8 Rules to a healthy food plan !
by Ryan Pereira
Think of your body like a high performance car with bad quality or sub standard fuel in it. You’ll notice how it fails to give you the performance you would desire after spending a fortune on it. Your body is similar. You need to fuel it with the best in nature to make it work optimally and give you the high performance you desire. That’s even more important when you think of using your body to stay active through any medium of exercise or just to stay fit. To maximise the benefits of your training, you need to fuel your body better that could help you recover and become stronger.
There’s nothing better than achieving the same by consuming real foods and ditching all the marketing gimmicks of processed food. This may sound complicated but it’s not. Think of it as a long-term investment for your body. You only stand to gain in the long term and have very little to lose. Definitely worth a try !
Don’t get me wrong out here. I’m not asking you to “DIET”. Over the years, I’ve understood that diets are always temporary and sometimes don’t even last more than a day. So let’s work on fuelling our bodies with food, the right ones, of course!
Below, are a few points that we need to keep in mind while following a good food plan.
#1. Eat at least 4-5 meals a day
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you need to eat and not starve yourself whether it’s gaining or losing weight/fat. Remember, the quality of calories matter. So make good choices for yourself. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (The BIG 3 as I like to call them) are the most important meals and are non negotiable in your daily intake. You can’t skip any of them on any given day. Don’t tell me you don’t have time for breakfast cause you need to leave for work. Well, wake up earlier in that case. The same with lunch, it’s okay if you take out 15-30 minutes for yourself to finish lunch and go for a small walk to refresh your mind and then get back to work. The same rule applies for dinner. You never skip the big 3!
Your snacking/mid meals are only based on your hunger levels. So only consume them if you’re really hungry. There are many options for the same. Ranging from fruits to a healthy sandwich (All easily accessible to you).
#2. Eat fresh foods throughout the day
This may seem like I’m trying to parent you by asking you to consume your fruit and veggies but I won’t stop anyway. 😉
Fruits and veggies are the best way to add fiber, good carbs, many more nutrients and value to your meals. Of what I’ve noticed the quantity won’t matter as the body absorbs fruits and veggies differently when you compare the same to processed food. So gorge on them as much as you like. Try and make them a part of your Big 3 meals or even your snack/mid meals as much as you can. It could be a piece of fruit or some veggies to accompany your meal. They are packed with nutrients! Enough for you to skip any multi vitamin sold in the market J
#3. Limit consumption of sugars and processed food
If there was one thing I’d like you to change to your food intake with the greatest potential to impact your weight and health, this would be it. Foods are processed to increase their shelf life and improve taste. To accomplish this, manufacturers remove nutrients and replace them with cheap long lasting fillers. Refined flours and refined sugar being the most commonly used in processed food. Replacing it with fruits and veggies would cut down on your sugar intake. Do not worry about the sugar in fruits or veggies, as they are absorbed in a completely different way when you compare it to refined sugar. (Will blog about natural vs. refined sugar soon)
#4. Drink and hydrate with Water
Probably the most underrated or ignored aspect of a food plan. You need to drink up! India is a tropical country and relatively warm for most the year. Drinking water keeps you hydrated and regulates your body temperature. Whether plain water or infused with fruits, drinking at least 8-10 glasses helps you.
It also regulates your so-called hunger pangs one goes through, which is actually you getting dehydrated. We misunderstand thirst for hunger. Therefore our first reaction to thirst becomes hunger. Keeping yourself hydrated keeps the unwanted hunger at bay.
Water is the best performance enhancer that there is or you may find in nature. Hydrating yourself before, after and throughout the day helps you recover and prepares you for the next day as well.
Consuming it in its natural form or in the form of unsweetened drinks count as the same. Avoid consuming sweetened drinks. Diet Coke is no better than your usual coke so that doesn’t count. Try and avoid sugar in your drinks whether it’s tea, coffee or even your Gatorade (Dilute it in a 1 ltr bottle of water).
