6 Nutrition Rules for Living Lean and Healthy
Aug 1st, 2012
6 Nutrition rules comin’ right up…
I know. You read the word “rules” and you’re already thinking about clicking away from this page.
If you’re still reading, you’ll be glad to know that you’re not just about to preached at and told 6 things that you mustn’t ever do.
You’re going to be given 6 essential, practical, relatively easy to implement guidelines that will enable you to get lean, stay lean, and live healthier.
All of these nutrition rules are those that I personally live by and are what I consider to be the most integral elements to eating for living a lean and healthy lifestyle.
I’ll start with one I know you’re going to like…
Nutrition Rule #1: Treat Yourself
Eating well all day every day isn’t feasible for the average person not preparing for a physique competition.
We have birthday parties, family reunions, holidays, date nights, and social gatherings that are times to relax and enjoy the company of others without stressing the details of our diet.
There have been times when I’ve been ultra-committed to my results, and have abstained from allowing myself to have a cheat meal, even at times like these.
Under most circumstances we can enjoy the occasional pizza, piece of cake, or some other indulgence a couple times a week without worry and feelings of guilt.
Plus, it’s always nice to reward yourself.
The picture to the right is how I rewarded myself this past Saturday after a full week of following the Renegade Diet:
Nutrition Rule #2: Time Your Carbs
I recently wrote an article that covers this topic in great detail (read it here), but the quick and dirty version looks like this:
Eat the majority of your daily carbohydrates between 90 minutes before starting your workout (consisting of weight training and cardio) and 3 hours after completing your training session.
Eating carbs at all other times during the day carries the inherent risk of adding to your body fat levels, because the body will not have an immediate need for the sugar (glucose and glycogen) produced as ingested carbohydrates are broken down in the body.
The release of insulin that follows a spike in blood sugar will force the unused sugar energy into the body’s adipose (fat) tissue for later use, which we want to avoid whenever possible.
By abstaining from eating carbohydrates in significant amounts at times other than immediately before and after exercise we can effectively prevent the storage of additional fat on our body.
Carbs are a necessary part of any healthy diet plan, but if you’re concerned about having a healthy level of body fat, you need to be smart about how and when you eat them.
Nutrition Rule #3: Eat Natural Foods
In order to get and maintain a lean and healthy physique you’re going to have to stop ingesting a myriad of processed foods and place an emphasis on eating natural foods as often as you can.
If your diet currently consists mostly of processed, pre-packaged foods, you might be thinking, “Okay, I’m done with this article. I’d rather be fat and out of shape than having to eat like a rabbit all day.”
You don’t have to eat like a rabbit
And, actually, most people who make the transition to eating more natural foods will soon begin to desire them over processed alternatives.
So, why is eating natural, unprocessed foods so important when it comes to living lean and healthy?
For starters, natural foods will keep the liver free and clear of the toxins and chemicals contained in processed foods that prevent it from oxidizing excess body fat to its full potential.
While liver health, and the fat burning benefit of having a healthy liver, is the most pragmatic reason for switching to a diet that primarily consists of natural foods, there are a few other benefits of eating naturally that are certainly worth considering:
- Natural foods are less calorie-dense, allowing you to eat more while still losing fat
- Natural foods are more nutritious, so a higher percentage of what is ingested can actually be used by your body
- Eating natural foods has been shown to prevent cancer and heart disease, increase immune system strength, and has been linked to longer life
I’m not going to say that you can’t get lean while eating processed foods, because I know from first hand experience that a statement like that would be false.
However, diets primarily consisting of processed foods make it much more difficult to drop excess fat and maintain a lean physique.
Nutrition Rule #4: Monitor Your Calories
This the most basic nutrition rule that’s used by just about every diet plan that’s geared toward inducing some end result, be it related to fat loss or muscle building.
There are certain physique goals that require a strict adherence to caloric intake and/or monitoring the intake of macro-nutrients, but the average person simply needs to have a ballpark idea of the number of calories they should be eating and stick to it.
The number of calories you should allow for each day will vary by gender, activity level, body composition and personal goals.
For the sake of this article we’re going to assume the goal is simply to get down to a healthy weight and maintain it. For a good caloric starting point for achieving this goal, simply take your ideal body weight in pounds and multiply it by 14.
This will give you a generic starting point for the calories you should shoot for each day. If you notice your fat loss stops before reaching your goal weight, you’ll obviously need to modify your calories by reducing them accordingly.
I realize tracking calories can be an inconvenience, but if you don’t know what you’re putting into your body you’ll likely be filling it with much more than it needs, which will preclude the possibility of your ever being lean.
Nutrition Rule #5: Eat Complete Proteins
A complete protein is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids.
This is important because the body requires all of the essential amino acids to be present for muscle growth and recovery.
In other words, if you aren’t regularly feeding your body with complete proteins, your ability to gain/retain muscle and recover from your workouts is going to be compromised.
In general, complete proteins are those that come from animals: beef, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, whey, fish, shellfish and pork.
You should try to include some form of complete protein with every meal, whenever possible.
Vegans and vegetarians will obviously have a hard time with this. So if this describes you, there’s an approach of combining specific incomplete proteins to make complete proteins that you’ll want to implement (learn more about this approach here).
Nutrition Rule #6: Drink Coffee and Teas
As much as I enjoy the music of George Thorogood, his line in “I Drink Alone” that says, “in the morning just before breakfast, I don’t want no coffee or tea”, is not very sound advice for living lean and healthy.
Coffee and teas (green and black) are great sources of antioxidants and can actually serve to jump-start our fat burning, metabolic engine when we drink them in the morning on an empty stomach.
If it isn’t already part of your morning ritual, start waking up to a cup of black coffee or plain tea to start your day, and wait to eat your first meal until at least an hour or two afterwards.
Not only will this help with fat loss, but will help wake you up and make you more productive as well.
If you workout in the morning, having a cup of coffee or tea before your workout is a great way to increase the fat burning effectiveness of your training and increase your focus while training.
Bonus Nutrition Rules
I know I only promised you 6 nutrition rules, but I like to over-deliver, so here are three more:
- Limit alcohol consumption – it increases estrogen, decreases testosterone, slows fat loss and raises cortisol levels
- Don’ t ingest artificial sweeteners – they have been linked to cancer and still cause the release of insulin and subsequent storage of additional body fat
These are the nutrition rules that I used to get lean and continue to live by to maintain my fit physique.
I realize that no-one likes rules or being told what to do, but don’t kid yourself…
Every successful body transformation ever achieved was the result of the commitment to a set of effective training guidelines and nutritional rules.
So put these nutrition rules into practice and start reaping the rewards for yourself!
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