When it comes to diet and proper nutrition, there are many varying and often conflicting philosophies. One size does not fit all. Everyone has different needs, goals and metabolic predisposition.
One thing you need to bear in mind when you think about proper diet and all the various diets that seem to “work. " Your body has an awesome capacity to take whatever crap you put into your body and process it into what you need to survive. In other words, our system's ability to convert various organic materials into energy and to extract nutrients from them has been developed over many thousands of years of scarcity, ignorance of human physiology, and capability of the hunter. Now that we've been delivered to the horn of plenty, we need to have both the forethought and restraint to manage our food intake responsibly.
The three macronutrients vital to our existence are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates are our major energy source for daily living. The greatest percentage of your diet will consist of carbs. American health authorities recommend you consume about 55% of your daily calories in carbs. The greatest majority of carbs should be consumed in complex carbs, as opposed to simple sugars. Examples of complex cards are vegetables and whole grains. You need to consume dietary fiber and consider micro-nutrient (vitamin/mineral) content when selecting your carb sources for the day.
Proteins build tissue and provide amino acids that are essential to metabolic functions. The primary sources of proteins are animal based. There are also vegetable proteins, but they tend to be partial proteins; in other words they don't provide all the essential amino acids, which are the amino acids our bodies cannot produce.
Fats also provide important dietary functions. Fats are your secondary energy source. As adipose tissue they provide insulation and protect your organs, in food they regulate your appetite, carry fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K), and provide essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and 6. You should consume as many calories in fat (if not a little more) as you do protein on a daily basis. Try to not eat fatty or high-sugar foods close to bedtime, as they will most likely be stored as fat rather than metabolized. Saturated fat should be no more than 10% of your total fat consumption.
It is very important to eat at least three meals every day.
Breakfast is just that, breaking the nighttime fast. You need to provide fuel to your muscles, brain and nerve cells for your daily activities. You should consume between 20% and 25% of your daily calories at breakfast.
Lunch - Depending on the calories consumed at breakfast, you may need a snack before lunch. This meal should have a good balance of carbs and protein and should again contain about 25% of your daily calories. Be sure to have some vegetables so that you get a good shot of vitamins and anti-oxidants to ward off fatigue and the toxins we're exposed to daily.
Dinner - This is the big diet wrecker in our society. Many people consume 50% or more of their daily caloric intake at dinnertime or afterward. I recommend that you eat no more than 33% of your total daily calories at dinner up until bedtime. If you can do this you will certainly have success with your weight-loss program.
Snacks - eat about two snacks a day which contain approximately 10% of your total daily calories each. Make sure they're healthy. Try baby carrots, snap peas, apples, whole-grain bars, etc. , rather than packaged, processed foods.
Portion control - Even if you eat healthy, you can still consume too much food. Be wary of portion control. When you read nutrition labels, look for the portion size and do not assume the entire package is a single portion as many times, it's not.
Timeliness of meals - If, for instance, you are consuming 2,000 calories a day you would want to eat three meals of approximately 500-600 calories each and two snacks of approximately 200 calories each. This will give your body the opportunity to metabolize your food during your daily activities rather than lack sufficient calories during the day and then be faced with an overabundance of calories at night. If your body feels that it's starving during the day and then you give it more food than it needs, it will decide to store the excess calories for the next “starvation" period. This becomes a cycle of starvation/storage that will both add weight and increase the likelihood that you may suffer a myriad of chronic health problems as you age.
Your daily caloric intake will vary. Do your best to balance it day to day and maintain your target as an average during the week. If you need guidance in what to eat, there are many good websites that provide nutrition information and guidance. One of the best is Mypyramid. gov. I also recommend joining Weight Watchers or some other program if you are a remedial eater and would enjoy support or would like someone else to help make your dietary decisions.
Eat well and stay fit!
(C) 2008 Dan Cantor Fitness At-Home Trainers
Certified Personal Trainer Dan Cantor is owner of Dan Cantor Fitness At-Home Trainers (http://www.DanCantorFitness.com ), serving Southern New Jersey and the Greater Philadelphia area.