Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How much should I be eating?

Confused about how much you should be eating?
So since i've been working out more, and doing more throughout the day, I haven't been eating as much and I can feel that it has had a pretty astounding effect on me. But not the way you would think.

Most diets tell us to eat less. But what they fail to do is to tell us HOW MUCH less. Should we go on a diet of only 1200 calories or should it be a 2000 calorie diet? Should we even be eating fewer calories at all? What if we just need to rearrange the type and time of our calorie intake as it is right now?

Let me give you a quick example. I just started working with a new athlete. She's not overweight, probably hovering around 16% body fat and being a college athlete, one would assume is in pretty good shape. So as a part of the program she is on, I told her to complete a few days of a food record so that I could see what she was eating.

What I got back was not what I had hoped, but nonetheless not shocking. She's eating good food: lots of fruit, yogurt, chicken, beans, vegetables, wild rice, etc. But she's only getting around 1300 calories. Based on her age, height, lean body mass, and workout schedule, she needs AT LEAST 2200 on non-workout days and 2700 on days she works out.

And unfortunately, this calorie deficit is not helping her workouts either. Poor performance, excessive fatigue and even stagnation of weight loss is usually a result of not eating enough. Think about what happens when a person has a calorie deficit through decreasing food intake. When they lose weight, they have to cut calories more. When they lose more weight, they have to cut calories again. The question begs to be answered: when do you stop cutting calories?

My solution is that you have to feed your muscle, feed your exercise and feed your body if you want it to burn fat and RAISE your metabolism.

You like to eat right? Who doesn't. Well if you eat the RIGHT foods at the RIGHT time WITH resistance training, you'll get there. The biggest hurdle is finding the plan. This is where support from somebody trained in designing nutrition programs comes in. If you can dial in the plan, you can dial down the fat.

Books are often quite helpful too, because diet books have a diet spreadsheet type of page in them for you to print and follow. However, the downfall is that these aren't tailored to your specific needs. So use guidelines instead of following a generic diet to the letter. Here are 3 things that will get you on the right path:
  1. Eat breakfast. Only about 25% of your daily energy use comes from exercise. That other 75% comes from A) your resting metabolism, B) your daily chores and work C) eating. So to lose fat you gotta get these 3 calorie burners fired up. Breakfast is the first step.
  2. Eat more often. Each time you eat, your metabolism increases because it takes energy to break down food and convert it. So the more frequently you eat, the more you hit the gas pedal on your metabolism. So put the pedal to the metal and start eating 5-6 times per day!
  3. Eat more protein. Protein revs metabolism much higher than carbohydrates and fats combined. Plus protein can be used for energy and it leaves you feeling full longer after you eat! So have meat, dairy or eggs with each meal!
So don't wait for the perfect diet book. It's not out there. But by following steadfast rules that are shown to work, you can lose fat and maintain muscle!

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