Returning to the Gym: How to Structure Your Diet
One of the most important factors to successfully reaching your goals is diet. I like to think of diet as the foundation of everything. You can either set your body up for success or you can set it up for failure. This article will be fairly short because I feel, for the general population, a healthy diet should focus on a small set of rules. Depending on your individual goals (weight loss, building muscle, etc.), the specifics may differ a bit, but the general rules will always apply.
The first rule is to consume a high protein diet. Consuming a high protein diet, alongside an exercise program, will bias the body towards building muscle instead of storing fat. A general guideline is to aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Again, this number will vary slightly based on your goals (i.e. individuals interested in weight loss may want to consume more protein), but is a great starting point for everyone. Remember, more protein is not always better. Consuming too much protein will inevitably lead to your body storing it as fat. Along the same lines, do not completely avoid fats or carbohydrates. Especially when you’re following an exercise regimen, your body needs both to support recovery, energy levels, hormone health, and countless other natural processes. These should come from natural sources, though.
The second rule is to eat mostly minimally processed foods. If your diet contains 90% naturally occurring foods like vegetables (lots of these!), fruits, meat, nuts and seeds, you will set yourself up for success. Note, I said 90%. The other 10% of the time, enjoy yourself. Go out with friends, eat socially, order a less-than-ideal meal, and don’t beat yourself up after it. Allowing yourself to do this on occasion will make eating healthy much easier. Also, recognize that one misstep shouldn’t set the tone for the whole day or the whole weekend. I see far too often people spiral out of control because of one unhealthy meal. Accept it and make the next meal better.
Lastly, eat enough calories. I know it may seem counterproductive to individuals seeking weight-loss, but eating a sufficient amount of calories on a daily basis is paramount to reaching your goals in a healthy, sustainable way. Eating a sufficient amount of calories will bias your body to maintain an efficient metabolism. For this reason, I recommend decreasing your daily caloric intake by a maximum of 500 calories. One of my favorite ways to achieve a slight caloric deficit is to utilize intermittent fasting. In my opinion, this combined with a high protein diet is the most sustainable approach to weight loss. If you follow these three basic guidelines, you will achieve and maintain a lean, healthy body for life.
Fitness Professional, Matt Rucinski
Interested in learning more? Contact Matt or one of our other great Personal Trainers to figure out how to get more physical activity and/or exercise into your lifestyle.