The word in everybody’s mouth this January, and every single January if we are being honest, because new year resolutions seem to last only as long as this first month, then the reality of a lifetime of built habits come to haunt us and drag us back to the snack section of the supermarket and to hang our gym clothes until the summer pops its head around the corner.
The problem with these so called “detox” is that they often do more harm than good.¨
So instead of talking about what is bad about detox diets that will leave you with less muscle and starving for sugar, not to mention in a perfect metabolic condition for a yoyo effect, (if you are interested on this, you can check my previous post about Bulimia and other diets) I will offer you and alternative method of detox that will help you:
- Cleanse your body after a period of overindulging eating
- Return to your previous weight or start a weight loss diet without risking your health
- Fill you up with energy that will not peak and then leave you tired, but a consistent rate through the day
- Increase your metabolism so you burn more calories even when you are not exercising
- A more toned physique, that will your body a beautiful shape
If any of those appeal to you, continue reading.
This is a starters guide to a healthier life, and I will be digging deeper in the forthcoming weeks on each one of the principles of the method, which is just based on the implementation of some healthy habits in your life, just one by one. Today we will speak about the diet, since this is what will make the biggest impact on your life. You might have heard that “no amount of exercise can outdo a bad diet” this is very true, and for some of us, the percentage might as well be higher, the good part about this, is that if you cannot do exercise or sports during a particular period of your time, you still get to manage your weight just by learning to eat better and clearing some misconceptions.
The first rule of the good eater is… To know EXACTLY how much you should be eating. Nutritional recommendations have promoted the idea that most of us women need 2000 calories and day and most man 2500, this for a person that is physically very active might be true, but there are many variables that affect your nutritional needs:
- Your height
- Your current weight
- Your body composition
- Your level of activity
In order to calculate your needs, you can find some very useful online calculators, I like one in the site bodybuilding.com. You can access it here and just fill in the information required:
Which takes me to the second rule: to know exactly WHAT you should be eating. This affects the amount of each food group you should be eating (Protein, Carbohydrate and Fats) and how much of each should you be eating, since the right split of them will do an awful lot of a difference to your body composition.
For example, someone that eats too little protein, will have trouble maintaining their muscle mass, which might make them lose weight but look sick and undernourished and not healthy and toned, which is a lot more appealing. Not eating enough fats can put your health at risk and removing the carbohydrates is not a permanent solution and most likely will just deplete you of water.
The above link will tell you the exact number of grams and calories from each nutritional group that you should be eating every day.
Wait!! Don’t get frustrated just yet, learning to count your nutrients is not for beginners, but it is good for you to know it, so you can follow it broadly when composing your meals.
A normal split for people that are trying to lose weight but not in a competitive sport, would be 40% carbs, 35% protein and 25% fats.
How do you then do this??
A simple way of calculating is by filling a small to medium size plate with: 1 portion of protein (this is about 120 grams of chicken, 100 grams of red meat, or a 150- 200 gr of white fish, same as red meat if its blue fish which has a higher amount of fat) this should occupy ¼ to 1/3 of your plate then fill up with vegetables (greens and tomatoes, peppers etc but no starchy vegetables) these should take up ½ your plate.
The rest, should the ¼ of your plate more or less, should be filled with carbs, normally this is a couple of spoonful’s.
Simple rules to choose your food:
Protein: lean sources are best!! Chicken, turkey, lean pork loin, white fish, lean beef (less than 5% fat) and cottage cheese, 0% quark and 0% Greek yogurt Other proteins that are higher in fats such as lamb, cuts of meat with a lot of fat, or even salmon and eggs are best eaten in moderation (twice a week for eggs and salmon and only occasionally for the others)
Carbohydrates: complex or slow burning carbohydrates are always the best choice, this is because their unprocessed nature respects the integrity of their nutrients and have kept all their fibre and vitamins, this makes them keep you fuller for longer and feed you better at the same time that have less impact on your weight loss plans by not spiking your blood sugar levels. This is important because when that happens, your body activates a series of metabolic processes that in the end, make your body more likely to store fat.
Good carbs: peas, beetroots, beans (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans…) pumpkins, wholegrain pasta, wild, brown, black rice, 100% wholegrain bread particularly made of ancient cereals like spelt, oat specially oat bran and quinoa.
