"You can't out-train a bad diet"....a hard rule to accept, but true. Nutrition is about 70-80% of our fitness battle and results, and therefore, deserves a lot of attention!!
Nutrition is key to making our bodies lean, healthy and fit. And that means cleaning up our "diets." This may be one of the biggest challenges, but it's possible. Our bodies function more efficiently and effectively this way. Once weaned off "crap food" (as I call it), it’s becomes an easy lifestyle. Decreasing the accumulation of food toxins means less fat storage is needed to "house" those toxins.
So what does "Clean Eating" mean?
The general rules of thumb: "If man made it, don’t eat” and “If the food contains ingredients you don’t recognize and/or are unable to pronounce, then don’t eat it.”
In a nutshell, eating clean is the practice of eating whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, good fats and complex carbohydrates. It also means staying away from the junk that typically makes up the Standard American Diet (S.A.D) These types of food include man-made sugar, bad fats (hydrogenated, trans-fat), preservatives, white bread, and any other ingredients that are unnecessary.
So many Americans have become addicted to the over-processed, modified and chemically-injected foods that make up the S.A.D. these days; therefore, a gradual elimination of these foods and gradual transition over to cleaner eating is much easier to "digest” (yes, pun intended) and stick to. This transition plan consists of eliminations and additions over an 8-week period. If you already eat naturally and healthy, you may be following some of these rules now. In that case, skip over the ones you already incorporate and/or apply 2 rules together in one week, shortening your full transtition to clean eating.
Here is the Beginning.....the "Rules" for Weeks #1 and #2:
WEEK #1 RULE: GET RID OF THE JUNK & DRINK WATER, WATER, WATER!
WEEK #1 starts with eliminating the obvious “JUNK”: no fried foods, chips, cakes, cookies, alcohol, juices, candy, sugar, etc. & DRINK WATER, WATER, WATER (no more juice, cokes, energy drinks)!
This step alone could be big! If you think you may have a hard time drinking water, flavor it up - add herbal teas, add fruit slices to your water (orange, lemon or lime), add mint or cucumber slices.
** Cheat Days – 1-2….During this first week, allow a cheat day (or 2) to eat whatever you want.
As the weeks go on, you'll probably discover that the healthier, whole foods you eat, the less junk you'll crave. You're body doesn't need it and it won't make you feel as good (bloating, indigestion, constipation, less energy, etc).
** Each week's rules are cumulative! The "no junk/lots of water" rule from Week 1 will apply to Week 2-8, as will each subsequent week's rule!
WEEK #2 RULE: EAT SMALL, EAT OFTEN & FOCUS ON GOOD CARBS:
WEEK #2 is about shooting for 4-6 mini-meals each day, AND don't eat anything for 2 hours before you go to sleep. (2 HR RULE is IMPORTANT!!) Decreasing carbs and fat at night allows your body to sleep in fat-burning mode rather than calorie-storing mode - undigested carbs (as are any type of excess calories) are stored as fat.
Eating small mini-meals throughout the day boosts your metabolism, helps keep blood sugar levels more static and your energy level consistent. It also prevents your body from going into starvation mode, holding onto calories to protect itself, and then causing you to overeat out of starvation later in the day. Try to keep each snack or meal balanced - protein, carbs and a little fat - - a bit from each macronutrient group.
*2 Cheat Days this week
FOCUS ON GOOD CARBS for maximum results: Carbs are not the enemy. You need them, but the trick is to choose the right carbs! Choose complex carbs: whole-grain breads, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, legumes & fruit!! NO REFINED SUGARS! Avoid white rice and flours. And - READ LABELS, and try to avoid ones that use the word "enriched." This means products have been stripped of their natural nutrients, overprocessed & then fortified with a few random nutrients. Again, if you don’t’ recognize or can’t pronounce an ingredients on the label, don’t eat it.
