A sound dietary strategy is an integral part of any health and fitness regimen. Whether your desire is to gain, lose or maintain your current weight, healthy eating habits are a critical component in realizing your goal. Not only does research continue to prove the benefits of a proper diet, but also the negative effects of one that is inadequate. Just as an automobile runs best when its tank is filled with superior grade fuel, a well balanced diet is necessary for vitality and health – both mental and physical. The following guidelines, in addition to a well thought out exercise program and personal direction from your trainer, will promote a long, healthy and productive life.
The majority of your protein should come from pure, low-fat sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, low-fat dairy products and egg whites. Eat lean red meats in moderation and limit egg yolks (these are high in fat). You should consume anywhere from .5 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, depending upon your specific goals. Consult your trainer to determine your individual needs.
Eat natural, unrefined, complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain breads, pastas and cereal. Foods with a high glycemic index (those which are quickly converted to glucose or blood sugar), such as fruit, should be eaten earlier in the day as they will be less likely to end up as unused calories stored in the fat cells. Avoid refined and processed carbohydrates like table sugar (sucrose).
Keep dietary fat to a minimum by limiting fatty foods in your diet. A low-fat diet will promote healthy blood cholesterol levels, better blood pressure and a reduced likelihood of cancer. Fat intake should constitute no more than 25% of total calories consumed, with no more than one-third of that being saturated fat. The best choices are monounsaturated fats such as olive, canola, avocado and peanut oils. Next in line are the polyunsaturated fats such as corn, safflower, sunflower and soybean oils.
The human body is made up of about seventy percent water. This understood, it becomes quite apparent that adequate hydration is absolutely imperative to good health. Nearly every metabolic process involves water in one way or another. Therefore, it is essential to drink one half ounce per pound of body weight daily, in addition to one 10-ounce glass for each pound of fluid lost during exercise. Filtered, distilled or bottled water is preferred.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Vitamins and minerals are chemical compounds used by the body to carry out all its metabolic processes. From maintaining a strong, healthy immune system, to rebuilding tissue after an intense training session, vitamins and minerals (along with the other nutrients already mentioned) are indispensable in achieving optimum metabolic function. As such, it is strongly recommended that a quality multivitamin/mineral supplement be taken each day to assure adequate dietary intake.
FREQUENCY OF MEALS
It is best to eat smaller meals and more of them. Five to six smaller meals per day will help eliminate food cravings, reduce the likelihood of post meal fatigue, and increase the metabolic rate. This in turn will promote fat loss. It is advantageous to plan meals ahead of time. This will lessen the chances of skipped meals and deviating from one’s dietary plan. If your goal is to gain weight, increase your caloric intake. If your goal is to reduce body fat, decrease your caloric intake.