Eat for the Body You WANT
You're an avid runner, you love cardio, and you are dedicated to your gym workouts. But you don't seem to be losing the weight that you anticipated. Your exercise appears to be in line with your fitness goals. Now it's time to take a good look at your nutrition. Does your current diet match your other physical efforts? If your health and fitness intention is to lose weight, nutrition is the main ingredient to reach your weight loss goal. Let's take a look at your current diet and nutritional intake to make the necessary adjustments.
1. Nutrition Check
What are you eating now to support your workouts? Diet sodas, pre-packaged meals, high caloric treats, late night snacks, too many cheat days? If any of these are part of your regular healthy regimen, this may be creating a plateau in your weight loss. Not only is it important to eat healthy foods, but it's also important to focus on the essential nutrients, how much you eat, and the actual time you're eating to support your workouts.
2. What are the three Important Nutrients?
You want to be sure that you're ingesting the proper nutrients to support your overall health. When you have a better understanding of what you're eating, you'll have greater control of the weight you lose or gain. There are three important nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. All are essential when it comes to a healthy diet.
3. Building Blocks of our Body
Incorporating protein in your diet is a significant component of maintaining a healthy mind and body. They are the "building blocks" of your entire system. When ingested, they breakdown in your bloodstream and covert into amino acids. They are responsible for most processes that keep your body functioning: cell growth, muscle repair, healthy immune system, production of hormones, and many other important features. Everyone needs protein in their diet to make sure the body runs effectively and efficiently.
When it comes to fitness, proteins are necessary for supporting the cellular changes in the body as you lose weight. Protein actually boosts your metabolism which will support your weight loss goal. Protein intake also suppresses your appetite so you're not reaching for those extra high caloric snacks. It is ok, though, to have a high protein diet because protein helps with weight loss. Some of the calories ingested during a meal are used for the purpose of digesting and metabolizing. The calories in protein have a higher thermic rate than the other essential nutrients. When compared, protein, with a thermic rate of 20-30%, contributes more to digestion and metabolism than carbohydrates (5-10% thermic rate) and fats (0-3%). Since amino acids are the building blocks of your overall nutritional wellness, you can incorporate proteins throughout your diet.
4. Choosing the Right Protein for You
Proteins come in many forms and can be added to most meals and snacks when you're planning what you eat. Healthy proteins can be found in red meat (beef and pork), fish (salmon and tuna), and poultry (chicken and turkey). Plant-based diets are also full of healthy proteins. By adding dark green vegetables and whole grains to your diet, you'll be providing your system with the essential proteins your body needs.
Many believe that one should stay away from carbs in their diet. In fact, carbohydrates are the primary fuel needed for the body to function properly. In their natural and healthy form, carbs are the sustaining energy sources for your brain and body. A good analogy to help explain the productivity of carbohydrates is gasoline for your car. Your vehicle cannot run when there is no fuel. The same goes for your body; when your human fuel tank is low, your energy level is low and things like exercising or concentrating at work become a challenge.
When you consume carbohydrates, they convert to glucose in the bloodstream. This is an instant energy source for your body. When you're on the move, it is the glucose that provides the energy for your active body. If you're planning to be active after eating carbs, they are stored as glycogen in your liver, muscles, and other cells for later use. When it is time to exercise and you have glycogen stored away, it will convert back to glucose for the burst of energy needed to complete your workout. Too often, we rely on foods like candy bars, caffeine, and other energy drinks to give us energy. They may give you the boost that you want, but they do not contain the nutrients to support your overall health and fitness goals. The result of consuming too many of these non-nutritious substances is that they convert to fat ultimately causing weight gain over time.
Returning to the analogy of the gas tank, this storage vessel is limited. You can only fill your tank to a certain amount. Your body also has glycogen "storage tanks;" they, too, are limited. When your glycogen tanks are full, the leftover glucose is converted to fat and stored in your fat cells. The storage size of your fat cells is unlimited, however. The more sugars you consume without using them for fuel and energy, the more fat you gain.
Do your best to turn to all-natural ingredients rather than processed foods to gain energy. Eat fruits and vegetables and foods made with whole grains. You want your system to be able to use all the nutritional value of your foods. This will keep your metabolism functioning efficiently and reduce the amount of fat stored in your body.
6. Fat is important too!
This nutrient is another form of fuel. As mentioned, glucose can be converted to fatty acids and stored in your fat cells for later use. When it is time to go on your jog, and your glycogen tanks are low, your body will rely on the stored fat for fuel. When you "burn fat," they are converting back to a useful energy source to get through your activity.
Of course, you want to have healthy fats in your diet, too. Not only do they serve as an energy source, but they provide protection in your body. Fat lines your internal organs, are the lining of cell walls, and they help to produce important hormones in your body.
Turn to whole foods when you're looking to supplement your diet with healthy fats. Choose nuts, avocados, olive oil, and salmon, for example. Too many of the packaged foods we eat contain oils and other fats that are hard to digest and process. Over-consumption of these fats can harm the coating of our cells, deteriorate our vital organs, and provide more fat cells resulting in weight gain. Further, these processed foods are full of preservatives, stabilizers, and artificial sugars that are uneasy on the body. Due to the processed ingredients in these foods, many of the required nutrients needed for sustained health are missing. Without these essential items, your body can become malnourished leading to significant health issues like diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and mental health decline.
7. What & When to Eat?
If you have a good understanding of the function of these important nutrients, you can make wiser choices. Based on your dietary needs and preferences, you can choose healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to support your weight loss process. Once you know what to eat, timing is key. If you know you're going to be active, whether it is a busy day running errands or going to an aerobics class, you need healthy carbs for proper fuel and energy. Always include protein to produce those building blocks. If you plan on having more of a relaxed day with little or no exercise, then less carbs are needed in your meals. You can continue to eat proteins, though. Remember, they support muscle growth, cell function, and metabolism.
And to further support your weight loss goals, stay aware of the amount of food you eat. Continue to practice the idea that you need to burn more calories than you consume to experience weight loss. If you're losing 1 to 5 pounds per week, then you are on a healthy track when it comes to weight loss. Keep in mind the role of the three important nutrients - proteins, carbohydrates, and fats - and where to incorporate them into your fitness routine. If calculated just right, you will have found the key to healthy weight loss.
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