Nutrition tips for losing body fat
People who follow the blog or follow me on the various social media sites I jam up with my mindless drivel and pictures of my food/cat/latest make up purchase will know that I have been embarking on a fitness journey since the beginning of the year.
Unlike my other fitness campaigns, which lasted no more than a couple of months before I gave up, I have stayed with it, missing only one week of training out of 26 and having a few dips in my nutrition every now and then.
Since sharing the picture below on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook a few people have been in touch with me to ask the rather unanswerable question: “What’s your secret?” I say it’s unanswerable, but really, I don’t have a secret. I’ve had amazing guidance from a professional trainer and the most knowledgeable nutritionist out there. and I’ve been working hard.
In Part 1 of 2 in this “how I’m doing it” series, I’m going to talk about what I feel is the most important aspect of my lifestyle change; nutrition.
So what do I eat and what do I not eat?
Sugar, dodododo, aaaaah honey, honey
It’s all about sugar, baby! Your body’s insulin levels react to the amount of sugar you have in your diet, and sugar, as is commonly mistaken, doesn’t just mean jellies, chocolate, donuts and so on, it means any carbohydrate; fruit, veg, rice and so on.
Carbs are our friend, but we also have to realise that some carbohydrates are not good for us and simply store as fat in the body if not used up as energy.
Your body burns energy in this way:
When you want to lose weight, you want to get to the glycogen quicker, so if you are eating heaps of porridge in the thought that it will give you energy for your workout, you are hindering your body’s ability to get into the “fat burning zone”. This is why the mentality that you can eat as badly as you wish because you exercise doesn’t work; your body is burning off all starchy carbs before it gets to your excess body fat.
For this reason I get most of my carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, I don’t eat bread, I don’t eat potatoes (sometimes I’ll have sweet potatoes) but I do eat brown rice after a workout with a high protein meal. I was never a potato fan so cutting that out was easy, and as for pasta, I cut that out long ago due to IBS, so I guess I’m lucky that I’m used to not eating it already.
Post workout dinner
I also only eat bananas after a workout because of their high sugar content. It’s often pegged as the best food to eat before exercise but the truth is actually the opposite; Bananas are a great post-workout snack because they are filled with the electrolytes you need to restock on after a sweaty session.
Protein is king
Because of the assumption that protein foods are high in calories, I always avoided them when I was restricting myself in order to lose a few pounds. I would have a meatless salad, plain porridge in the mornings, tomatoes on rice cakes and I would struggle to keep the weight off; largely because I wasn’t eating enough to kickstart my metabolism and also because eating in that way is absolutely not sustainable.
Now I try to get protein into every meal I eat. Why? Not only does protein help repair muscles after an intense workout, it helps create lean, toned muscles therefore defining them (I check my abs daily, still no luck yet), it’s essential for energy and physiological function and your body just needs it; it’s in our DNA and keeps your blood healthy and your hair, skin and nails in good condition. It’s the original “superfood”.
Calories and portion control be damned
Calories should be accounted for not counted. Counting calories has never worked in a sustainable way for me because my body was never fuelled enough for a decent workout, my metabolism was most likely slowing drastically and let’s be honest with ourselves, calories don’t determine the nutritional value of the food.
We have become so obsessed with the numbers on food packaging, we have forgotten about what’s in them. Next time you go to pick up an 89 calorie cereal bar, look at the amount of chemicals and sugar present and reach for an apple instead. Not eating your dinner so you can have a massive slice of chocolate cake will not help your body in anyway. It doesn’t work like that.
Hows that for portion control?
The same goes for portion size; eating the same as you always have but smaller might make a temporary difference but again, that’s not sustainable. Eating a teeny, tiny salad every day is also not sustainable. As long as you are eating foods free of chemicals and high in nutritional value you can slap as much of it on the plate as possible (within reason, of course). So I eat big, but I eat clean; honestly I have never eaten so often or so much in my life and not worrying about calories is freeing.
I have three general rules when it comes to what I eat:
If it has more than 6 ingredients, put it back.
If sugar is a main ingredient, put it back.
If it has any scientific sounding ingredients I can’t pronounce, put it back.
The extra salts, sugars and god knows what they are additives you see in a lot of convenience foods and “diet” or “low fat” products are probably what are holding you back in your progress. Kick the chemicals and you will see a huge difference.
So those are the basic rule I follow and I credit my new-found knowledge and passion for nutrition with pushing the progress along. I will never forget after a bad food St. Patrick’s Weekend (my birthday weekend) I put on four pounds. Four pounds over four days. I was still training but the food cancelled out the hard work. Says a lot!
Exception to the 6 ingredient rule are Quest Bars – they keep me from binging on junk food and they have 20g of protein and only 1 gram of sugar. It’s a win.
A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about “the cheat meal”. I say, if it’s good enough for The Rock, it’s good enough for me.
The idea behind the cheat meal is that you are treating yourself to something you have been dying for all week; it makes “eating clean” that little bit easier knowing you don’t have to completely restrict yourself forever. It also reboots your metabolism, is great for your insulin levels and makes you feel warm and happy inside.
I have a strong disbelief in denying yourself of things you love for good, even if they are bad. If you have a favourite “bad” meal, save it for your cheat meal and you will enjoy it more than ever, without going back on the hard work you have put it. If you are “good” with your food 98% of the week, one carby, sugary, cheesy meal should not make you feel bad; it should make you feel good.
My two favourite cheat meals are A big ol’ messy cheese burger and garlic cheese fries from the chipper OR cinema nachos and popcorn with a massive diet coke (I enjoy the taste of aspartame. Go on- judge me).
An example of my daily nutrition
Breakfast: 2 Poached Eggs with Flaxseed and a mixed berry protein smoothie
Snack: Almonds and a Nectarine
Lunch: Homemade Chilli Con Carne
Pre-workout snack: Greek Yoghurt (not Greek style!) with blackberries and protein (note, no starchy carbs)
Post-workout: Protein Shake
Dinner: Fish in an Almond flour batter (egg and sparkling water) with brown rice and mixed veg
The one thing I really want to make clear is that this isn’t a diet. This is how I eat all the time. Not for 6 weeks before I go on holidays, not for 2 weeks to “cleanse”- it’s my lifestyle and it’s much more sustainable than any fad diet you’ll see out there.
Easy enough to follow? I’d love to hear your thoughts.