I return to my blog with renewed goals - blog-related, professional, and educational. I'm excited to announce that I'm starting on my path to earn my master's degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutritional Sciences. This means that over the next 1.5 years, I get to take all those "fun" classes in college I managed to avoid, like various Chemistry classes, as well as microbiology and physiology. Yay. Sarcasm aside, I'm really excited to begin this journey; I believe it will better equip me with the knowledge to inform other people how to better their health and fitness, especially you, my readers! I'm also accessing resources to help give my clients a better workout, and I try to find fun and new exercises every week to keep changing things up. Finally, my goal is to start updating this thing at least biweekly, always adding to my arsenal of healthy, tasty recipes and safe health and fitness tips.
Which brings me to the point of this post. When I ask my clients what they are doing for their diet, the word "carbs" is almost always used, and not in a positive way. Here's the thing. Carbohydrates are your primary source of energy, and should be the main part of your diet, whether you are trying to lose weight or not. The basis of the low-carb fad that has swept the nation is that people eat too many carbs and should cut back. This may be the case for some people, but in my opinion (which is backed up by numerous sources), the issue is not carb intake on its own, but overall calorie intake as a whole.
American College of Sports Medicine and the USDA recommend that 65% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. 25% should come from fat, and the remaining 10-15% should come from protein. As a whole, to maintain a healthy body weight and provide ample energy stores for your body, you should not consume more than the recommended calorie intake for your age, height, weight, and activity level. If you are trying to lose weight, you should really be no more than at a 500-calorie deficit per day, which will allow you to safely lose 1 pound per week.
I know. Too many numbers. Here's my suggestion. Check out MyFitnessPal, an online calorie counter. You can even download it as an app for iPhone. It completely breaks down exactly how many grams of each nutrient you should be eating every day, from carbohydrates and fat to sodium, cholesterol, and vitamin C. It's 100% tailored for you, because you enter in your age, weight, height, activity level, and how much weight you are looking to lose. It comes up with a daily calorie count based on this information, and it's the same number that I would come up with from using the ACSM-approved equation.
Here's the cool part. You eat a bowl of Kellogg's Corn Flakes with 1% milk for breakfast and wash it down with a glass of Tropicana orange juice. You type in "Kellogg's Corn Flakes" and up pops the calorie count (with a breakdown of the nutrients) of one serving. You add it to your diary and it deducts the calories from the amount that you need for the rest of the day. If it doesn't have the nutrition information available, you can add it in yourself. You can also add in workouts that you have done for the day, which will add to the calories you need to consume for the day. It's a safe and effective way to lose or maintain your weight, and make sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need.
It can get laborious to enter in everything you eat, day after day. Some people aren't into calorie counting; it feels like someone nagging at you all day about what you are eating. Here's my challenge: Do it for 3 days. On the first day, eat everything that you normally eat and record it. You'll find yourself thinking of your portion sizes, which, in my opinion, is the largest cause of weight gain. You need to know exactly how much you ate to get the accurate calorie count, so you'll find yourself thinking "how many cups of cereal did I have?" and "how many handfuls of chips did I go for?" Be as honest and as accurate as you can. No one else is going to see your calorie count, and it's only going to help you. At the end of the day, see where you are in relation to where you should be.
Day 2: If your calorie count is over where it should be, think of how you can reduce it. Smaller portion sizes, substitute processed foods with raw foods (which by nature generally have less calories), cut out soda (liquid calories add up very quickly), whatever it takes. Be as accurate as possible with your portion sizes. See where you are at the end of the day.
Day 3: Try to replicate your diet from the previous day, but without recording what you eat. Try to eyeball the portion sizes, and remember that carbs are your friend. It will help get your food intake under control without being a slave to your calorie counter.
Try to eat the same portions of foods every day. Then you don't have to count it, but you know that you are around your target calorie intake for the day. Moderation is key. Losing weight does not have to mean (and shouldn't mean) starving yourself, or depriving yourself of things that you want. It means taking it in moderation, and making sure you are getting the nutrients you need to sustain energy. A balanced diet is the easiest and safest way to lose weight, and to keep it off. A balanced diet, once you've figured out how to achieve it, is a lifestyle change that you can adopt even when you're done losing weight, because it doesn't require you do to silly things like turning your burger buns into lettuce. All it asks for is to give your body what it needs. And what your body needs is