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Eat Right Without OBSESSING Over Every CALORIE

Eat Right Without OBSESSING Over Every CALORIE
Eat Right Without OBSESSING Over Every CALORIE

I have good news. You can look and feel great without breaking out a calculator every time you eat.

Getting proper nutrition is a precise science, but it doesn’t have to be agonizing. In fact, I recommend a more laid-back approach. If you make a planning or tracking meals too complicated, you’ll have trouble sticking with it.

That being said, in order to lose fat, you must keep your body burning more energy than you’re feeding it, and the energy potential of food is measured in calories. Eat too many calories give your body more potential energy than it needs and it has no incentive to burn fat.

In order to gain muscle, your body needs a surplus of energy to repair and rebuild itself (along with plenty of protein). Thus, you need to eat slightly more than your body burns to get bigger.

In this chapter, I’m going to share some simple rules that you can follow to eat right. Just by following these rules, you’ll find that you can lose or gain weight when you want to and that you’ll feel healthy and vital.

1. MAKE SURE YOU EAT ENOUGH


A calorie is a measurement of the potential energy found in food, and your body burns quite a bit of energy every day. Everything from the beating of your heart to the digestion of your food requires energy, and your body has to get it from the food you eat. Thus, it’s important that you feed your body enough, and that’s especially true when you work out. If you underfeed your body, don’t be surprised if you don’t have the energy to train hard or if you feel generally exhausted.

If you exercise at least three times per week, use the following formula to ensure you’re feeding your body enough to repair itself.

  • Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.
  • Eat 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day.
  • Eat 1 gram of healthy fats per 4 pounds of body weight per day.

That’s where you start. For a 130 lb woman, it would look like this:

  • 130 grams of protein per day
  • 195 grams of carbs per day
  • 32 grams of fat per day

That’s about 1,600 calories per day, which should work for making slow, steady muscle and strength gains without any fat added along the way (which really should be the goal of “maintenance” not staying the exact same).

The above targets are fairly easy for a vegetarian to meet as she has plenty of plant-based proteins to choose from as well as lean protein sources like egg whites and low-fat dairy products. It gets trickier for vegans, however, because their best sources of protein also come with a considerable amount of carbs and fats.

Therefore, I recommend vegans rely on soy products such as tofu (lite and extra-lite are best) and tempeh, grains (quinoa and amaranth are probably the most popular) and legumes (with all types of beans being the most popular choice here). Supplementing with vegan protein powders, which are usually blends of proteins from rice, hemp, peas, and other sources also make balancing your numbers easier.

If your priority is to gain muscle, then you need to increase your "maintenance" calories by about 20%. The easiest way to do this is to bump up your carbs and fats (1 gram of carbohydrate has about 4 calories and 1 gram of fat about 9).

If you’re trying to lose fat, then you need to decrease your "maintenance" calories by about 20%. The easiest way to do this is to primarily reduce your carbs (don't drop your fats to less than 15-20% of your daily calories).

It’s also important that you focus on eating nutritious foods. While you can lose weight eating non-nutritive junk, like white bread, chips, juice, and soda, it's not a healthy way to go about it and will catch up with you at some point. Nutritious calories, on the other hand, like those found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality proteins, will keep you in tip-top shape.

2. EAT ENOUGH HIGH-QUALITY PROTEIN


If you work out, you need more protein than someone who doesn’t work out. Why? Because exercise causes muscle damage, and protein is used to repair this damage.

With every rep you perform, you’re causing “micro-tears” in your muscle fibers, and your body uses amino acids what proteins are made up of to repair them. The body doesn’t just repair them to their previous state, however; it builds them bigger and stronger so it can better handle the stress of exercise.

So, in order to get the most out of your workouts, you need to eat enough high-quality protein. And that doesn’t mean just eating a lot after working out. It means meeting your daily target outlined above, regardless of whether you do it in 3 or 7 meals per day.

Now, there are two main sources of protein out there: whole food protein and supplement protein.

Whole food protein is, as you guessed, a protein that comes from natural food sources, such as eggs, cottage cheese, and quinoa. The best forms of whole food protein that you will want to choose from are quinoa, low-fat Greek yogurt, tempeh, tofu, eggs, almonds, rice, and beans.

