Chances are, there have been times in your life when you’ve changed your diet and then you followed-up by changing your exercise habits, or vise-versa. However, you’ve probably never changed them both at the same time. Finally, you’ve decided to make the commitment to both your diet and exercise in order to achieve long-term results.
Before you begin developing your strategy, here is some advice when dieting and exercising at the same time. Before you get started, beware, these following these tips may help you achieve the results you’ve always desired!
Develop a plan that works for your lifestyle and nutritional needs. Set up an eating schedule that incorporates small, frequent meals every two to four hours. Your strategy will depend on your individual goals (fat loss, muscle gain, performance enhancement, etc). Generally speaking, each meal would include a balance of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats through the day. Most importantly, pre- and post-workout meals should always contain a lean protein and carbohydrate combination, with little to no fat. Think of things that your body can process easily and utilize quickly to fuel your workouts.
Yes, eat carbs! Carbohydrates are considered our brain and body fuel. Without carbohydrates, our bodies lack glycogen, which is stored in our muscles to fuel activity. Without glycogen, your body will manufacture its own glucose by converting protein to fuel your activity through a process called gluconeogenesis. In turn, you will begin to lose muscle tissue and worst of all, slow down your metabolic rate.
Staying committed to your exercise and diet is important; however, it is also extremely important to allow your body to recover. Recovery is often the missing component in a proper exercise routine. Sleep and days off from the gym are when the real results happen. Working out breaks down muscle tissue, creating micro-tears in the muscles. Rest allows your body time to repair and rebuild the muscle fibers. Without rest, your body will continue to break down muscle tissue and never rebuild, resulting in a loss of muscle tissue (catabolism).
Pushing through another workout when your body is under a state of stress and fatigue will continue to put stress on your adrenal glands, causing them to continuously overproduce cortisol. The quicker your cortisol levels decrease after a workout, the better results you will see and the better you will feel!
Resistance training is the secret sauce to long-term results. Resistance training builds muscle tissue, which keeps your body strong, supports your joints and ligaments and increases your metabolic rate. As we age, we naturally lose muscle tissue. As muscle tissue decreases, your body’s metabolic rate decreases as well. On average, for every pound of muscle you lose, your body burns 50 less calories. Adversely, for every pound of muscle you gain, your body will burn 50 more calories! Maintaining muscle tissue can be achieved with as little as two days of structured resistance training. This is easily one of the simplest things you can do to help maintain your results long term.
Consider hiring a professional to develop a customized resistance training and nutrition plan, specifically designed for you. Everyone’s body, goals and abilities are different. Investing in a personal trainer and nutrition coach is an investment that will help you not only achieve your goals safely, but also help you sustain your results for a lifetime.
Cutting your carb and/or caloric intake below your BMR (or Basal Metabolic Rate, the rate of which the body uses energy while at rest to keep vital functions going) can not only be dangerous, but will set your body up for a long-term struggle with maintaining your weight loss. If your body does not receive adequate fuel, eventually your metabolism will slow down and start to converse energy. In addition, the weight that you lose is often a result of muscle tissue and water weight loss rather than fat loss. If you’re looking to maintain your results, the last thing you want to do is lose muscle and slow down your metabolic rate.
Regardless of how many calories you burn in a workout, your body does not selectively target “bad food” to utilize for immediate energy. Your body will use what is readily available and easy to utilize. That brownie sitting in your gut does not automatically get used as fuel once you consume it. Remember, the glycogen stores in your muscles are the first to be utilized for energy and that brownie is loaded with fat and sugar, which is difficult for your body to digest and utilize.
Many exercisers engage in cardio as their primary form of exercise, thinking that cardio is the key to their fat loss goals. Cardio, which is a shortened term for cardiovascular activity, conditions your heart and burns calories. However, it does not build muscle. In fact, if your cardio activity is not properly fueled, cardio can actually work against your fat loss goals. If your energy output exceeds your energy input, your body’s metabolic rate will slow down to acclimate to this higher demand in energy and it will begin to conserve energy (calories). Your exercise and diet should make your body a fat-burning machine rather than a fat-conversing machine.
Skipping meals is a sure-fire way to slow down your metabolic rate. Oftentimes, dieters think that feeling hungry while dieting is a bad thing and that not being hungry at all is a good thing. On the contrary, the feeling of hunger is a good sign of a healthy metabolism. When your body is getting what it needs, every few hours, you will begin to get a true sense of what the feeling of being hungry truly means, rather than going from a feeling of famished to overstuffed.
With a strategic meal plan using a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats, your blood sugar levels will stabilize all day and will only dip slightly every few hours, when it’s time to refuel. Oftentimes, dieters skip meals trying to cut calories. When food is finally consumed, many dieters often lose control of their fullness gauge and hunger level, resulting in binge eating later in the day or after a couple days of strict dieting. Their blood sugar level spikes rapidly upon consumption of food and drops equally as rapidly, often causing the dieter to binge and feel out of control.
At the end of the day, your total caloric intake is important for energy balance. However, to achieve a lean, healthy body, the type of calories that you consume is even more important. Focus on eating clean, unprocessed, wholesome food. Make sure your diet includes lean proteins, complex carbohydrates (grains, fruits, vegetables), and healthy fats. If you focus more on eating a clean, balanced diet, you may be surprised how much easier it is to stick with your program, how much more energy you have, and how much easier it is to achieve your goals!
Now it’s time to take these top 10 do’s/dont’s and develop your strategy for success! When you find yourself falling off your plan or frustrated with your results, remind yourself of these 10 key points. Re-focus and keep moving forward. Deviations from your plan will happen; however, one bad meal or bad day will not derail you. It is the continuous meals or days of deviations that will hold you back. Remember, maintaining your health and fitness requires a long-term solution, not a short-term fix to a permanent problem. Forget the quick fix gimmicks and focus on the permanent solution!
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