16 May A Better You: HOW -> Food & Nutrition part 1
Wow, where do I start! First of all I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my post. I’ve been receiving amazing feedback on my first part of A Better You: WHY (State of Mind). It really means the world to me, because for the first time ever I opened up about my feelings, thoughts and insecurities and I felt a bit ‘’naked’’. Seeing how it inspires a lot of people, makes it all worth it! So have you guys figured out your WHY yet? Are you willing to change your lifestyle for it? Are you willing to suffer pain and hunger for it? How committed are you?
As I was writing everything I know about nutrition, I realized it’s way too much for one blogpost, so I decided to split Food & Nutrition into 2 parts. In this first part, I discuss how you can best measure your progress, WHAT to eat and WHEN to eat. In part 2 I will discuss HOW to eat, basic rules you need to hold on to, cheat days, counting calories, supplements and I will add a food diary.
I want to start out by saying that I’m absolutely no expert. Everything I write is based on my own research and my own experience. It is what works for my body and mind. It might work differently for you, so you have to try and see how your body responds. Most important is to listen to your body.
In addition to the first part, I want to start by saying that I lost about 8-10 kg between August 12th and December 20th 2013. If you missed my before and after picture, check it out here.
The reason why I don’t know exactly how much weight I lost, is because I almost never stepped on a scale. I remember stepping on a scale somewhere in July weighing 59 kg and I stepped on another scale in December weighing 49 kg. These are different scales, so it may vary.
One of the major things that too many people do wrong is constantly stepping on that scale.
Don’t do this, because you will frustrate yourself and it’s not necessary. The reason why the scale is not trustworthy is because your body weight consists of many things that vary: Body fluid (water), Fat and Muscles. By the way, if you weigh, you should be naked to get an accurate weight or make sure you wear the exact same clothing next time you weigh, preferably early morning on empty stomach.
Research has shown that muscles weigh heavier than fat. Muscles burn fat. So if you want to lose fat, you need to create more muscles mass to burn the fat. When you start developing your muscles through training (in combination with eating clean), you will increase in muscle weight, but decrease in fat weight, which is exactly what you want.
The problem is that if you weigh at a certain point, the scale might tell you that you gained weight, which is true, but it’s muscle weight that replaced the fat weight. Despite you being conscious of this, you will probably still get disappointed because the scale is showing a higher number than before.
Also, in some periods your body might hold onto some extra water, which will also make it seem as if you’ve gained weight, when it’s not fat but water weight. So in order to avoid unnecessary frustration, stay away from the scale en measure your progress in other, more reliable ways. You see, your weight is nothing but a number, it can constitute of so many things, so you shouldn’t focus on reaching a certain weight, but instead focus on a picture of how you want to look like, or a certain fat percentage, which is more reliable.
The best way to measure your progress is by taking your measurements: Bust, Waist, Hips, Thighs (Left + Right) & Arms (Left + Right). Don’t forget to add the date and then you can measure weeks later to see your progress (I take my measurements once a month).
Next to this, professional athletes measure their fat percentage. You can ask you personal trainer in the gym if he/she can do this for you. When I started I didn’t measure it, so I have no idea how much I dropped in fat, unfortunately. I am measuring it now, so I will keep you guys up to date when I’ve reached my point of satisfaction in the Summer.
Moreover, I would like to recommend to take a before picture when you start and when you’ve reached a point where you are satisfied you can take an after picture. You don’t have to share it with anyone, but it is very motivating to look back.
Another measurement of progress is your clothing. You can easily notice you’re losing weight by your pants or belt that will fit looser. This is a way better and more reliable indication than your scale.
I used to stand in front of the mirror everyday to see if I made progress. I don’t recommend doing that because eventually you won’t see it anymore and this can be frustrating as well, while maybe you are making some great progress. I’ve added my progress based on measurements in the picture below, so you have an idea of how to do it (I left out Bust due to privacy reason, but don’t forget it!).
It’s the most cliché quote in Health & Fitness, but it’s true. ‘’Abs are made in the kitchen’’ or… wherever you eat. It doesn’t come down to that hour or 2 you spend in the gym, but it’s everything you do (and eat) in the other 22-23 hours that really counts.
First let me help you out of the illusion: There are no magic pills, no shortcuts, it’s all just invented to make money. All you need is discipline to control what’s on your plate and hard work in the gym.
