In case you didn’t get the memo let me fill you in: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. Period. Seriously, I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true.
If you’re trying to change your body, you probably want one of two things. You want to lose weight and drop body fat, or you want to gain weight and build muscle. What’s interesting is that despite the end goal, most people in both groups are frustrated because they aren’t getting the results they want. If I ask them what they’re doing to get results they typically tell me all about what they’re doing at the GYM and how intensely they are working out. They don’t usually volunteer any info about what they eat, but I always ask. The typical response is, “Oh, uh I haven’t really changed my eating. But I’m hittin’ the GYM hard!”
Just today I was talking to two friends at lunch and one of them wanted to lose weight the other wanted to gain. Both said they had been working out but hadn’t modified their eating habits. The funny part is this: neither of them were getting any results! In fact the friend wanting to lose weight was gaining, and the friend trying to gain weight was losing!
Here’s the thing. If you want to gain muscle or lose fat, you have to lift heavy things. You have to put in some intense resistance training workouts that will tear your muscle fibers. Your body doesn’t build muscle at the GYM, it destroys it. After your workout and while you are sleeping your body will repair itself. During this repair process your body will either build muscle or burn fat. Now, here’s the secret. If you want your body to repair the muscles and make them bigger, you need to consume a surplus of calories to fuel that process. Your body needs the extra energy to build muscle tissue! If you want to burn fat, you need a calorie deficit. You have to make sure that you haven’t consumed enough calories for your body to build muscle. Instead, your body will repair the muscle extracting the energy it needs to do so from your fat stores! Don’t worry, if you’re lifting heavy during your workouts you will increase in strength regardless of how many calories you consume. With this information in mind, it’s easy to see why my friends were not getting the results they wanted. Since they hadn’t modified their eating habits appropriately, the skinny one wasn’t eating enough to build muscle and was thus losing fat! And the heavy one was consuming too many calories and was actually gaining muscle!
Let’s make it absolutely clear:
If you want to lose fat:
- Exercise consistently with a combination of weight training and cardio
- Maintain a modest calorie deficit and eat healthy foods
If you want to gain muscle:
- Consistently lift progressively heavier weights
- Maintain a calorie surplus and eat healthy foods
You’ll notice that the primary difference between the two objectives is having a calorie surplus or a calorie deficit. But you’ll also notice that both objectives require the consumption of “healthy foods” and that also implies reduced consumption of “unhealthy foods”. A surplus or deficit is the most important part, but your selection of food can play a big part in your body’s ability to function properly. Try to avoid sugar, fried or processed foods, refined grains, fatty meats and fast food. These foods aren’t good for you and they have a high caloric density. Instead, eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. These options have lower caloric density; You can eat more of them and feel full longer. Allow me to share some of my favorite healthy foods with you. It’s proper nutrition and foods like these that helped me advance in my fitness goals and lose more than 80 lbs of fat.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When you get out of bed go straight to the kitchen and get some food. Your body has been fasting all night long and it needs some go-power! I like to start the day off right with some egg whites as my source of protein. Since it’s a hassle to crack eggs and extract the yolk but leave the whites, I am a big fan of All Whites. As the name implies, it’s 100% egg whites and nothing else. At first the though of eating fried egg whites didn’t sit well with me, I grew up having scrambled eggs my whole life and just couldn’t fathom skipping the yolk. But times have changed and I really love my whites in the morning.
Since breakfast is such an essential meal of the day, why not make it great? I look forward to making breakfast every morning, especially when I have Simply Potatoes to go with my egg whites. When I started eating healthy I thought I’d never be able to eat hashbrowns again. That’s because the hash browns you get at a restaurant are either deep fried or smothered in butter. Frozen hashbrowns from the grocery store often have other additives that make them less healthy for you too. That’s where Simply Potatoes come in. They’re nothing but pure delicious fresh potatoes, an excellent starchy carbohydrate. These shredded taters have never been frozen and are ready and waiting for your PAM sprayed skillet.
