Can you believe that it’s already May? I guess it’s hard for me to wrap my head around it considering all of the snow we’ve been getting in Colorado. Well either way, we are approaching the summer, and we all know what that means. It means it’s time for us to take a good look in the mirror, possibly self-loathe a little bit, then finally decide to make a change to get that defined, cut, and toned summer bod.
Zooming past all the self-loathing (since that’s the worst part and none of us want to talk about it anymore), in early May, many of us are at that stage where we have decided to either eat clean, exercise more, or even eat less junk. Regardless, they’re all big decisions, and I’m proud of us for doing so. Give yourself a pat on the back. Although we feel confident about our willingness to change, it is certainly possible that we fell lost, confused, or ill-informed on where to start. Possible questions that can be asked are: “What should my workouts look like?” “How much cardio should I be doing?” “Can I still eat double scooped ice cream cones on Fridays or have a couple glasses of wine?” Some of us may even feel lost with diet decisions as soon as we wake up. Pause. IT IS PERFECTLY NORMAL TO FEEL THAT WAY. So calm down and take a deep breath. It will all be ok.
Narrowing down all of these questions is essential because we must establish a base or a foundation that all of our fitness decisions and actions come from. For the sake of today’s blog, I will say that there are three categories that need attention in order to look better naked. That’s what most of us want right, to look better naked? Ok good. Glad we broke the ice on that one. Anyway, in my opinion, these three areas of focus are: resistance training, cardio, and diet. Although I believe that all of these work together to help sculpt that Greek god/goddess body you’ve been wanting, diet is the area of focus I want to touch on.
So what can and can’t we eat? What are we free to do? What are we restricted on? These are the questions that I used to ask when I was first introduced to fitness. Truth is, I want to avoid this because the last thing I want is for you to feel like you’re on a leash with your diet. Yes, you will have to avoid certain things, but I don’t want to make you miserable. I’m not about that life. My goal here today is to leave you with a solid understanding of how your body works with your food so you can make healthier, more informed decisions.
I’m sure that most of you have heard the word “macros” or “macronutrients” before. These are the three big nutrients that you need to be consuming on a daily basis. They are fats, carbohydrates, and protein. These nutrients are what provide you with calories and energy. Before I address how they work in your meals, I want to briefly discuss how they work in your body. Short and simple, both carbs and fats are used by your body for energy. Protein can be used as energy as well, but not as much as the other two macros. The primary differences between carbs and fats is that your body wants to use up carbs much faster than fats, and carbs can only be stored in limited quantities where fat storage is unlimited. If you absorbed nothing from that, remember this: both carbs and fats are used for energy. Now to protein. All you need to know about protein is that it is used for the tissues. Our body uses it to build, repair, or maintain tissues. Not too bad, right? It’s simple. Carbs and fats = energy, and protein = tissue support. For the sake of fitness we will say muscle support. Now that we have gone over how our bodies use each macronutrient, let’s talk about how that plays in our daily life with food choices.
There is one tactic or piece of advice that I want to give you to try in your diet. It has worked tremendously with myself as well as my clients. That tip is: avoid combining carbs and fat in the same meal while trying to lean down or stay lean. There is some controversy over this topic but from what I’ve gathered and based on the results I’ve seen, I feel confident saying that this can help you shed some fat. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t do the best job of reading our minds. It does what it wants. If we give ourselves carbs and fats in the same meal, our body will not see one source of energy, it will see two sources but only select one to use. That means our bodies store the other as fat. With this said, I recommend meal combinations of protein & fat, and protein & carbs. I would avoid protein, fats, and carbs, in the same meal especially when your primary goal is fat loss. Please please please, eat both carbs and fats in the same day. Your body needs them and you’ll get a little weird if you go without carbs for days. All I’m suggesting is avoiding the combination of those carbs and fats at the same time.
To this point, you may feel like saying “well shoot! If that’s all I need to focus on in my diet, this will be a breeze! As long as it fits the guidelines of those macronutrients, I’ll be set!” *Really loud buzzer sound*. Not quite. There are a few more things that I recommend keeping an eye on.
One of the most overlooked nutrients to watch is sugar. Sugar intake can make or break you. To be brief, the only time that your body needs sugar is first thing in the morning because you’ve been fasting for hours while sleeping. Other than that, I would avoid sugar as much as possible. If you consume it and your body doesn’t use it immediately, it will be stored as fat. We don’t want to be moving one step forward and three steps back. And no, that doesn’t mean you can go nuts on the aspartame. I use stevia when I am watching my sugar intake but even then I keep it minimal.
Some of you are going to be a little taken back with this next one, but during my experience as a trainer, this seems to be a very hard item for people to drop out of their diet. Alcohol. Oh, the alcohol. For me, alcohol is the easiest to stay away from. But for others, a glass of wine is difficult to avoid after a stressful day. I’m not here to tell you to drink or not to drink, but I’ll leave you with this. A study provided by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in which eight men were given two drinks of vodka separated by 30 minutes showed that fat oxidation (which basically measures how much fat the body burns) dropped by 73%. Alcohol will slow your fat metabolism down. I’ll leave it there.
Lastly, in regards to metabolism, there is a lot of controversy. Some say that eating three square meals per day will not slow your metabolism down, and others disagree. If I’m being transparent with you, I’ll say I don’t know enough about the science of our metabolism to argue either way. I have read studies that argue for one and studies that argue for the other. But, I do know that our bodies can only synthesize so much protein at one time. So if an 180-pound male needs to consume 144g of protein in a day (I recommend .5-.8g protein per lb of body weight to build muscle, which you do need to look lean), it would be best to do so over several meals. Some believe we can get away with 1g protein per lb of body weight, but I see that as a little too much.
In summary, your summer body can be a few steps closer if you follow these guidelines:
1. Avoid combining carbs and fats in the same meal.
2. Watch your sugar intake. Keep it minimal.
3. Don’t go crazy on the booze. You’ll put on fat and do stupid things you’ll regret.
4. Spread your meals out so your body can properly use all of the protein you consume in the day.
I hope this helps some of you. Now that you have a little more knowledge, go out there, shed some fat, and get everyone’s head turning at the pool!
If you have any other questions regarding diet, training, etc., feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org