Congratulations on reaching the third and final part of this series! The sun is shining, and what better motivation is this to get going with your new eating plan, so you’re on track for summer. This week, I’ll be demonstrating how to implement last week’s guide to macronutrients into a regular eating pattern, so there will be some main meal and snack ideas for you to try. There will also be some tips on how to get active, in order to compliment your new way of eating!
To recap, a high carb diet causes blood glucose levels to skyrocket, which increases levels of insulin. This hormone is required to transport glucose to our cells, but it also controls fat storage. Eating foods that are rich in protein and healthy fats – but lower in carbohydrates – encourages your body to burn its fat stores for energy instead. The beauty of eating this way is that you will stay sated for longer, as protein and fats do not impact blood glucose or stimulate an insulin response in the same way carbohydrates do.
This is not a diet, so you have the freedom to experiment with what works best for you, but the below examples serve to guide you in the right direction, as it were.
1) Breakfast Like a King
You’ve probably been told that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ since you were a child, and with good reason. Upon waking, a period of up twelve hours will have elapsed since your last meal, so it’s essential that you eat something substantial as soon as you are able to. ‘Running on empty’ does not support fat loss or your every day functionality – your mood and energy levels will be adversely affected. It is not necessary to eat a huge meal; often your schedule (or appetite) will not allow for this anyway – especially if you’re an early riser due to your job or family commitments. If this is the case, aim to eat something by mid-morning (if nothing else, your co-workers will thank you).
Ideally, you should include some form of protein and healthy fats, with low carb additions being fine, in moderation. Popular opinion states that carbs are best eaten in the morning, but I beg to differ. Unless you are extremely active or trying to gain weight, eating a carb-dense meal is likely to cause a mid-morning ‘crash,’ and is not necessarily conductive to fat burning.
Why not try:
-Eggs made into an omelette with whatever leftover veg or other ingredients you might have available. Top with mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado, spinach, peppers, chives, onions, cheese, or the occasional smoked salmon/rashers of bacon. If you’re short of time, or not feeling very Nigella-esque, you can even scramble eggs in the microwave!
-Full fat yogurt (or coconut yogurt) with some low carb fruit such as berries, stone fruits or watermelon, and topped with a generous handful of chopped nuts/seeds, or a swirl of nut butter.
-A protein smoothie – super quick to make in a blender. Add 1-2 scoops of vanilla or fruit-flavoured whey protein, a handful of berries, a tablespoon of coconut oil and enough almond milk (low carb) to reach your desired consistency. If you’re in a rush, a protein shake that consists of just protein powder and milk or water, plus a handful of nuts, is a good option.
2) There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
(Unless you know a generous person who offers to buy it for you)
Have you ever felt a dip in your energy levels mid-afternoon, following a carb-rich lunch? That leftover Lasagna you had is likely to blame. There’s a reason for the term ‘carb coma,’ and it relates to serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood, appetite and sleep patterns. Eating a meal that’s high in carbs increases the release of serotonin, which can make you feel sleepy. Including protein and fats with lunch can help you to avoid this; if you want to, you can add slow-release carbohydrates, but protein and fats should dominate.
-Sliced chicken with lots of salad veggies, such as baby spinach, rocket, spring onions and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive or coconut oil, and a dash of vinegar or lime juice. If you want to, add a small portion of ‘good’ carbs, like sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa or wholewheat pasta, but don’t be stingy on the protein as this is what’s going to keep you fuller for longer.
-Leftover Bolognise or Chilli Con Carne topped with cheese, but instead of pasta or white rice, opt for quinoa or ‘courgetti,’ which is basically, a low carb alternative. You might want to fried cauli-rice or butternut squash ‘noodles’ instead*. Add a handful of baby spinach for extra nutrients.
*You can pre-prepare and freeze these ahead of time; some supermarkets even stock these in their fridge/freezer sections.
3) Dinner = Winner
Your last meal of the day can include some carbs if you wish, as increased serotonin levels can be of benefit before bed.* If you do any exercise in the early evening (for example), eating carbohydrates can help you to re-fuel, and are less likely to be stored as fat.
*If you work shifts, feel free to switch your meals around accordingly.
-Baked salmon with brown rice and lightly steamed broccoli.
-Steak with grilled mushrooms, tomatoes salad and sweet potato wedges (baked in the oven with a drizzle of olive or coconut oil).
-If you want dessert, a portion of strawberries (or other low sugar fruit) and a dash of cream is low carb. A couple of squares of dark chocolate (85% or more) is fine, too.
4) Snack Attack!
Avoid the temptation to snack on high carb foods such as biscuits, crisps and chocolate (you know this!); even certain types of fruit can increase your carb intake significantly. Instead, choose high fat, high protein foods to graze on such as a handful of nuts (walnuts are a great choice), a piece of cheese, or a protein shake.
5) Lose the Booze
It goes without saying that if you’re looking to reduce body fat, alcohol intake should be moderated. Try to avoid high carb drinks like beer and cider, and instead, go for a small glass of red wine, or clear spirits like gin/vodka with a low calorie mixer.
Now that you’ve got a better idea of the types of food that can help your body to burn fat and keep you fuller for longer, it’s time to think about exercise. Quality is always more important than quantity, thus it’s better to commit to three or four enthusiastic but short sessions, than it is to spend hours exercising in a passive manner. Finding something that you enjoy is half the battle, and experimenting is the best way to do this. Below, I’ve listed some types of training that are less conventional, all of which I have tried and enjoyed, so I am speaking from experience.
-Clubbercize: just like being on a night out, minus the alcohol. Great for improving stamina and body sculpting.
-Pole Fitness: harder than it looks, but practice makes perfect. This is great for targeting core muscles, improving your balance and flexibility, and improving confidence.
- Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga: very energetic; great for improving posture, muscle tone and general fitness. It’s also great for de-stressing, as moving between postures requires a great deal of focus, leaving no room for thinking about your ever-growing ‘to do’ list.
-Weight Training: builds muscle mass, and helps to increase definition.
You’re aiming to sweat a little (a lot), which is a sign you’re doing it right. Exercise helps you to deplete glycogen stores, so that when you do eat carbs, they are less likely to be stored as fat. You’ll also be helping to increase muscle mass, which has a positive effect on the metabolism!
There you have it – a (relatively) torture-free guide to getting into shape! I hope you’ve gained something from the series and are now equipped to achieving the body you’ve always wanted! Just remember that whilst it’s never easy to make lasting changes, it’s always worth it.