There’s a saying “Garbage in, garbage out”, whose origins lie in the early days of computing. If you put faulty data in, you got faulty data out. Well the same principle applies to your diet. For long, enough I thought I could eat pretty much what I wanted in the way of junk food, and still build a lean, well-toned physique just by working out. How wrong I was. My diet and the portions I was eating were far more important than I realised.
I was wasting a lot of my workout time, because I wasn’t eating a diet that supported the gain and maintenance of the muscle tissue I was trying to build. Before I go any further, I wasn’t weightlifting and working out to look like a bodybuilder. For one thing, I couldn’t afford to buy the amount of food needed to get to that stage, and for another I didn’t want to spend my life in the gym working out. I just wanted to look good enough to take my t-shirt off in the summer. Now, besides not eating to support my muscle gains and maintenance, I wasn’t providing my body with enough quality food to fuel my workouts and keep my body functioning at its peak.
When it came to planning a diet to support my muscle gain, and improve the overall health of my body was simpler than I thought. Despite the overwhelming, and more often than not conflicting advice when it comes to choosing a diet and eating healthily, there were some simple tips that put me on the right path. There are three main food groups that are essential to getting and maintaining a healthy body. They are protein, carbohydrates and fat.
The Building Blocks
Protein, with the exception of water makes up more of the body than anything else does. Protein is responsible for repairing, maintaining and building muscle tissue. It also acts as an energy source after your body has burned up its carbohydrates. When it comes to the actual amount of protein, you need to eat every day, the debate swing between what the average person needs and as much as you can eat. The simplest recommendation is to eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of your bodyweight. So, for example if you weigh 170 lbs. you would eat 170 grams of protein a day. You don’t have to be religious about this; it’s no big deal if one day you only eat 130 grams one day.
For the women, because you naturally have less lean muscle mass than men do, you should aim for around 0.8 grams of protein for 1 lbs. bodyweight.
For anybody who is obese, it would be as well to lower your daily protein amount. And start from the sort of bodyweight you would like to be or were before you became too overweight.
Your best protein sources are from meats, dairy products, legumes and supplements. You can get a variety of protein powders, which you can mix with water or milk. And studies have shown that these types of supplement, in liquid form, your body absorbs more quickly and uses more efficiently.
Carbohydrates Are Not All Bad
Carbohydrates, contrary to popular belief are good for you. Although there are, plenty of fad diets that would have you believe you shouldn’t touch carbs with a barge pole. Mainly because they contain ‘fattening’ starch and sugar. Yes, carbs are fattening if you eat a lot of highly refined breads, cakes and sugary snacks. And most of us eat too many starch and sugary snacks; because once carbohydrates are refined and processed, they don’t ‘fill you up’. Once you take away the fibre, which nearly all unprocessed carbohydrates have in their natural state, you’ve taken away the ‘filling’ part, which would have satisfied your hunger.
In their natural, unrefined state, carbohydrates are you bodies first source of energy, because they are quick burning. You can get a fast boost for your workouts with a banana, apple or orange; you could even eat dried fruit for the same effect. The more complex versions like whole grains and rice can give you a slower and more sustained energy supply to fuel your workouts. If you don’t have enough complex carbs in your diet, then your body will turn to using your body’s protein supply for fuel during your workouts. It’s better to avoid this, because your body uses the protein, you eat to repair and maintain your muscles, and tissues in your body. Your muscles, your organs, and your immune system consist mostly of protein.
Fat Contains Essential Nutrients
Fat is an important part of your diet, and eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat and overweight. In fact eating high fat foods instead of low fat foods can be better for you. For one thing, you will feel full sooner with a high fat food and it’ll take longer for you to feel hungry again. I quite often have a small block of full fat cheese, sometimes with some peanuts and sometimes without, and I feel full for far longer than if I’d eaten some wholemeal bread.
Four important vitamins are fat-soluble; your body needs fat in order to use them. They are vitamins A, D, E and K. Lots of foods taste far better in their natural fat form, than their fat free counterparts. Your body needs some essential fatty acids that you can only get by eating foods that have… fat already in them! Fat also provides energy in its slowest burning form, protects your internal organs and aids in brain functioning. Just 1g provides nine calories – more than double the calories in 1g of protein or carbohydrate.
One easy way to eating these nutrients in the right amounts is to take your dinner plate and divide it into four imaginary segments. For two of the segments put your protein in one and your wholemeal carbohydrates in the other. Your other two segments fill both with vegetables and with fruit, except for potatoes. Potatoes are similar to bread when it comes to calories. This combination will give you a good base for a diet that will give you energy. Keep you feeling satisfied as opposed to hungry and tired, and will keep your body functioning so that you will actually gain and maintain the muscle you are working so hard to build.