WEEK #3 RULE: EAT YOUR FRUITS OR VEGGIES AT EVERY MEAL, ALONG WITH PROTEIN
EAT YOUR FRUITS OR VEGGIES AT EVERY MEAL!
Colorful fruits and veggies are low-density foods, which means they take up a lot of space without a lot of calories! They are also nutrient dense - they give your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs without a lot of calories. Plus, eating low-density foods at every meal will help keep your portions under control naturally.
HIGH-density foods, like chocolate, butter, oils, etc. are loaded with calories in even the smallest amounts. SO.....BEWARE of salad dressings & other additions/toppings to salads & veggies.
*Cheat Days: 1
FOCUS ON PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL!
Protein tends to be high-density. Many low-density veggies have protein, but you have to consume a very large amt to get adequate protein in your diet. Eat meat, chicken, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds, or legumes—each time you eat, especially when you're working out hard, because you need to repair broken-down muscle tissue. Women aren't able to digest large amounts of protein at one time, so frequency of protein consumption throughout the day is important.
Week #4 RULE: EATING AT HOME, AND COOKING W/HEALTHY FATS.
RULE: COOK AT HOME
This is one of the BEST ways to control your eating, portion size & ingredients. Eliminate ALL fast food (as in Week 1) & MOST other restaurant food, unless you can be sure of the healthy ingredients used by the restaurant. (***Keep in mind, the average restaurant meal contains 1000 calories!! Yikes!)
ALL FAST FOOD CHAINS, even those that claim to be "healthy" often use compromised ingredients (in an attempt to make their food taste better), even when they list low numbers on fats &/or calories. Fast food often insanely high sodium levels!!
Use the rules from Weeks 1-3 to retrain your brain! Set aside some time to plan out your shopping list and your meals AND prep healthy foods ahead of time, so that it's easy & convenient to create healthy meals at home.
*Cheat Days: 1
FOCUS: COOK WITH GOOD FATS!
"Good fats" (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are ESSENTIAL because they are good for your heart, cholesterol, & overal health. Saturated or trans fats are NOT ESSENTIAL - they are mainly artificial & found in junk food. Hopefully, you have eliminated those in Week #1!
Saturated fats are found in dairy products & meats - - You don't need too much! Both increase your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. GOOD FATS include olive oil, flaxseed, nuts, seeds, natural peanut and almond butter, salmon, tuna, trout & avocados. They are loaded with essential fatty acids (omegas 3 and 6).
Even though it's good fats, still be careful of the amount of fat you eat. A tablespoon goes a long way!
WEEK #5 RULE: REDUCE STARCHY CARBOHYDRATES- rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, corn, beans, legumes.
These are not bad foods, but most people eat far too many of them, filling their meals with 50% starches. The majority of carbs in our meals should be made up of complex, fibrous carbs like veggies and fruits. This tendency to overload on starchy carbohydrates may come from the "old school" USDA food pyramid model. So, this week, cut way down on them, or cut them out completely. Then add them back in only when your body feels like it needs energy - it will if you're exercising!
Remember: When adding starch for energy, remember to add a small single serving, not a huge plate or bowl (a single serving of pasta = 1 cup). Starches give you great energy, but if you eat too many, they turn the tables and make you sluggish! Also, if you're trying to reduce extra pounds, avoid eating starches at night and especially before bed!
*Cheat Days: 1
FOCUS ON ELIMINATING SUGARS, unless you've earned it with exercise!
Our bodies don't need processed sugar. Sugar is only beneficial after a HARD workout. So if you can't eliminate sugar completely, then the 1-hour period after you exercise is the best time to indulge. This is when your blood sugar is low, (assuming you pushed yourself). Sugar during this time will help you recover faster because it speeds into your system & initiates the recovery process. Adding a little protein, but not too much, will enhance your recovery even further.
WEEK #6 RULE: IF MAN MAKES IT, DON'T EAT IT!
