When it comes to getting in shape, so much attention is paid to the number of calories you consume on a daily basis. To some extent, this is justified – you can’t make progress without being on the right calorie intake for your goals. However, this is not the only important area of nutrition to get right.
Lots of nutritional and lifestyle aspects can impact the speed of your results. When you eat highly processed, poor quality, low nutrient foods and combine that with poor sleep, lack of exercise, and poor hydration, oxidative stress builds up in the body, leading to inflammation and even disease. This can have a dramatic impact on your progress, which leads to frustration and a lack of reward for your hard work.
So, how can you prevent this? What are other parts of your nutrition do you need to improve to get great results?
Removing Intolerant Food Groups
One of the best things you can do when you first start your fitness journey or even just to improve your overall health is remove food groups from your diet that you are intolerant to. These foods cause higher levels of inflammation in the body, which leads to higher water retention and therefore makes you feel more bloated.
By cleaning up your diet, you will be able to see noticeable progress in the first one to two weeks due to the lowering of inflammation levels in the body and therefore less water retention. It will also reduce cortisol and improve energy levels, which can lead to better performance. Make sure you are adding in high protein options, more green vegetables, and more slow-releasing carbohydrates into your meals. This is a great starting point to get you off on the right track.
Introducing better quality foods into your routine, you will notice a big improvement in your fitness goals and overall health. You may have come from a diet that included foods that are highly processed, high in sugar, high in trans fats, and low in nutrition. This also leads to higher levels of inflammation and is harder for the body to digest.
So, while it is important to add in certain food groups into your diet, make sure you are getting the best quality possible. This means meat and fish over the counter, organics fruit and vegetables and less food that has gone through a high degree of processing. You will then experience less bloating, less pain and better gut health.
Prior to starting their fitness journey, many people under-consume when it comes to their protein intake. Protein is an important macronutrient that plays a crucial role in the process of muscle recovery and repair when you are looking to build more muscle or tone your body. It has ‘building blocks’ called amino acids that the body uses to build and repair muscles and bones, in addition to making hormones and enzymes. Protein is also essential for retaining the muscle you have already gained and can be used as an energy source.
So, your protein intake is the next most important thing to calculate after calories. It is recommended that, during the process of getting into and staying in shape, you have 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound (lbs) of body weight. For example, if your body weight is 160 pounds, you should be consuming 150-160g per day. Once you have this target, you then figure out how to reach it consistently on a day-to-day basis, using tactics such as having protein with every meal, dividing your meals up, and using supplements.
Fruits and Vegetables
Another important part of your nutrition will be to add in plenty of fruits and vegetables into your routine. This will provide your body with an excellent variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy and strong. Furthermore, these foods are high in antioxidants, which will protect your body and lower your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, as well as general flu and illness. Aim to have a variety of both, including fruits that provide you with a quick hit of energy and green, leafy vegetables that offer extremely high levels of nutrients for your body.
The final key area, outside of training and nutrition to focus on is hydration. Getting enough water in throughout the day is a huge determining factor in how your body will function, both in terms of health and fitness. Your body is 60% water, so it is vital that you stay hydrated. When you wake up in the morning, more often than not, your body is dehydrated, so make sure you have a couple of glasses of water as soon as you can. This will allow important nutrients to flow through to important body parts, flush toxins out of your body, help deliver oxygen all over the body, allow your body’s cells to grow, reproduce and survive, and act as a ‘shock absorber’ for you brain and spinal cord.
When it comes to fat loss, water plays a big role because it helps you feel full and satisfied throughout the day, which leads to less temptation to snack on other foods. Often when you wake up in the morning and you think you are hungry, you are actually dehydrated, so drinking water first thing will also help you delay your first meal if that is something you like to do. Drinking plenty of water also boosts your metabolism, the chemical process inside your body that turns food into energy, which is vital for efficient fat burning.
Nutrition plays a huge role in your fitness journey and while the number of calories you consume is vital, there are other areas that are also important. These include removing intolerant food groups, improving the quality of your food, having protein with each meal, adding in more fruits and vegetables and regularly hydrating. Consistently getting these areas right will boost your progress and ensure that you have a stronger, healthier body long-term.
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