Some people claim that you must carefully combine your proteins if you’re vegetarian or vegan to ensure your body is getting “complete” proteins (all of the amino acids needed to build tissue). This theory and the faulty research it was based on was thoroughly debunked as a myth by the American Dietetic Association, yet it still hangs around. While it’s true that some sources of vegetable protein are lower in certain amino acids than other forms of protein, there is no scientific evidence to prove that they lack them altogether.

Protein supplements are powdered or liquid foods that contain protein from various sources, such as whey (a liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained in the process of making cheese), egg, and soy the three most common sources of supplement protein. There are also great plant-based supplements out there that are a blend of high-quality protein sources such as quinoa, brown rice, peas, hemp, and fruit.

You don’t NEED protein supplements to eat well, but it can be impractical for some to try to get all protein from whole foods considering the fact that you will be eating protein 4 – 6 times per day.

Now, there are a few things you should know about eating protein. First is the subject of how much protein you can absorb in one sitting. Studies relating to this are very contradictory and disputed, mainly because it’s a complex subject. Your genetics, metabolism, digestive tract health, lifestyle, and amount of lean mass are all important factors. But in the spirit of keeping things simple, here’s what we know: you can eat and properly use a lot of protein in each meal. How
much, exactly? Well, your body should have no trouble absorbing upwards of 100 grams in one sitting.

That said, there aren’t any benefits of eating this way (I find gorging quite uncomfortable, actually), but it’s good to know in case you miss a meal and need to make it up by loading protein into a later meal.

Another thing to know about protein is that different proteins digest at
different speeds and some are better utilized by the body than others. Whey protein is digested quickly and its “net protein utilization” (NPU) is in the low 90% range, meaning that your body can absorb and use 90%+ of what you eat. Egg protein digests much more slowly than whey, but its NPU falls in the same range.

NPU and digestion speeds are important to know because you want to rely on high-NPU proteins to meet your daily protein requirement, and you want a quick-digesting protein for your post-workout meal and a slow-digesting protein for your final meal before you go to bed (to help you get through the overnight fast).

I could give you charts and tables of the NPU rates of various proteins, but I’m going to just keep it simple. In order to meet your daily protein requirements, here are your choices:

WHOLE FOOD PROTEINS
Eggs
Quinoa
Brown Rice
Amaranth
Dairy
Tempeh
Tofu
Beans
Almonds

PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS
Egg
Whey
Casein
Rice or other vegan proteins

3. EAT HEALTHY FATS


Fats are the densest energy source available to your body. Each gram of fat contains over twice the calories of a gram of carbohydrate or protein. Healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocados, flaxseed oil, many nuts, and other foods, are actually an important component for overall good health. Fats help your body absorb the other nutrients that you give it, they nourish the nervous system, help maintain cell structures, regulate hormone levels, and more.

Certain fats are unhealthy, though, and can lead to disease and other health problems. These types of fats are called trans fats.

Trans fats are scientifically modified saturated fats that have been engineered to give foods longer shelf lives. Many cheap, packaged foods are full of trans fats (such as run-of-the-mill popcorn, yogurt, and peanut butter) as are many frozen foods (such as frozen pizza, packaged pastries, cakes, etc.). And fried foods are often fried in trans fats. These fats are bad news, and eating too much of them can lead to all kinds of diseases and complications. They have no nutritional value for the body and thus should be avoided altogether.

Most people eat more fat than is necessary, thus adding lots of unnecessary calories to their daily intake. Getting enough healthy fats every day is pretty simple. Here’s how it works:


  • Keep your intake of saturated fats low (below 10% of your total calories). Saturated fat is found in foods like meat, dairy products, eggs, coconut oil, and lard. If a fat is solid at room temperature, it’s saturated fat.
  • Completely avoid trans fats, which are the worst type of saturated fat. Trans fats are found in processed foods such as cookies, cakes, fries, and donuts. Any food that contains “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil” likely contain trans fats, so just don’t eat it. (Sure, having a cheat here and there that contains trans fats won’t harm anything, but you definitely don’t want to eat them regularly.)
  • Get most of your fat from unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, peanut oil, avocados, flaxseed oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, or cottonseed oil. If a fat is liquid at room temperature, it’s unsaturated fat.