Cream of Rice
Boy with all these breakfast foods, you’d think I eat nothing but breakfast for every meal! Most people have heard of Cream of Wheat and Oatmeal, but few have tried Cream of Rice. All three breakfast cereals are great for you and are an excellent substitute for those sugar-coated coma inducing fruity O’s in your pantry. The reason I love Cream of Rice is because it’s gluten free. Going gluten free is a great idea for anybody and I highly recommend it. More and more people are discovering that they are gluten sensitive every day. If you’re sensitive to gluten you may be intolerant or you might even have Celiac Disease. I’m one of the lucky ones to be blessed with the latter. Whether you’re gluten sensitive or not, give Cream of Rice a try, it’s a good clean carb that will keep your digestive track running like a finely tuned swiss watch.
Finally, a non-breakfast food! This one’s for all of you chips and dip addicts out there. Hummus is a dip or spread made from cooked , pureed chickpeas and blended with olive oil, lemon juice and an assortment of spices. You can use it as a condiment to spice up your sandwiches and wraps, or just eat it like you would any other chip or veggie dip. I prefer it on rice crackers. Hummus contains no saturated fat or cholesterol and is high in protein and fiber. I’ve tried several different brands of Hummus and I must confess that not all brands are equal. The brand I know and love is Tribe. My favorite flavors are 40 Spices, Roasted Red Pepper, and Roasted Garlic. Go ahead give it a try, you’re going to love it.
Oranges are high in fiber and they taste like manna from heaven. They will satisfy your sweet tooth, take away your hunger, and provide essential nutrients to your body. I love orange juice just as much as the next guy, but unfortunately when you juice a fruit you lose the most important part: fiber. Eating an actual fruit is head and shoulders above drinking it’s juice. If you measure your fruit servings by the glass, you might want to reconsider. It’s about as healthy as as a tall glass of Kool-Aid; the nutrition content is about the same. Whenever possible, buy fruits and veggies from your local farmers market. They taste much better, have more nutrients, and are often lower priced!
Tilapia is a great fish for anyone who doesn’t love fish. It’s mild and versatile, and very low in fat. It’s a great source of lean protein and it tastes great, plus it’s affordable and easy to cook. I buy Tilapia at my local Costco. Each boneless loin is frozen and individually wrapped for freshness and convenience. I cook them in the oven on a baking sheet with some Lemon Pepper sprinkled on top.
Protein is an essential part of a good nutrition program. Your body needs it to rebuild itself and stay healthy. Protein powders and pre-made shakes are really convenient because, let’s face it, you can’t always have ready to eat Tilapia and Chicken breast on hand at all times. I’ve tried a lot of protein shakes in my day and I’m here to tell ya, it’s either a hit or a miss when it comes to a great shake. A good protein shake has to taste good, and it must sit well with your digestive system. Too many products leave you feeling bloated a few hours after consumption. I like Premier Protein shakes because they are pre-made. I don’t have to mess with any powders and I never have to deal with a dirty shaker bottle. It’s the ultimate in convenience. These shakes are packed with 30 grams of protein and are only 160 calories. The taste is chocolatey smooth and I feel great for hours after drinking them. You can find these shakes at Costco and surprise surprise, they’re the cheapest ones there.
Last but not least is Quinoa (Pronounced Keen-Wah). Quinoa is actually more like a leafy green vegetable than a grain, but you wouldn’t guess it. When cooked, it has a light, fluffy texture and a mild, slightly nutty flavor. It cooks just like rice but is fluffier and better for you. Unlike most grains, quinoa is high in protein and it contains all the essential amino acids. It’s high in fiber and gluten free. A cup of quinoa has more calories than a cup of Brown Rice, but it also has more protein and it tastes better too. It doesn’t hurt to switch things up every once in a while. Next time you plan to have rice for dinner give quinoa a try instead, you won’t regret it.