Stretegize Your Diet - Part 1
In comes diet. At this point, you may be consistently exercising but want to see even more results. Diet is also not the holy grail of healthy living, but when used in conjunction with exercise, diet can continue to spur on dramatic change for your mind and body.
Great, so now you realize that diet and exercise both play crucial roles in your overall fitness. But what comes next, and what do you eat, and when? This is the part of the game that many people begin to lose track of their goals because they either find things too confusing or too complicated when in fact, living a healthy lifestyle should be neither.
I will be the first to admit that I hate counting numbers. I feel as that if I become too attached to counting grams of this and grams of that, not to mention the number of calories I consume, then I will be too controlled by it...and besides, that system does not seem sustainable to me.
Instead, I learn as much about diet and exercise as I can, so that I try and eat good things at correct times rather than trying to worry about how much to eat. We all could take a page or two out of the training manuals of serious athletes. Athletes are extremely regimented beings, they eat at specific times and specific amounts. Unless you are training for the Olympics or the upcoming NHL season, you don't necessarily need to be as regimented on quantity (as long as you are keeping things reasonable) but instead, worry about what you are eating depending on what you are doing for that day. Let me give you an example.
Necessity Eating - The human body is essentially one big ball of fuel (and a motor - your muscles) wrapped in skin. The average human being stores enough body fat on them to last them days without food. We picked up this genetic trait from our ancestors who may have gone days without eating because they didn't have a McDonalds to go to, they actually had to hunt their food. The problem is, fat is a slow-burning fuel. Think of it like a diesel fuel. Your body can burn it very efficiently and uses this fuel for majority of the day, but when it comes to intense exercise, most people can't (and shouldn't) go at a high pace for more than an hour or two tops!
The reason for the limited time of intense energy expenditure is because as your pace picks up, your body begins to transition to another form of fuel; glycogen. Glycogen is the jet fuel for our muscles. This is when your body ingests carbohydrates (bread, pasta, Snickers) and packages it into glycogen and stores it in your muscles (mostly) and liver. So, you could go wandering around the mall all day and almost never touch any of your glycogen stores, but as soon as you start intense exercise, your body begins using it more rapidly. One of the main reasons for extreme fatigue towards the end of your workout is the almost-empty glycogen stores in your body. You will inherently never let your stores drop to zero, but as you get lower on the fuel gauge, you begin to slow down.
So, why is this important? You may have heard of carb-loading. Athletes like to have carbohydrate-rich diets before athletic events to load up their glycogen stores so they have plenty of energy when they need it during their event. That is great because the high-energy expenditure during a sporting event burns all of those carbohydrates off in no time! Having said all of that, non-athlete humans like to sit down and enjoy a big pasta dinner full of fatty cheese and sugary sauces as well. That is fine, if you are ready to go out and exercise when you are done eating, but most people don't do that, they finish their "carb-loading" and go watch tv, or read a book, or even going for a light walk is troublesome.
Your body wants to burn these carb calories off right away, that is why you get an insulin spike after a carb-rich meal. When you begin to realize that those carbs aren't going to be burned off any time soon, your brain says, "Alright, pack it in, lets store these carbs for another time" and boom, straight into your fat cells.
My point here is, if you know you are having a relaxing night watching a movie or some tv after a long day, fine, have a dinner that is low in carbs such as some fish and veggies. Wait, I thought veggies were carbs? Yes, veggies are carbs, but they are also mainly water and vital nutrients your body needs. Your body still burns carbs at a slow rate here and there during quick bouts of energy (climbing the stairs, picking up your child, etc.) but if you are not sustaining your energy expenditure, you are far better off eating nutrient-rich carbs like fruits and vegetables rather than breads and pastas.
Breads, pastas, and sugary treats have their place in our diet. The goal here is to plan your diet accordingly based on your energy needs for that day. You're going out for a run? Sure, grab a Snickers bar beforehand, it will give you that extra boost you need. Sitting down to watch the football game? Stick to your vegetables.