By simply sticking to the recipes in this book, you’ll avoid unhealthy fats and eat healthy fats without even trying.

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4. EAT GOOD CARBS


The carbohydrate is probably the most misunderstood, maligned, and feared macro-nutrient. Thanks to the scores of bogus diet plans and suggestions out there, many people equate eating carbs with getting fat. While eating TOO MANY carbs can make you fat (just as eating too much protein or fat can), carbs are hardly your enemy. They play an essential role in not only muscle growth but in overall body function.

Regardless of what type of carbohydrate you eat—broccoli or apple pie the body breaks it down into two substances: glucose and glycogen. Glucose is commonly referred to as “blood sugar,” and it’s an energy source used by your cells to do the many things they do. Glycogen is a substance stored in the liver and muscles that can be easily converted to glucose for immediate energy. When you lift weights intensely, your muscles burn up their glycogen stores to cope with the overload.

Now, why is broccoli good for you but apple pie isn’t? Because your body reacts very differently to broccoli than to apple pie. You’ve probably heard the terms “simple” and “complex” carbs before and wondered what they meant. You might have also heard of the glycemic index and wondered what it was all about.

These things are actually pretty simple. The glycemic index is a numeric system of ranking how quickly carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the body. Carbs are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 depending on how they affect blood sugar levels once eaten. A GI rating of 55 and under are considered “low GI,” 56 to 69 is medium, and 70 and above is high on the index. A “simple” carb is one that converts very quickly (is high on the glycemic index), such as table sugar, honey, and watermelon, while a “complex” carb is one that converts slowly (is low on the glycemic index), such as broccoli, apple, and whole-grain bread.

It’s very important to know where the carbs you eat fall on the index because studies have linked regular consumption of high-GI carbs to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

The amount of carbohydrates that you should eat every day depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Building muscle requires that you eat a substantial amount of carbs while dieting to lose weight requires that you reduce carbs.

Regardless of how many carbs you need to eat per day, there’s a simple rule to follow regarding high-, medium-and low-glycemic carbs.

Eat carbs in the medium-high range of the glycemic index (70 – 90 is a good rule of thumb) about 30 minutes before you exercise, and again within 30 minutes of finishing your workout.

The reason you want some carbs before training is that you need the energy for it. The reason you want them after is that your muscles’ glycogen stores are heavily depleted, and by replacing it quickly, you actually help your body repair the damage and maintain an anabolic state.

My favorite pre-and post-workout carbs are bananas and rice milk, but other good choices are sweet potato, instant oatmeal, and fruits that are above 60 on the glycemic index, such as cantaloupe, pineapple, watermelon, dates, apricots, and figs. Some people recommend eating foods high in table sugar (sucrose) after working out because it’s high on the GI, but I stay away from processed sugar as much as possible.

All other carbs you eat should be in the middle or at the low end of the
glycemic index (60 and below is a good rule of thumb). It really is that simple. If you follow this rule, you’ll avoid many problems that others suffer from due to the energy highs and lows that come with eating high-GI carbs that burn the body out.

Below are some examples of tasty, healthy carbs that you can include in your diet:

Eat Right Without OBSESSING Over Every CALORIE


If you’re unsure about a carb you like, look it up to see where it falls on the glycemic index. If it’s above 60, just leave it out of your meals that aren’t immediately before or after working out.

5. EAT PLENTY OF FRUITS AND VEGGIES


Your body requires many different things to function optimally. It can’t look and feel great on protein and carbs alone. You need calcium to ensure your muscles can contract and relax properly. You need fiber to help move food through the digestive tract. You need iron to carry oxygen to your cells and create energy.

There are many other “little helpers” that your body needs to perform its many physiological processes, and fruits and vegetables contain many vital nutrients that you can’t get from vitamin supplements. By eating 3-5 servings of both fruits and vegetables per day, you enjoy the many benefits that these nutrients give to your body, such as lowering your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many other diseases.

This isn’t hard to do, either. A medium-sized piece of fruit is one serving, as is half a cup of berries. A cup of greens is a serving of vegetables, as is half a cup of other vegetables.

