Nutrition seems to be the #1 reason people do not get their desired results in their fitness program. Healthy nutrition does not mean, “dieting”. And healthy nutrition does not mean you have to eat steamed broccoli with chicken everyday. Healthy nutrition is about consistently following these ten nutrition principles to get your results.
FYI, the definition of "principle" is: A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. With that said, principles are not written in stone and do not have to be followed perfectly. That is not the idea. Principles are behaviors that are performed consistently to get a specific result. When you instill healthy principles in your life, you will be a healthier person. Pretty basic right? But yet, it's something that our society has an issue with as 68% of America is overweight or obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Improving with the below principles will escalate your results in your fitness program.
Principle #1: Eat vegetables and fruits. These foods should be our main carbohydrates. Carbohydrates will give us energy and brain function to have high-level days. We need these quality “carbs” for improved performance. Vegetables and fruits are nutrient and fiber dense and supply the body vitamins and nutrients so we can have energy, health and vitality. A diet rich in fiber promotes heart health, normal bowel function and helps the body absorb nutrients and fluids from the foods we eat. You can basically eat high quantities of vegetables. In my opinion, the more the better.
Principle #2: Eat lean, low fat proteins. Eggs, chicken, turkey, lean red meat and fish can be options. Lean proteins help us build lean muscle. When we build lean muscle we increase our metabolism. When we increase our metabolism we burn more calories throughout the day. Whether you are looking for fat loss or muscle gain, eating adequate amounts of protein is critical for desired results. For weight loss, aim for a minimum of 1/2 - 3/4 of your weight in grams of protein (example: 130 pound female looking for fat loss should eat 65-97 grams of protein each day) . If you are looking for muscle growth, aim for ¾-1 gram of your weight in grams of protein (example: 200 pound male looking for muscle growth should eat 150-200 grams of protein each day).
Principle #3: Limit the processed foods. The majority of our food should be fresh choices. After you have gone grocery shopping you should be stocking most of the food you bought in the fridge not your cupboards. Processed foods have limited nutrients and should be consumed sparingly throughout the week. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store as the majority of healthier foods lie there. When looking at your food intake, processed foods should be 10-15% of your consumption. Stick to this principle and not only will your results go in the right direction but your energy will increase, you will get less stomach issues, you will be forced to eat higher quality foods and performance will improve.
Principle #4: Drink your water. This principle needs to become a habit. Don’t leave home without a water bottle. When that water bottle is by your side you are more likely to drink so take it everywhere you go. Substitutes like Crystal Light and Lipton Iced Tea do not count as water intake. Do your best to stay away from liquid drinks with simple sugars and/or artificial sweetners. To add flavor to your water, add some strawberries slices, a handful of blueberries or some cucumber.
Principle #5: Food log. Being aware of the food that goes into your mouth is very important. When you know you can modify accordingly. You do not need to food log all year long. Whenever you have hit a plateau or are looking to jump start your results, food logging for 2-4 weeks can get you dialed in and refocused. Pay attention to the big picture, not just one meal. Look for consistency not perfection. Find your calorie needs and do your best to hit the number. Things to look for when food logging: your processed food intake (is it too high; go back to the 10-15% rule discussed above), servings of vegetables and fruits (aim for 5-7 servings), your protein intake (look at Principle #2) and the consistency of your calorie intake throughout the week (you do not want big jumps from day to day; try your best to be consistent in your calorie consumption each day). For an easy to use food logging resource, check out www.myfitnesspal.com. They also have a phone app that is simple to use during the day.
Principle #6: You need your healthy fats. Many people think eating "fats" will make them fat but that is not the case. Olive and coconut oils, raw nuts, almond or natural peanut butter, avocados, and fish can be great options. Good fats, like omega 3 fatty acids can protect against memory loss, reduce the risk of heart disease, ease arthritis, joint pain and inflammation and can support a healthy pregnancy. Having a serving of healthy fat post workout will assist the recovery process after tough training sessions. Aim for 3-5 servings of healthy fats each day to support a heart healthy plan.
Principle #7: Plan. Get to the grocery store, plan a few dinners ahead of time, cut up your vegetables on Sunday night, and cook up some chicken breasts at the beginning of the week. These planning strategies will set you up to be successful during the week. If you do not have a plan, you end up running around without direction and this leads to poor food choices. Most people that are successful, whether in their fitness programs, running a business or managing a professional sports team plan! They set up success steps for them to achieve the desired goal. The more organized you are and the better time management you have, the more successful you will be.
Principle #8: Drop the empty calories. Now when I mean "drop", please do not take it literally and assume you can never have any of these foods to get results. But it is crucial to consume these foods very sparingly in order to see a change in your physicality. Alcohol, cakes, pastries, candy and sodas are examples of empty calories. These foods supply minimal nutrients to the body but are loaded with calories. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a few beers during the week (because let's face there's nothing like a cold beer at the end of the day) but the majority of my calorie intake will be nutrient dense and quality foods. Pay attention to the big picture.
Principle #9: Train to eat. You have a party planned on Friday night. You know there will be high calorie foods and drinks consumed. The idea is to make sure you are in the gym, not skipping workouts the entire week. Do a few extra minutes of cardio and hit a few extra repetitions in the gym. Then enjoy yourself. One day of poor eating will not hurt you. The idea is to get right back on it the next day with a good workout and healthy eating habits.
Principle #10: You are not looking for perfection. Improvement is what we are after. If you try to be perfect, you will fail and you will end up frustrated. This is not what healthy living should be about. If you are looking for results, then you need to get focused and do your best to eat nutritious foods and be consistent.