Eating for fitness, weight loss and ENERGY is not just about counting calories, eliminating carbs, living on lettuce and working out constantly…and thank God for that!
If you’ve tried a zillion diets, read countless books, semi-starved yourself, bought the gym membership and even tried the Thigh Master at one point, yet are still not happy with your body and your weight, then this article is for you!
There’s SO much information out there on health and fitness and most of it is quite confusing, as well as conflicting. So I thought I’d drop a little Truth Bomb on you of what I’ve found to work for me and what has helped me overcome years of plaguing physical and mental health challenges and helped me completely change my body shape and lose the extra 20 pounds of weight I was carrying and keep it off for over 25 years!
I’m sure you know that eating right and working out has to be a part of the picture for a healthy life. My goal is to teach you about YOU and how your body, food and working out are interrelated what is not only optimal, but both reasonable and realistic to EXPECT of how you can look and feel. You will learn “signs” your body is giving you of how you are doing and why you’re getting either what you want or what you don’t want and how to course correct. Then you will know how to eat for energy and fitness so you can get the most out of your workouts, stop unknowingly sabotaging yourself and feel unstoppable…at any age!
The key to successful weight loss, keeping it off and staying fit and healthy FOREVER begins with having a basic and accurate understanding about how different foods work in your body and how exercise can affect that and visa versa. So let’s get started:
1. Understanding YOU: The Principle of Biochemical Individuality
The first place we have to begin is for you to understand that for you to be to healthy and fit requires that you first and foremost understand your unique physical and emotional needs. Not someone else’s. YOURS. What works for your husband or sister or someone in another part of the world might not work for you and that doesn’t make anyone “wrong”, it just can underscore how we are all unique with varying needs. Just as no two snowflakes are the same, there are no two humans that are the same (not even identical twins!) and therefore you must become an expert in yourself and YOUR body as well as learning how to interpret it’s unique signals and needs which are communicated as “symptoms” and “results” (like high cholesterol, excess belly fat, poor sleep, inability to focus etc.). Here are some of the various relevant factors that influence our unique and changing needs:
Relevant Factors that Affect Individual Needs
- Personal Goal (Ex: weight loss, athletic performance, remaining functionally independent, aesthetic goals, hormonal balance, healing from injury: Each will have very different dietary and exercise requirements and protocols so you must be clear on what your personal priority goals are at any period of time – this can and does change!)
- Activity Level
- Previous diet history
- Physical Limitations
- Gut health
- Time Restrictions
- Lack of Motivation
- Sleep Quality and Quantity
All of these factors that will determine your ideal diet and exercise protocol and can explain why, for example, that some people can eat more carbohydrates than others or why some people tend to put on muscle more easily. They are also why the world of nutrition, diets and working out can be so confusing and complicated because in truth, no two people have all the same factors and they must be taken into account for success.
So how do we do that?
Be a Specialist on YOU!
After acknowledging that you are unique, the next step is to Be a Specialist on You. This means you have to learn how to associate how your feelings (moods, thoughts), your energy level (tired, unmotivated, anxious, hyper) and your physical body results (your weight, muscle tone, inflammation, recovery from injury/exercise) and your what you’re doing. Our symptoms and results are our body’s way of communicating with us on if we’re getting it right…or not.
All too often we don’t relate these things to our eating and exercise habits – but if you want to be fit forever you should!
For example, if you eat a turkey sandwich for lunch and 40 minutes later your bloated, spacey and feel hungry again particularly for something sweet then that’s all huge clue from your body that something about that meal didn’t work for you.
Or if you’re running 5 days a week and gaining weight and not sleeping well then those can be signals that your body and hormonal system are stressed and you need to adjust your program – and this can be in spite of the fact that you burned 250 calories on your Fitbit! Here’s what I need you to understand:
Weight gain, hair loss and poor sleep are examples of two very common ways the body communicates that something is “wrong” even though you might be doing or eating something “healthy”.
Feeling energized, refreshed, strong, light and motivated are signs your getting it right and anything else is showing you something is off track despite what you’ve been told, believe, read or think.
How to Be Your Own Detective So You “Get It Right”
Here are my 2 tips to become a specialist on YOU:
- 1st: Start paying attention to how you feel after you workout and eat and in general. This is your body’s communication system.