Store-bought fruit juices, however, are another story. While they may seem like an easy way to get in your daily fruits, they are actually not much more than tasty sugar water. Not only do most fruit juices have sugar added, but the juice has also been separated from the fruit’s fibrous pulp, which slows down the metabolism of the sugars. Without that, the juice becomes a very high-glycemic drink. You’re better off drinking water and eating whole fruit.

The exception to this is creating juice using a juicer or blender to grind up the entire piece of fruit, removing nothing. This, of course, is no different than chewing up the fruit in your mouth.

Fruits widely recognized as the healthiest are apples, bananas, blueberries, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, and pineapples.

Vegetables often recommended as the healthiest are asparagus, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and eggplant.

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6. PLAN AND PROPORTION YOUR MEALS PROPERLY


Many people’s meal plans are engineered for getting fat. They skip breakfast, eat a junk food lunch, come home famished, have a big dinner with some dessert, and then have a snack like chips or popcorn while watching TV at night.

A much better strategy is to eat smaller meals every 3–4 hours, and include protein with each (as this fills you up and makes you feel satisfied).

Much of your daily carbohydrates should come before and after training when your body needs them most. I eat about 10 – 15% of my daily carbs before training, and about 30 – 40% after, in my post-workout meal.

It’s also important when dieting to lose weight to not eat carbs within several hours of going to bed. This advice has been kicking around the health and fitness world for quite some time, but usually with
wrong explanation.

There’s no scientific evidence that eating carbs at night or before bed will lead to gaining fat, but it can hinder fat loss. How?

The insulin created by the body to process and absorb carbs eaten stops the use of fat as an energy source. Your body naturally burns the most fat while sleeping, and so going to sleep with elevated insulin levels may interfere with fat loss.

Related to this is the fact that studies have indicated that the production and processing of insulin interfere with the production and processing of growth hormone, which has powerful fat-burning properties. Your body naturally produces much of its growth hormone while sleeping, so again, if your body is flushed with insulin when you go to sleep, your growth hormone production may suffer, which in turn may rob you of its fat-burning and muscle-building benefits.

So, as a general rule, when you’re dieting to lose weight, don’t eat any carbs within 4–5 hours of bedtime. You should only consume lean proteins after dinner. I follow this rule when bulking too, not because I’m worried about fat burning (you don’t burn fat when bulking), but because I don’t want to stunt my growth hormone production.

You can spread your fats throughout the day. I like to start my day with 1–2 tablespoons of a 3-6-9 blend (a combination of essential fatty acids, which are fats vital for the proper function of every cell, tissue, gland, and organ in your body), but you don’t have to get one if you don’t want to. You can simply stick to the sources of healthy fat given earlier.

7. DRINK A LOT OF WATER

The human body is about 60% water in adult males and about 70% in adult females. Muscles are about 70% water. That alone tells you how important staying hydrated is to maintaining good health and proper body function. Your body’s ability to digest, transport, and absorb nutrients from food is dependent upon proper fluid intake. Water helps prevent injuries in the gym by cushioning joints and other soft tissue areas. When your body is dehydrated, literally every physiological process is negatively affected.

I really can’t stress enough the importance of drinking clean, pure water. It has zero calories, so it will never cause you to gain weight regardless of how much you drink. (You can actually harm your body by drinking too much water, but this would require that you drink several gallons per day.)

The Institute of Medicine reported in 2004 that women should consume about 91 ounces of water or three-quarters of a gallon per day, and men should consume about 125 ounces per day (a gallon is 128 ounces).

Now, keep in mind that those numbers include the water found in food. The average person gets about 80% of their water from drinking it and other beverages, and about 20% of the food they eat.

I’ve been drinking 1 – 2 gallons of water per day for years now, which is more than the IOM baseline recommendation, but I sweat a fair amount due to exercise and I live in Florida, which surely makes my needs higher. I fill a one-gallon jug at the start of my day and simply make sure that I finish it by dinner time. By the time I go to bed, I’ll have drunk a few more glasses.

