1. Eat Breakfast
This probably isn’t the first time you have heard this and isn’t any new scientific revelation, but it is extremely important. Have you ever thought about what the term “breakfast” means? You guessed it. It means to “break” the “fast”. When you wake up in the morning you have literally been fasting for 8 hours, depending on how long you sleep at night. (You should be getting 7-8 hours, but we will save that for another blog post.) If you continue to fast, as in not eat breakfast, your body decides to conserve, meaning hold on to, any incoming calories later in the day. When you eat breakfast you are essentially telling your body there are plenty of calories/energy to be consumed that day so your body actually uses that food for energy rather than holding on to it for dear life! What happens when your body conserves energy rather than expending it? Well, most likely, you will have a higher body mass index. This means (most of the time unless you are a bodybuilder/carry a ton of muscle) you will carry more fat mass than muscle mass. If that alone doesn’t make you want to eat breakfast then I am not sure I can convince you! What else can eating breakfast do for you? Eating breakfast has proven to enhance concentration, improve performance during physical activity and even lower cholesterol. Bottom line: eat breakfast. You will be glad you did.
2. Snack Often
Ever have that feeling that if you don’t eat something right now you are going to die?! Think about that feeling for a moment. Think about what type of food you typically crave when your body gets to that point. I am willing to bet you crave something sugary sweet or something high in fat/carbs that is completely unhealthy. Want to know why? Your body is starving! When your body is starving because it hasn’t been fed it sends signals to your brain that it needs energy FAST. What type of food provides quick energy? Sugar! Simple carbs. I am also willing to bet that you give in to this 99% of the time. Am I right? So, how do you avoid these moments of weakness? Snack often. I don’t mean snack on candy and junk food. Pack yourself healthy, nutritious snacks that satisfy you. If you aren’t eating 6 small meals a day I recommend snacking between your meals. This will keep you from feeling ravenous and keep you from choosing the worst thing on the menu at meal times.
3. Eat More Protein
I am sure this isn’t the first time you have heard this one either. If you are working out and your goals are to get leaner, or stronger, or more muscular, you need protein. If you came to me and said you just want to be “toned” I would tell you that most likely means gaining some muscle and losing fat. This means you need protein. Protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of your muscles. Without amino acids it is impossible to build, repair or even maintain muscle tissue. Your body needs protein to build muscle, repair and recover after a strenuous workout, and to maintain the muscle mass you currently have. If I can get a little nerdy with you for a moment – protein consists of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. If your protein intake is optimal your body will be in a positive nitrogen balance. This means you’re in an anabolic state which allows you to build muscle. On the contrary, if your protein intake is too low you risk putting your body in a negative nitrogen balance. In a negative nitrogen balance your body will be catabolic. What does this mean? This means that your body will be breaking down your muscle for energy! I can guarantee burning muscle for energy is counterproductive to your goals. You can increase your protein consumption by eating more lean meats, eggs or egg whites, low-fat greek yogurt (or full-fat depending on your nutritional needs), and even a whey protein supplement.
4. Refuel Post-Workout
When you exercise, you deplete your muscles fuel resources and cause minor damage to the muscles. Depletion and damage usually carry a negative connotation; however, they aren’t detrimental to our bodies unless they stick around. Therefore, post-workout nutrition is critical. Depletion and damage followed by post-workout nutrition helps the muscle adapt to the exercise demands placed on it! During exercise our muscle carbohydrate storages and protein storages are broken down. Once broken down our immune system comes in to start cleaning up, then our body sends signals to the brain to begin repair. However, if our body doesn’t have any “equipment” to help repair the muscle we are left with muscles that never reach their full potential. Again, counterproductive to our goals. I suggest eating within 30 minutes of your workout for optimal growth and recovery. You can read more about post-workout nutrition on my blog post “Why Post-Workout Nutrition Is A Must”.
5. Stop Yo-Yo Dieting
Do you feel like you have tried everything under the sun to reach your goals? Are you chasing a number on the scale that you just can’t ever seem to hit? Do you feel like everything you tried made you lose weight and then gain it all back as soon as you try to return to normal life? Stop. Just stop with the yo-yo dieting. At this point you are harming your body more than doing it any good. What happens when you yo-yo diet? Your metabolism tanks. You spend months restricting calories and working out hours a day. Sure, you lose weight at first. You may even reach the magic number on the scale but as soon as you return to your normal life the weight comes back, maybe even more weight than you started with! So, you start again with another diet. And the cycle continues. Now, anything you try doesn’t seem to work. You are stuck. Your metabolism sucks and you don’t know what to do. Lord knows don’t do another fad diet! Please. I suggest hiring someone. At this point you need an expert to help you create a healthy metabolism again and get you results that are maintainable. What you need to know is that process will take time. Creating a healthy metabolism will not happen overnight and your body won’t change overnight and may not change for a month or two. But you must be patient. I always tell people the time will pass anyway. So, in 6 months from now do you want to be