- 2nd: Learn how to interpret what the communication means by connecting the dots between your choices, what you’re doing, eating, etc and what you’re getting. (Like my above turkey sandwich example)
2. Understanding FOOD and Signs You’re Getting It Right
The next step is to understand if your diet is working for you by understanding a little bit about food. Again, this requires understanding how your body communicates to you with regard to your choices. Your goal after eating is:
- To feel ENERGIZED
- Not craving anything
- Not hungry again for 4-5 hours or so after eating
- Able to focus and think clearly
- Not be bloated, have gas, indigestion, constipation, rashes, diarrhea, burping or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Able to handle stress without losing your marbles.
Anything short of that is means something was off such as:
Common Symptoms of Too Many Carbs
- Spacey feeling
- Hyper, wound up, can’t focus, jumpy mind
- Inflammation in the body
- Mood swings
- Not satisfied after eating
- Tired but wired
- Energy dips
- High blood pressure
- Excess body fat
- Fatty liver
- High cholesterol
- Alzheimer’s Disease (known as Type 3 Diabetes)
Common Symptoms of Too Much Fat or Protein
- Dull mood
- Mentally sluggish
- Crave pick-me-ups (coffee, stimulants)
- Heavy feeling especially in gut
- Full but still “hungry”
3. Understanding What To Eat
Food can be reduced down to marcronutrients and micronutrients. Accurately determining the amount, type, quality and quantity of macros and micros is the key to unlocking your personal fitness diet program.
Protein is needed to maintain lean tissue so you stay strong/independent, it keeps metabolic rate high and helps balance hormones. here are 22 essential amino acids that must be consumed from your food choices. In general, most people need an average of about .7-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight (which is roughly about 50-75 grams) but please remember, too little is not good but too much is not good either as it can convert to excess nitrogen and body fat! Good sources include grass-fed meats, poultry, pasture-raised eggs, collagen, bone broth and organ meats.
Please don’t fear fat! I will admit, back in the 80’s I did as I scarfed down copious amounts of bagels and Snackwells, but we know better now! Fat is what keeps you full and feeling satisfied after eating (hint: if you don’t feel that way guess what you might want to increase?) and keeps cravings and mood swings at bay. In addition, fat is necessary for proper brain function, decreasing inflammation, maintaining mood, memory, hormones, insulation, to carry fat-soluble vitamins and to make nerve and heart cells (saturated fat in particular is needed for the last two!).
Consuming high quality fat is essential for vibrant health but it must be from the right source. Not all fat is created the same and hence will have very different affects on the body. There’s a difference between fat from vegetable oils and salad dressing (which are highly processed and usually from a seed oil like Canola which is high in the inflammatory Omega 6’s) and fat from olive oil which is rich in monounsaturated Omega 9’s and is anti-inflammatory. So choose wisely and stay away from man-made fats and vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, corn, Canola, soy and processed foods, snack foods and any “fake” foods like margarine and creamers.
Good sources of healthy fats include: grass-fed meats, poultry, pasture-raised whole eggs, extra virgin olive oil, raw, organic coconut butter, MCT oil, grass-fed butter and Ghee and small amount of raw, organic nuts. Cheese can be a good source as long as you are not dairy-sensitive and have no digestive problems (or acne, rashes, inflammation, etc) but use the list of symptoms above to gauge.
Carbohydrates are simple sugars that are linked together either in short chains, which are called “simple” carbs like pasta, cookies, fruit or long chains which are called “complex” carbs like sprouted whole grains and starchy veggies. Unlike protein and fat, there is no physiological, dietary requirement for carbohydrates. Yup, you heard that right: none. This makes the inclusion of carbohydrates in your diet a Wild Card. We each have our own unique “tolerance” to carbs -with some people having more leeway than others and this will affect how much we can consume without incurring any unwanted side effects such as cardiovascular problems, high cholesterol, high serum triglycerides, excess body fat, inflammation and excessive cravings and addictions.
Please note that to your blood, ALL carbohydrate sources are the same because they all break down to the same end product, glucose. This doesn’t necessarily make carbs “bad’ but the trick to eating them and staying fit and trim is to know your personal threshold for how much you can safely eat without gaining weight or experiencing any of the above symptoms.
When we think of eating healthy, most of us think of the macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbs), but it’s often the micronutients – like all the electrolytes and particularly, salt – that are often the key neglected nutrients the body requires to make energy and keep the body running smoothly and efficiently!
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They include *sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride and bicarbonate and are are in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids and are vital substances in our bodies that enable our cells to conduct the electrical currants that perform various functions including:
- Maintain proper fluid balance within cells.