#5. Consume lean PROTEIN
The most misunderstood component of your food intake as there are numerous theories,sources and intake levels mentioned on the Internet. Before you move into that space, try and understand why you need Protein in the first place.
To simplify it, you need Protein to help repair any breakdown in muscle you may encounter by the means of any form of exercise. It’s a muscle building agent and aids in your recovery to help you get stronger and maintain your health. Not just muscle; you need protein to maintain good skin and hair as well.
Now, Protein is available in almost all kinds of foods one can think of. Whether it’s fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, poultry or meat. The nature has you covered in every possible way.
For my vegetarian and Vegan friends, you may find your source of Protein in green peas, quinoa, brown rice, ALL nuts (raw or dry roasted and Unsalted), ALL kinds of beans, Soya, spinach, broccoli, chia seeds (Sabja), nut milk (Homemade), ALL Dals to name a few options. So please don’t tell me you don’t have enough options. Vegetarian protein is easier to digest and Nut protein is known to have muscle building properties thus making it ideal to consume post your workout.
For my meat eating friends, eggs, fish, poultry and meat. Combine this with your options from that mentioned above will give you enough and much more than you need in your daily food plan.
Try consuming your protein in the BIG 3 meals for the day (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner)
#6. Carbs are GOOD and help you lose weight/burn fat
How often have you heard of the NO CARB nonsense? Carbs are not bad as being preached by a lot of people. You need good carbs to help you store energy in your muscles in the form of glycogen. Good carbs help restore your energy supplies which get used up when you workout.
Eating carbs post a workout is actually known to benefit you more than cause any harm one can think of. Therefore consuming carbs post training is the best time for its consumption.
The body absorbs carbs to it’s advantage post a workout and so I’d recommend carbs like fruits, veggies like potatoes and yams, grains, multi grained bread, brown pasta and brown/white rice (Basmati if white) clubbed with protein sources to give you the best results.
Eat your carbs, but remember to time them well!
#7. Fuel your workouts (Pre and Post performance)
If implemented properly, this could add to your performance during training and while you undergo recovery. This surely helps you to work harder for a longer time while also speeding up your recovery to some back sooner and stronger.
To implement this you need to break it down into 2 parts, mainly pre and post exercise.
Pre Exercise: Performance
Please try and avoid training on an empty stomach. The only reason why I say this is cause you can improve your potential to push further but have a meal/fruit/2 glasses of water an hour before your session.
In the case of early morning workouts, a banana, seedless dates or a small cup of black coffee, 30-60 minutes before your session could work wonders.
Post Exercise: Recovery
(Recommendation: Dilute it in a 1 ltr bottle of water)
Just as you’re done with training yourself, your body switches from performance mode to recovery mode. This is where you need to address your body’s need to replace your energy storage and rebuilding the muscle that has been broken down in the process.
This is the right time to consume foods that are a combination of carbs (Restore your energy needs) and protein (rebuilds muscle). A combination of carb and protein as mentioned in #5 & #6 will help you deal with your recovery needs and help you come back sooner and stronger.
#8. Make it a habit, NOT forced willpower
The power of sheer human willpower is known to have brought the best results that one could wish for. However, our willpower is available in limited amounts and depleted through stress, over thinking, distraction and ignorance. That’s exactly why sticking to your “diet plan” is short sighted and something that rarely leads to long-term health benefits and success.
Food habits that are long termed help you achieve so much more than you trying to lose the same 10 kilos you seem to want to lose after every single time you fail by enforcing a “diet” plan on to yourself (We all have been there).
Habits however are almost second to nature. You don’t have to think to brush your teeth first thing in the morning. You never have to think of brushing, you just do it. Eating healthy is just like it.
Spend 2-3 weeks drilling it in to your daily routine. Once healthy food habits become second nature to you, you’ll want to skip all the junk you always loved to binge into. Such an approach could only help you sustain and live a life you deserve to. In time, you’ll master the art, which once seemed like a daunting task. So, take your time to get comfortable with it and grow in to it. Little progress is still better than no progress!
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