Thursday, June 19, 2008

Guide to Healthy Eating: How to Eat?

In my last post, I talked about the importance of healthy, wholesome nutrition. Now I'll talk about good eating habits.

By developing good nutritional and eating habits, you will experience better emotional, physical and mental health, and better performance in your workouts or daily tasks. These habits will automatically dictate a change in lifestyle and how you view food in your daily diet.

Some basic and good eating habits that I follow:

1. Eat 5-6 small meals per day, spaced about 2.5 -3 hours apart. The purpose for this is to enhance your metabolism by increasing the Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF), which happens when your body burns calories during digestion to break down food for absorption by the body. If you're trying to lean out, a fast metabolism is what you need. A slow, sluggish metabolism is one of main reasons why people are overweight. Another benefit of constant feeding is to ensure you're getting enough food and nutrients that your body needs to grow and repair itself (recovery), especially if you're working out or involved in other strenuous activities or sports.

2. Daily diet should consist of healthy and balanced nutrition. You should consume natural, wholesome foods such as lean protein, complex carbs, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. (read more about this in my last post).

3. Eat lean protein with every meal if possible. This is because your body does not store protein, as it does carbs in the form of glycogen. Therefore, you need to continuously supply your muscles with complete protein every few hours or the body will begin 'cannibalize' itself by using the protein from your muscles instead, causing muscle loss. This process can be known as catabolism. Protein is somewhat a diuretic and generates heat when being digested, so it's best to drink PLENTY of water when your protein intake increases.

4. Eat most of your carbs at breakfast and post-workout meal. Since your body wakes from an overnight fast for 8-10 hours, you need to consume carbs to replenish glycogen stores. This is the same for your post-workout meal, when glycogen stores are almost depleted from being used during weight training. Therefore, your carb-heavy meals should be for these 2 meals. Eat the rest of your carbs in small/moderate amounts as needed during the day.

5. Reduce/eliminate carbs in the evenings or at night. This is because your body doesn't require as much energy in the evenings or at night, and it might go into storage instead of being burned by the body. Therefore, most of your carbs should be consumed during the day, when you require the most energy. An exception to this is your post-workout meal for recovery, if you workout in those times. However, this depends on the each individual if you want to include some carbs or cut it out. You SHOULD NOT consume MOST of your carbs in the evening or at night, as it is more likely to be stored as fat.

6. Do not mix too much fat with carbs, especially sugar. To explain briefly (I'm not a biologist): when you eat carbs, you create an insulin response to clear the bloodstream of excess blood sugar. When you consume a lot of fat with carbs, fat will ride the insulin wave and get shuffled into your fat cells, thus causing instant fat storage! A small amount of fat is good to slow down digestion of carbs. But if you eat a lot of fat with large amounts of sugar, which generates a large insulin spike, it's a sure fire way to store fat!

7. Drink PLENTY of water. This is a no-brainer, and is especially important if you're eating more protein, exercising/working out or involved in sports. Your body requires plenty of water to optimize bodily functions, flushing out toxins from your body and help with fat oxidation (burning fat!). You should drink at least 8-10 glasses a day. Aside from water, you can drink non-caloric drinks like green tea, coffee (black, no sugar/creamer but I do add sweeteners from time to time) or diet sodas (I seldom drink this but it's calorie-free). Make sure you drink more water if you're drinking tea and coffee, as those are diuretics.

8. Reduce/eliminate fast food, junk food and processed foods high in sugar and fat. This is another no-brainer, right? Out with the BAD FOODS and in with the HEALTHY, NUTRITIOUS FOODS! Bad foods (all types of fast foods, fried foods, cookies, ice-cream, cakes, chips, donuts etc) are basically EMPTY CALORIES, meaning that for every calorie that you eat from it, there are NO NUTRIENTS that your body can derive from to nourish itself. To live fit AND healthy, you must DEFINITELY MAKE A CHANGE in your food and eating habits. I'm not asking you to go cold turkey and cut it out completely starting tomorrow, but you can make small adjustments daily to substitute bad foods with healthier choices, so that you won't feel overwhelmed. These small adjustments will add up and you will eventually start to live a healthier lifestyle.

My Experience
I find that once healthy foods became a staple in my daily diet, I don't crave or feel the need to eat bad foods anymore. Instead, I crave healthy foods and I feel great on the inside. This is because my body knows it's getting all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals that it needs and continuously craves for it. Healthy foods are like grade A material and bad foods are grade D. If you've been given grade D material and suddenly you're given grade A, would you fall back to having grade D material? That being said, I DO enjoy ice-cream, chocolates, fried foods and junk foods from time to time (just for the taste basically). BUT, I will only have it once or twice a week, during my cheat meals, when I allow myself to indulge as a reward. The key is moderation, not eating it every day!

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