- Regulate the body’s acid/base (pH) level
- Help deliver nutrients into cells
- Help move waste out of cells
- Assist in nerve, muscle, heart and brain function
Vomiting, urination, diarrhea, excessive sweating, exercise, and medications can disrupt and deplete our body’s stores of these important minerals which can lead to a cascade of problems including over-eating, poor energy conduction and yucky, blah moods! How do you know if you’re low?
Common Symptoms of Low Electrolytes
- Getting light-headed after standing or getting up
- Feeling dizzy or disoriented
- Inability to focus
- Low energy (particularly when you’re not hungry)
Maintaining adequate electrolyte levels is KEY to feeling your best, staying trim and for athletic performance. To see my fav brand click here.
More on Salt/Sodium
We need to make special mention of the need for adequate sodium in the body. This is particularly an issue with regard to exercise and functioning at a high level of physical endurance.
Maintaining adequate sodium levels in the body is vital for life. Please note there is a BIG difference between REAL salt (Sea Salt) and the commonly used Table Salt. Not the same thing! Sea salt contains over 84 trace minerals and nutrients that your body requires on a daily basis. So not only is salt not bad for you or to be avoided, but it’s good for you and required IF it’s the real thing, the way Mother Nature made it. Table salt is a highly processed man-made chemical concoction that has additives (to prevent clumping) and lacks mineral content.
*NOTE: Sodium is the main electrolyte found in extracellular fluid and potassium is the main intracellular electrolyte, both are involved in fluid balance and blood pressure control.
Daily Rx of Sea Salt is approximately 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt/day.
Make Sure You Are Adequately Hydrated: Water
Going hand in hand with adequate electrolytes is maintaining adequate hydration levels. Water is required for ALL cellular functions and is the basic delivery mechanism for all body processes. Plus it is necessary to allow for proper detoxification, proper energy levels, bowel regularity, clear skin, mental function and weight loss.
A good rule of thumb is to drink a minimum of 1/2 your body weight in ounces/day – more if you are sweating, stressed out, very cold, trying to lose body fat or are constipated.
4. Understanding Meal Timing: When to Eat
You know WHAT you eat is important for your fitness results but did you know that WHEN you eat can be just as important?
Research shows you can burn an extra 150-250 calories just by delaying your next meal for about 30 minutes or so after your hard workout! How? By holding off on your next meal, you not only help to clear circulating glucose (blood sugar), but you also increase your level of human growth hormone which is a major fat burning and anti-aging hormone. So don’t reach for that sandwich, snack or salad straight away but instead wait until you’re really physically hungry then enjoy.
Using the Hunger Scale
It’s important to get back in touch with your body’s biological signals for hunger as opposed to eating for other reasons such as habit, boredom, to be polite, loneliness, inability to process feelings, anxiety, or because “it’s breakfast/lunch/dinner time”. I teach my clients something I call the Hunger Scale to get out of their head and into their body to dictate meal time. It works like this: on a scale of 1- 10, “1” being famished/starving” and “10” being “stuffed/full”, the goal is to eat when you are about a “5” or “6” and stop at about an “8” or “9”. Avoiding the extremes is the name of the game here. Do just this one thing and your health will improve dramatically!:)
12-Hour Non-Eating Window (NEW)
Seems like all of America is in a constant “grazing” stage of eating all day long. A lot of this can be do to improper macronutrient balance at each meal and/or eating too many carbohydrates which induces appetite and keeps us eating but regardless it’s something we need to get a handle. Human beings evolved in feast and FAMINE conditions. We did not evolve in a state of perpetual feast and our waistlines are showing it. In order to control of our weight and allow insulin to be cleared from the blood and not be continually circulating we must have periods of “not eating”. This also allows for proper rest and restoration of organs and tissues and detoxification (anti-aging!).
This is way I recommend a 12-Hour Non-Eating Window (NEW). That means if your last meal is at 8pm you don’t eat again until at least 8am. Only thing allowed in that 12 hour window is water. Give it a try. Most people report increased energy, better sleep, clearer skin and improved regularity. Score!
Eating Before and After Exercise
Use Hunger Scale and maximize the thermogenic effect of exercise and Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
researchers have found that a post-meal walk, as short as 15 minutes, can in fact help with digestion and improve blood sugar levels.
I believe at the end of the day, we all want basically the same things: We all want to feel good in our bodies. To have energy, feel productive, light, strong, capable and healthy…and it wouldn’t hurt to have a little fun and enjoy the ride while we’re at it.:)
I hope you found this article helpful and that you now feel like you have some tools to enable you to make the right choices for you so that you can feel EMPOWERED to fuel the body and the life you want!