(most of this also have a significant amount of protein, specially the beans, but they have a lower bio availability than those of animal protein so they have to be consumed with them or cereals to complement them, this is particularly important for some on a vegetarian or vegan diet). Fruits are excellent sources of carbs, but I will comment on them separately.
“Bad” carbs: potatoes (although sweet potato can be used as a good carb), white bread, white rice, pasta, particularly fresh pasta, any refined sugar or sugary product.
Fruits: they are mainly composed of carbohydrate so they need to be eaten in moderation and avoid them after 6 or 7 pm. The best ones amongst them are the ones with higher amounts of fiber.
Best fruits: apple, pear, all berries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry, these can even be eaten at night because of their very low sugar content) kiwi fruits, nectarines, peaches and citric fruits.
Higher sugar fruits: mangoes, khakis, bananas, grapes, all dried fruits, fruit juices even if freshly made.
It is perfectly fine to eat a couple of pieces a day and this counts as carbohydrate so for example if you have a salad with steak for lunch, you can complement with a couple of mandarins.
Fats: always bear in mind that all the fats count, the cooking fats and the ones that belong to the food you are eating. Some foods contain little to none fat (fruits and beans or cereals) and others contain a lot like salmon and avocados. We need ALL types of fat to function correctly but it is true that from the “bad fats” we need so little that we get it in our diet regardless, what we do not get enough of if we don’t make an effort, is the omega 3 monounsaturated fats, that contribute to optimal cardiovascular function. Always prime these as sources of fat in your diet.
Best fats: avocado, blue fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna) chia seeds, olive oil, coconut oil
“Bad” Fats: animal origin fats from milk (butter and whole milk) and fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb. Poultry skin.Bad fats can and must be part of the diet, but it is better to eat only sparingly, specially if you are trying to lose weight.
Third rule: when should you be eating?? This is a difficult questions and there are many approaches like fasting etc, some swear that their approach burns off fat but there is no scientific diet that validates one or the other, So I will simply say, do whatever works for you. As long as during the day you are eating enough of the foods that you are supposed to be eating, you are ok. If you are someone that is happy with 2 meals a day, maybe that is fine for you!
However, for a normal human being, a frequent intake of food (every 2 to 4 hours) of smaller amounts is best because:
- Makes your digestions easier, the heavier a meal, the longer and more work will take your body to digest and this can lead to the terrible “after eating” effect of needed a nap.
- Keeps your energy levels
- Helps with the blood sugar levels
- Activates the metabolism and burns more calories since the digestive system is also a group of muscles, that burn energy when they move.
My recommendation: Have a breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, light dinner, after dinner snack.
Of course you could also have a mid morning snack and no after dinner, or both or eliminate one if you are not hungry… for me these food intakes happen at 9:15 am, 12:30 am, 4 pm, 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm and my bedtime is 10:30 pm. I wake up at 6:30 every morning to work out which I find easier fasted and helps me boost the fat burning effect of the exercise.
So this is the task for this week:
Eliminate unhealthy snacks, processed drinks, carbonated drinks, juices, and sugars and try to have a set of 5 smaller meals a day. Each one of them has to have a small amount of carbs, a big portion of vegetables and a portion of lean protein.
No alcohol of course and try to get 8 hours of sleep.
This will detox you way more effectively than any juice fasting out there.
In order to help you build your own menu, I have here the example for one day, all the recipes are available in the blog.
Breakfast: Oat bran porridge with light soy milk and a kiwi fruit
Lunch: Hake fillet, pan fried with green beans and boiled lentils.
Afternoon snack: Protein yogurt and a small apple
Dinner: tuna steak oven roast with green salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar
After dinner snack: 1 square of 70% cocoa chocolate with 5 almonds and a cup of tea
Breakfast: Yogurt with almond butter, ½ a banana and sprinkled sliced almonds
Lunch: Chicken paella with black rice, onions and peppers and cauliflower
Afternoon snack: a small pear and 10 almonds or 20 peanuts or 1 tbs no added sugar peanut butter
Dinner: zucchini soup and prawn skewer with lemon
After dinner snack: 1 square 70% cocoa chocolate
Next week I will take another step into our healthy lifestyle, stay tuned! And remember if you have questions about your particular case, please get in touch!