Working out is just 30 % of the effort, controlling what’s on your plate counts for 70% to get a 100% of results.
In today’s world, with everything being reviewed by basically everyone who thinks they know enough about something to write about it (a little like me haha); but also new technology, enabling researchers to elaborately study our foods and bodies, it is not easy to find out what is genuinely healthy and what’s not.
Bread, for instance, which is quite a generic food, considered healthy and consumed by millions around the world, really is NOT that healthy. Sorry to break it to you guys, but it doesn’t have much nutritional value. For my Dutch friends, here is an article that explains it.
I’ve personally gotten the advice as a woman to not consume dietary products, so no milk, yoghurt, cheese etc. I do consume a little bit of milk with my protein shakes or oats, but it’s always (unsweetened) almond milk or low fat milk, and I tend to keep it at a minimum. This however, doesn’t mean I have a calcium deficit as most people think, because you can get calcium from many other healthy sources. Soy milk (unsweetened) is also an option, but I’m allergic to it.
I cook everything either with the 0 % fat cooking spray they sell at the supplement stores, Organic Coconut oil, or simply Olive oil. Since there is a constant debate going on, on for instance whether coconut oil is really good or bad for you, I just switch it up, making sure I don’t get too much of any of the 3 in my system.
A major misconception is: ‘’I have to lose fat, so I have to avoid fat’’.
Please, do NOT avoid ‘’Fats’’, because you need them to function. It’s a common mistake people make when they go on certain diets. If you don’t add fat into your daily meals, your body will go into a fat preserving mode, which will lead to you not losing any fat despite your hard work in the gym. You have to make sure your body gets in a little bit of fat and most important the right fat.
The best kind of fats you can give your body are the ‘’good’’ fats called Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats like Omega-3 and 6, which you can find in Unsalted Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews), Avocado and fatty fish like Tuna and Salmon, but also Olive oil. Read more here.
Important: A fat free/low-fat label on a product doesn’t necessarily make it a healthy product. It’s usually filled with carbohydrates and sugar that will transfer into fat in your body.
The basic rule is to eat everything in moderation to avoid excess of anything that might be bad for you.
Carbohydrates aka Carbs
Carbohydrates are fuel for your body. You need them to operate. However, if your body takes in more fuel than it burns, the carbohydrates will transform into fat. If you keep your carbohydrate intake low and increase your physical movement, your body will not have enough fuel to burn so it will start burning your fat reserve, which is what you want.
If I consume carbs, which I do at a minimum, I make sure they are the healthy carbs or the slow carbs. Slow carbs are good because they are gradually processed by your body, meaning you can function on them longer before your body starts to get hungry again compared to fast carbs. They keep your blood level at a relative regular, keeping you satisfied and energized longer. With fast carbs (white pasta, rice, bread) your blood level will drop faster, making you feel hungry very fast, because your body needs your blood level to peak again.
So I’m getting really technical on this, but it’s fairly easy: the closer you want to get to that sixpack, gradually reduce the amount of carbs you take in. And you should consume only good carbs like: whole grain crackers, steal cut oats, wholegrain rice, sweet potato and quinoa. Avoid bread, especially white bread, and any kind of white pasta and rice. Especially rice can create a big bloated belly. If you would just cut down on rice, I bet you will notice a difference. Lowering your carb intake is the hardest. You can get really cranky about it. But as I said before, it’s not going to be easy!
Proteins are the building blocks of your Muscles. In combination with building your muscles (to burn more fat) you need to take in a lot of proteins. I eat a lot of lean meat (chicken, lean turkey, low fat minced beef), Fish and lots of eggs. I also eat a lot of beans, like brown beans, white beans or chick peas, which contain lots of protein (in combination with carbs, but mostly good carbs). If you’ll be doing fitness it’s very important to get in your proteins to build your muscle mass.
I eat a lot of vegetables, naturally cooked. Vegetables also consist of carbohydrates and nutrients like vitamins, Iron, calcium etc. that fuel your body. They are a must in your new lifestyle of eating nutritional foods.
I don’t eat a lot of fruit, and here’s why. Fruits are very healthy, but next to all the vitamins they also contain loads of natural sugars. The fruits that you can eat are: Banana (but they do contain a lot of carbs so it’s best to eat them pre-workout or for breakfast), apple, kiwi, grapes, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries (contain lots of anti-oxidants that help burn your belly-fat). Most other fruits contain a lot of natural sugars that can basically delay you from reaching your goal.