Make sure the water you drink is filtered, purified water, and not tap water (disgusting, but some people drink it). There’s a big difference between drinking clean, alkaline water that your body can fully utilize and drinking polluted, acidic junk from the tap or bottle (which is the case with certain brands such as Dasani and Aquafina).

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8. CUT BACK ON THE SODIUM


The average American’s diet is so over-saturated with sodium it makes my head spin.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day as an adequate intake level for most adults. According to the Center for Disease Control, the average American aged 2 and up eats 3,436 milligrams of sodium per day.

Too much sodium in the body causes water retention (which gives you that puffy, soft look) and it can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Whenever possible, I chose low-or no-sodium ingredients for the recipes in this book. When you need to add salt, I recommend sea salt or Himalayan rock salt (sounds like fancy BS, but it’s actually great stuff) because they have many naturally occurring minerals, whereas run-of-the-mill table salt has been “chemically cleaned” to remove “impurities,” which includes these vital elements.

9. CHEAT CORRECTLY


Many people struggling with diets talk about “cheat days.” The idea is that if you’re good during the week, you can go buck wild on the weekends and somehow not gain fat. Well, unless you have a very fast metabolism, that’s not how it works. If you follow a strict diet and exercise, you can expect to lose 1–2 pounds per week. If you get too crazy, you can gain it right back over a weekend.

So don’t think cheat DAYS, think cheat MEALS—meals where you eat more or less anything you want (and all other meals of the week follow your meal plan). When done once or twice per week, a cheat meal is not only satisfying, but it can actually help you lose fat.

How?

Well, first there’s the psychological boost, which keeps you happy and motivated, which ultimately makes sticking to your diet easier.

But there’s also a physiological boost.

Studies on overfeeding (the scientific term for binging on food) show that doing so can boost your metabolic rate by anywhere from 3 – 10%. While this sounds good, it actually doesn’t mean much when you consider that you would need to eat anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand extra calories in a day to achieve this effect.

More important are the effects cheating has on a hormone called leptin, which regulates hunger, your metabolic rate, appetite, motivation, and libido, as well as serving other functions in your body.

When you’re in a caloric deficit and lose body fat, your leptin levels drop. This, in turn, causes your metabolism to slow down, your appetite to increase, your motivation to wane, and your mood to sour.

On the other hand, when you give your body more energy (calories) than it needs, leptin levels are boosted, which can then have positive effects on fat oxidation, thyroid activity, mood, and even testosterone levels.

So if it’s a leptin boost that you really want, how do you best achieve it? 

Eating carbohydrates is the most effective way. Second to that is eating protein (high-protein meals also raise your metabolic rate). Dietary fats aren’t very effective at increasing leptin levels, and alcohol actually inhibits it.

So, if your weight is stuck and you’re irritable and demotivated, a nice kick of leptin might be all you need to get the scales moving again.

Have a nice cheat meal full of protein and carbs, and feel good about it.

(I would recommend, however, that you don’t go too overboard with your cheat meals—don’t eat 2,000 calories of junk food and desserts and think it won’t do anything.)

How many cheat meals you should eat per week depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. When you’re eating to stay lean and gain muscle slowly, two cheat meals per week is totally fine. When you’re dieting to lose weight, you can have one cheat meal per week.

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10. SUMMARY


You may find this chapter a bit hard to swallow (no pun intended). Some people have a really hard time giving up their unhealthy eating habits (sugar and junk food can be pretty addictive). That being said, consider the following benefits of following the advice in this chapter:

1. If this is a completely new way of eating for you, I guarantee you’ll feel better than you have in a long time. You won’t have energy highs and lows. You won’t feel lethargic. You won’t have that mental fogginess that comes with being stuffed full of unhealthy food every day.

2. You will appreciate “bad” food so much more when you only have it once or twice per week. You’d be surprised how much better a dessert tastes when you haven’t had one in a week. (You may also be surprised that junk food that you loved in the past no longer tastes good.)

3. You will actually come to enjoy healthy foods. I promise. Even if they don’t taste good to you at first, just groove in the routine, and soon you’ll crave brown rice and fruit instead of doughnuts and bread. Your body will adapt. This chapter teaches you all there really is to eating properly so you can build muscle or lose weight on-demand, all while staying healthy.

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