in the supermarket takes so long it turn a trip to Sainsburys into a marathon. And when you want to eat out.. help!! Now what? When you don’t know the calorific value of what’s on your plate. So, I decided it would be easier to eat less of everything than worry so much about what I’m eating. I discovered that there is a really easy way of measuring how much of each food group you should eat to keep the fat off, and also that different body types should eat different amounts of each food group too, but more on that in a bit. Basically, God gave you hands for this very job and here’s what I found:
Each meal should consist of the following proportions
1 flat palm of protein dense food
1 fist of vegetables
1 cupped palm of carbohydrate dense food
1 thumb of fat dense food
Men can simply double it and this is your starting point. If you want to lose weight, simply scale down the protein, fat and carbs. I think this is going to be a little tricky to get used to because I think my ratio of protein, carbs and fat is way off, but I’m going to try it and see
From what I read, for most people, eating the right things and watching portion size should be enough to lose weight and start feeling better, but if it isn’t and you still don’t get the right results, you should try eating for your body type
Eat for your body type
Experts agree that there are basically three body types, based on frame and body composition: ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. Now these might sound like some kind of weird Latin insect name and scarily scientific, but it’s actually super easy. Here are those body types
All you need to do is decide which body type you are and adjust your ratio of protein, carbs and fats accordingly to have the biggest impact on fat loss and muscle mass, but before we go any further, let’s just have a quick chat about carbs
Carbohydrates are sugar molecules (one or more). They are broken down by the body into glucose and used as fuel for energy. This is what you need to carry out your daily tasks effectively and to get through your workouts.
Simple carbohydrates are those of one or two sugar molecules and they are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Examples are glucose, galactose and lactose in milk and fructose in fruit
Complex carbohydrates are those made up of lots and lots of sugar molecules and it takes the body a lot longer to break them down. Examples are potatoes, grains and vegetables
As carbs are broken down they increase the glucose (sugar) in the blood. This is your blood sugar level and it activates the hormone insulin to suck the sugar out of the blood and into the muscles and liver. The muscles and liver can only store so much sugar and once full, any excess is stored as fat. The best carbs are those that are absorbed slowly into the blood because sudden sugar spikes negatively affect your hunger, fat loss and can lead to diabetes. So the rule is, stick to whole, natural, unprocessed carbs and avoid processed carbs like cakes, biscuits and white bread. But you don’t need me to tell you that!
If this is you, you have a fast metabolism and your engine speed is high. Ectomorphs are never still, but are always fidgeting and pacing around. You are lucky that you can eat pretty much anything and not put on weight, but you struggle to build muscle too, so you might think you’re a bit too skinny. If you want to build muscle, you guys need to concentrate on high calorie dense foods like nuts and dried fruit, meat and fish, and more carbs. You probably need to eat more often than three times a day, supplementing your three main meals with three calorie dense snacks. Your body type responds to more carbs and protein and less fat so a plate might consist of
1 flat palm of protein
1 fist of vegetables
2 cupped palms of carbs
½ thumb of fats
You would benefit from a pre- and post-workout protein shake. Try adding fruit, berries, peanut butter, honey and yogurt to add to the nutritional value and increase the calories
If you are a mesomorph, you lose and gain weight easily and have no trouble building muscle. You are athletic, with well-defined muscles, but you still need to eat healthily to be at your best. For mesomorphs the key is balance. You can gain weight easily so you need to watch your calorie intake. Stick to whole, unprocessed foods, which are high in nutrients and low in fat and sugar. Focus on non-starchy vegetables, fresh fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy products and nuts and seeds. A balanced fitness regime that includes cardio and resistance training is perfect for you.
Your plate ratio would mirror the one given above as it is the most balanced
1 flat palm of protein
1 fist of vegetables
1 cupped palm of carbohydrates
1 thumb of fat
I think I may be an endomorph or somewhere between mesomorph and endomorph, because of course most people don’t fit exactly into one category. Endomorphs tend to be bigger boned and have a more sluggish metabolism. If this is you, you have a higher body and fat mass than other body types. You guys are sensitive to the slightest over indulgence and your body is super good at storing carbohydrates as fat rather than converting them to energy. The good news is that the slightest reduction in carb intake is going to massively help you reduce body fat. So, watch those chocolate bars. Just one a day adds up to 2.6g of fat gain a month!
If you want to lose weight, get fit and feel great, the ratio of what you eat is really important. Make sure you eat a diet higher in fat and protein and lower in carbs
1 palm protein
1 fist vegetables
½ cupped handful of carbs
2 thumbs fat
Make sure that the carbs you eat are complex, that is vegetables, whole grains and high fibre starches such as quinoa. Stay away from white rice, bread and pasta and also cakes, cereals and cookies. Fruit is great but is high in sugar so you should eat more vegetables, for example five vegetables for every two pieces of fruit. Limit eating your carbs to the two hour window before and after exercise when your body needs them most, for energy and to help your body repair and recover from its workout
So, this is where I’m at my friends. I am lucky that I don’t have a lot of weight to lose and that I basically eat healthily, but I am as guilty of adding too much cheese to the jacket potato and eating a bit too much chocolate as the next person. I have started to rein myself back in and I’m starting to address the bad habits that have slipped back into my diet. I hope that by sharing this with you, you will start to think about spring cleaning your food cupboard too and that the better weather and the onset of summer will leave you feeling motivated and full of energy