Be Mindful of What You Are Eating!
After I graduated University in 2006 at the age of 21, I still had that lazy mindset that I could basically eat whatever I wanted and drink whatever I wanted because exercise and my metabolism would take care of the rest. Well, a few pounds crept up on me and I decided to nip my bad habits in the butt long before they took hold and overran my life.
In 2008 when I decided to really start to change my lifestyle by exercising more frequently and 'watching what I eat' I really only did one part of the equation. Again, I figured that since I was so active and that I was still young with a blazing metabolism, I could basically eat whatever I wanted to.
Fast forward a few years now, and I have had some pretty good success. I don't necessarily eat/exercise to "look good", because as I have told people in the past, I frankly don't really care what I look like on the beach. I exercise and try to lead a healthy life for a number of reasons including feeling better, being able to do the things that I like to do, be in a better mood, and hopefully all of these criteria for years to come (especially now with my son!).
I will say that in these past few years of exercising more, I have begun to change my dietary habits as well. Not only do I wish to maximize my results and how I feel from being active, but I have also come to learn of the numerous other health effects/benefits a proper diet has. You could say that my diet has been slowly evolving over the years and rather than an overnight resolution to overhaul everything, I have been making small changes over the years that are manageable to me and make sense based on what I learn/read about.
This brings us to November 2011. For my 27th birthday, my wonderful wife bought me an iPad for my birthday/Christmas/Anniversary gift. I played around with the idea of 'tracking calories' for years now but have never wanted to be a slave to what I eat.
Well, to start 2012, I finally decided to download a free app for my iPad that would help me track my calories in a fairly loose sort of way. Now I need to mention a few disclaimers here. One, I have only been doing this for a week. Two, I don't plan on doing this forever, I just wish to educate myself on how my diet is going based on how I currently living my life, etc. Three, I am not being 100% accurate about things, but I am doing my best and am probably 90-95% accurate (I am NOT using a food scale to weigh every single morsel of food).
Well, at the end of my first week with this new endeavor/hobby/goal/whatever you want to call it, I have made some pretty startling observations that I will list below.
First, about me; I am 27 years old, have a pretty fast metabolism, work a full-time job with a few part-time personal training jobs on the side. I am married, have an infant son at home and also exercise 6-7 times/week. I am very active and should be consuming well over 3000 calories/day!
I have done a bit of research and realize that I don't really wish to lose a whole lot of weight, plus I am active and try and keep my lean muscle mass in check so I have been aiming for about 40-50% carbohydrates, 25-30% protein and 25-30% dietary fat (healthy fat as much as possible). This plan seems to work best for me and seems to fit my lifestyle the most, but should still challenge me to meet certain criteria.
Things that I have learned so far:
1. Carbohydrates creep up on you FAST! Holy smokes has this ever been an eye opener for me. There is sugar in nearly EVERYTHING we eat! I cut soda out of my diet a long time ago, so the only beverages I consume is either water, green tea, the daily glass of chocolate milk (post-workout), and the occasional glass of white milk (1%) with dinner. I try and eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can and keep my grains to whole grain and I STILL have absolutely no problems blasting through my daily carbohydrate consumption...and that is even when I am aiming for 50% carbs on a 3000cal+ diet!!!!
This is scary for a few reasons. One, I know I am in a very small minority of people who actually consume this few of carbs. Two, there are many, many people out there who consume carbs with this thought in their heads that it is 'fat free' so it must be good for them...only to pack on more and more and more pounds! Three, as I said, I don't consume any sugary beverages and I still have no problems meeting my daily caloric counts, I struggle to keep my carbs down, and I am highly active. I find this downright scary and disturbing to think of some folks out there who down cans and cans of soda a day or eat carb-full meals then go sit on their butts and watch tv...holy smokes. To be honest, I knew it was bad, but never really knew it was THIS bad!
2. I really am trying to do my best to keep my protein levels up. I do quite well with this as I try and have protein with every meal, I have healthy snacks that I try and squeeze some protein in, as well as having protein shakes (low-cal) throughout the day. I guess this one will be tougher for me to keep my numbers up the more active I am because the higher my daily calorie count goes, the higher my recommended proteins go as well. This is probably my best category though.
3. Healthy fats are out there, you just have to look for them! I try and cook with olive oil, I take a fish-oil supplement and I try and squeeze some avacado into my diet whenever I can. The scary part is seeing the amount of fat in some packaged products at the grocery store. A little bit of fat is good, too much fat is bad, and especially stay away from trans fats. What may be even scarier than all of this however, is that when companies remove the fat from their products, they replace it with sugar...which makes most individuals in our society think its then guilt-free....wrong!
This is going to continue to be a learning curve for me. I have realized that I have actually been doing quite well in my daily caloric intake. I often wondered how far off/on I was before I started tracking, but have come to realize that I am pretty spot-on in that regard. The biggest learning curve for me will be to watch my carbohydrate calories as the higher that goes, the less room there is calorie-wise to get my required proteins and fats in. I will keep everyone updated!