This rule pretty much sums up what "clean eating" is all about.
Eat only WHOLE foods (i.e.fruit, raw or steamed vegetables, meat (W/O any type of sauce), natural whole-grain rice, quinoa, steel cut oatmeal, nuts, raw nut putters, eggs, etc.
AND eliminate ALL processed foods, even good ones, for the week.
(i.e. eliminate: breads, most salad dressings, all cereal, luncheon meats, cheese, dried fruits, anything w/ preservatives, & alcoholic beverages).
This is likely to be the hardest week of the transition. Don't worry - stay focused & you'll see the biggest changes inside and out! You'll feel greater energy & lighter with this rule! Adhering to this rule most of the time is one of the biggest nutritional keys to leaning up!
Since your eating habits have been slowly changing, this should NOT be a huge shock to your system, but knowing you only have to do this for 7 days will make it easier. :)
(Week 6 is more of a "cleanse" or "reset" week where you avoid all processed food; after Week 6, you can go back to the occasional processed food, but chances are you'll take what you learned this week and tend to make healthier, smarter choices.)
**Cheat Days: 1
The "cheat day" mentality isn't a bad one. Rewards (desserts, a buffet, or drinking w/friends) are good for you as long as you keep them in perspective. If you're cutting down on calories to lose weight, allowing yourself a cheat day will give your body a chance to take in what it needs to avoid being malnourished.
FOCUS: GO NUTS! A handful of raw almonds or pistachios is a quick & easy snack that goes a long way. Nuts are loaded with important phytonutrients, as well as good fats, proteins, AND fiber!! Just don't eat the entire bag/jar! :)
WEEK #7 RULE: BE YOURSELF, JUST LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
This week, there are no "rules." Just try to eat healthy by "feel." By this week, you'll should have some healthy habits established, or at least recognize the unheathy ones! :) Remember to use food for fuel & give your body what it needs.
Learning to eat by "feel" is an important step in your transformation. With this gradual transition, it's likely you may find yourself craving something healthy instead of a candy bar or soda. You'll be better at listening to your body b/c it'll tell you what it needs to eat, as opposed to what you're used to eating. Your body should feel somewhat transformed.
**Reward Days: 1
FOCUS: BE CONSCIOUS OF LATE NIGHT EATING. If you're so hungry at night that you can't sleep, try a protein snack - like almond butter, a serving of nuts or seeds, a boiled egg, or protein shake before bed. Ask yourself if your hunger is real or habitual. Hunger means you lack nutrients your body needs to repair itself as you sleep. So concentrate on protein for repair and recovery; No carbs or superfluous calories. Protein at night will help the body repair damaged tissue and enhance the natural growth-hormone spike that you get while you sleep.
WEEK #8 RULE: THE "PERFECT" PLAN - - Perfect for you, that is!
This is the REAL challenge. The "perfect" plan is strictly individual. There's no one "diet" that suits everybody because our bodies are all different. We have different food sensitivities, reactions, allergies, & circumstances. Decide what has been working BEST for you over these past 7 weeks. Hopefully this transition has helped you understand how food affects YOUR body, both good & bad.
The Test: See how well you can eat for a week....OR for the rest of your life! Make it a lifestyle, live & enjoy!!
Reward Days: 1, of course!
FOCUS: AVOID LOW BLOOD SUGAR! Bonking = your body runs out of stored blood sugar for energy. Use your energy level as your gauge. If you feel like your workouts are extremely tough, start adding carbs back into your diet until you feel energized all day long. When you feel energized during your workouts & not sluggish thru the the day, you'll know you've found the right balance between carbs & other nutrients.
REMEMBER: As your body puts on more muscle, you will need to eat more. Muscle weighs much more than fat so as you gain muscle & lose fat, you will shrink at the same weight. Maintaining muscle requires more calories. So when you're working out HARD, don't be afraid to eat more carbs - - make them GOOD CARBS though!