Keep your salt use limited and spice your meals up with peppers which are good for the metabolism. People tend to focus a lot on their sugar intake, but your salt intake can be just as harmful. Apart from the cholesterol issues; if you eat too much salt your body will hold onto extra water, which will make you bloated and increase in water weight.
Basically each meal you have should consist of around 20-30% protein, 60-70% carbs (which you can get out of vegetables as well) and 10-20% fat. All depending on your goal. It is very important to make sure your meals have all of these nutrients and they are balanced out in good proportions.
When I’m on my mission and getting closer to that ripped body, my meals usually consist of 60-55 % protein, 40-30 % carbs (mostly vegetables) and 10-5 % fat, which is enough for my body to not go into fat preservation mode, and perfect for my body to start burning the stored fat because it doesn’t get enough fuel from my carbohydrate intake. However, my carb intake is just enough so I don’t get dizzy and I’m still energized/able to function normally, while the proteins make sure my body restores.
Another thing that is almost just as important as WHAT you eat, is WHEN you eat and HOW you eat.
So we’ve got WHAT covered, I will add a food diary in part 2 about Food & Nutrition.
You probably all know the saying, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Well it’s true, in the sense that you have to lower you carb intake throughout the day.
So for breakfast it might be ok to have a piece of whole grain bread, with a nice piece of salmon and some coffee with one cube of brown sugar, but don’t dare to do that before bedtime, for it will go straight to your thighs and belly unless you get up early and burn it off with some cardio on an empty stomach (which is highly unusual for most people). So make sure you lower your carb intake as you go through your day. Also, start eating smaller portions throughout the day.
Starting the day with protein and ending the day with protein is a golden rule, especially if you work out with weights and have to build muscle. Also, it’s extremely important to start eating within the hour after you wake up! By eating breakfast 15-30-45 min after you’ve woken up, you start your body’s engine for the day. A lot of people aren’t hungry in the morning, but you have to force yourself to eat something, so you can start up your metabolism.
If you want to become a fat burning machine, you have to start with speeding up your natural metabolism. So what we do is eat every 2-3 hours! By eating every 2 hours you can afford to eat just a little bit (as long as you hold onto the nutritional rules: protein/carbs/fat) and it will hold you until it’s time to eat again. So you eat 6-8 smaller meals a day instead of 3 big meals.
In the beginning I used to set my alarm clock every 2 hours, now I don’t need to because my body literally starts screaming for food after 2 hours. Sometimes, I’m getting hungry after only 1,5 hour has passed and I still have half an hour to go. In that case I just drink a lot of water, because you shouldn’t be eating before the 2 hours have passed.
This brings me to the next, very important point which is:
Most of you have a life, so a job, school or another obligation that keeps you busy during the day. This means that you don’t have time to prepare food every 2 hours, which means that you have to prepare it beforehand, like the night before. Meal preparation is crucial to succeeding in keeping up this healthy lifestyle. If you don’t prepare your food, you don’t have anything when your alarm goes off. If you skip it, your metabolism slows down and so does your fat burning. This will result in overeating/binging at night, because your body is going to want to catch up with that missed meal.
If you still want to keep it up you will have to grab some ‘’fast’’ food and that will certainly not be healthy. Most foods available at a cafeteria, lunch room or fast food restaurant will not offer you the nutritional value you need and are very likely to be too high in fat, carbs and sugars.
Preperation is key to success! And it requires time and effort, which is why it’s not for everyone (as you’ve been warned in part 1).
Your last meal for the day should be at least 2 hours before going to sleep. This is usually the killing part, because your body is used to eating every 2 hours, so by the time you have to go to sleep you’re hungry. And yes, you have to go to bed hungry. Eating right before you go to sleep will cause your body to have to work hard during your sleep to digest, which sucks up so much energy that you will probably wake up feeling very tired. Moreover, you don’t burn those calories you just consumed (because you’re asleep), so depending on the composition of your last meal there is a possibility that your body will store fat.
So this concludes part 1 of Food & Nutrition. Stay tuned for next week, when I publish part 2 on Food & Nutrition and the week after when I talk about Fitness & HIIT Cardio.
I really hope this helps you guys, make sure you take notes and if you have any questions, please ask them in the comment section below. This way, I can answer you here so other people that might have the same question will read it as well.
Stay focused and fit!!
‘’When I lost all my excuses, I found my results’’.