I hope you've all had a good week and enjoyed a bit of Bank Holiday sunshine! I welcome you back to part two, which can be considered the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the series (I really must stop with the puns);It will serve as a guide to help you make smarter food choices and plan meals accordingly. If you did have a chance to have a go at the food diary exercise that was outlined in part one, you will come to learn how this can help you in pursuit of your goals
So as not to overwhelm you, the steps below provide an outline of the macronutrients: protein, fats and carbohydrates, in order for you to gain a better understanding of their nutritive role. In part three, I’ll go into more detail regarding meals and snacks, and how you can use the information below to your advantage. I’ll also be talking about how you can start incorporating exercise. Some of what you read below may seem a little ‘foreign’ initially, but I urge you to stick with it, and let the results speak for themselves.
1) Don’t Blame the Butter for What the Bread Did
We’ve been told for years to eat a diet that is ‘low in fat, especially saturated fat,’ and ‘based on starchy carbohydrates.’ It might surprise you to learn that this dietary model is outdated and will likely, jeopardise your efforts in reaching your personal ‘ideals.’ Certain nutritional principles have longstanding roots (though we are led to believe otherwise); current research has a tendency to support these, though they significantly contradict the mainstream, government-based advice that we have been conditioned to follow for several decades now. If you struggle with the aforementioned format of eating, rest assured that it is not because you are ‘weak-willed’ or ‘greedy.’
Recently, I came across the phrase ‘Don’t blame the butter for what the bread did’ on social media, and I happen to think it’s a stroke of genius. It draws attention to the true culprit of your food cravings and apparent despondency to the low-fat dietary model: carbohydrates. If you’ve watched prime time news or read the newspapers recently, you’ll be familiar with the headlines relating to this emerging research; its link with the UK’s obesity crisis and the controversy that this has caused.
Now, before it appears that I am ‘carb-bashing,’ I would like to clarify that carbs are indeed, a vital part of human metabolism. For those who are very active (endurance athletes, for example), or very lean and following a muscle building plan, they are a necessary energy source and therefore, carb intake is usually proportionate to performance. However, for the purpose of this series, I am focusing on those individuals who fall outside of this bracket – those who wish to reduce body fat in a tactical manner. Thus, what I am referring to above is an intake of carbs that is consistently surplus to requirements. The mechanism of this is in itself, rather detailed and a subject that I will dedicate to a future, separate post. For now, all you really need to be aware of is that eating carbs regularly throughout the day can lend to fat storage (something that is further exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle). This tends to set up a vicious cycle, causing fluctuations in blood glucose levels and appetite, and leading to carb cravings anew.
Have a look over your food diary; are there any points during the day that you feel particularly hungry, and can you relate this to anything? For example, what do you eat for breakfast? If it’s usually a bowl of cereal (even a ‘wholegrain’ variety), I would guess that you’ll feel hungry a couple of hours later. If you’re serious about reducing body fat, ‘junk’ carbs have to go – and that applies to both sugar and starchy sources – the latter of which are essentially, sugar when digested into their simplest form, anyway. Admittedly, not all carbs were created equal; there are ‘good’ carbs which can form a healthy part of your eating plan – it’s just that they are far less relevant than the government would have you believe. This, we will discuss in detail next week.
I do not want you to feel like you’re ‘on a diet,’ but trust me when I say, eating things like toast or cereal for breakfast and sandwiches or jacket potatoes for lunch, is setting up your cravings for these types of foods in the first place. Furthermore, you may find that you feel a tad lacklustre in the afternoon, if your regular lunch is based on carbs, therefore, making specific changes will help you to feel more in control.
This brings me nicely to the next step, in which we look at protein.
2) Go Pro!
Protein is a nutrient required for growth and repair of all bodily tissues, hence why it is essential in terms of muscle building. I cannot tell you how many times women have expressed their concerns to me regarding protein and the possibility that they will ‘bulk up’ if they have too much. If this were possible, I think we would be witness to a hoard of men running at lightning speed away from their significant others/sisters/mothers etc., every time one of these het up females ate a burger or drank a protein shake. In reality, protein supports the repair and development of muscle tissue, which is imperative for active individuals.
Moreover, protein has also been shown to help stabilise blood glucose levels and keep you fuller for longer, which is why this macro is of utmost value to those who are on a ‘shape-up’ mission. Including lean protein with every meal, such as good quality red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, whey or vegan alternatives, will mean you are less likely to raid the biscuit tin.
3) Fat Does Not Make You Fat
Contrary to popular belief, fat does not make you fat; paradoxically, good quality fats actually assist your body in burning fat and building muscle. This includes saturated fat which has been inaccurately labelled as ‘bad’ with such fervency by the media for several decades now. There is no substantial evidence that saturated fat is linked to heart disease; indeed, increasing your intake of foods that naturally contain fats (both saturated and unsaturated) may even exhibit a protective effect. Fats contribute to various roles in the body, inclusive of normal energy metabolism; healthy brain function, nerve signalling, and hormone synthesis. They are also required for the storage of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Fats also help to regulate appetite, and have been shown to have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels. When you include healthy sources of fat in your diet, such as nuts, seeds, oily fish, grass-fed meat, full-fat dairy (YES! I said full-fat dairy!), avocados, olive and coconut oil, coupled with lean protein and low-carb vegetables, you have a recipe for curbing hunger pangs that is also conductive to fat loss.
You will find that eating this way – provided you are getting the macros correct – is a far more effective and satisfying dietary model that you are more likely to adhere to, compared with the ‘low-fat’ diet that is demonstrated in many publicised diets.
High Protein + Moderate Fat + Moderate Carbs = Fat Loss + Satiety
In the third and final instalment, I’m going to show you how the structure above works in more detail, but for this week, I’d like for you to continue with your food diary, and start to highlight where your predominant carb intake is, to see if you can spot any patterns. Have a look at your protein and fat intake, too. Donut worry (sorry, don’t worry) if you’re unsure about what to classify a certain food as – we’ll be going into this next week. I hope to see you then; thank you again for reading, and well done for getting to this point!