As we move through 2021 no doubt many of us will be setting goals myself included!
Some of the most common goals involve improving exercise routines, weight loss, and dietary habits.
How many of you have attempted fat loss before; been successful only to gain it back?
Maybe even with a few extra pounds?
Have you found quick initial results followed by a screeching halt in forward progress?
You are not alone.
Weight regain statistics can be frustrating; within a year about half will gain back all the weight they lost. Within 3 years around 95% of people will gain back all weight they lost. Unfortunately, many will end up heavier than their starting weight and the yo-yo dieting cycle is perpetuated. This article will not be providing the weight loss “answer” or specific dietary plan. I hope to point you in a direction of sustainable habits that may help you as you pursue your health and wellness goals.
Over the years I have found that for many dieting brings up thoughts such as:
Starting and Ending
What thoughts came to your mind as you started reading? Too often a dietary approach involves eliminating or severely restricting a macronutrient. For example, A true ketogenic diet would allow for only 5-10% of your daily calories from carbohydrates (no bread, rice, potatoes, or pasta). The carnivore diet offers another extreme example – the diet includes meat, fish, and other animal foods like eggs– excluding all other foods! When your nutritional plan forces you to eliminate foods entirely or like the cases above eliminate entire macronutrient groups your ability to sustain and be consistent with your dietary plan reduces. This is not to say that the examples above or any dietary approach are innately “bad.” In fact, the structuring of most diets force people into caloric or energy deficits (you’re burning more calories than you eat) and you will lose weight. Why then do so many gain back the weight they lose? Too often a dietary plan is started that is not sustainable. When starting a diet how many of you can’t wait until the diet is over (when the weight loss goal is achieved).
In fact, one of the most important factors in a successful fat loss plan is the ability to sustain your eating habits. In order to be successful, we need something we can sustain, making small adjustments along the way to keep us progressing towards our goals. I challenge you to think- “Is this ‘new diet’ one I’ll be happy a year from now?” If not, it’s probably best to consider your current dietary habits and adopt habits that will be an improvement over what you’re doing currently.
Let’s take some of the pressure off. In truth, every single one of us is “on a diet’. Diet is defined as “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats” To be honest, I’ve had way too many pints of Ben & Jerry’s over the past year; Yes, the former bodybuilder struggles too! Understand you are already on a diet if you eat and we all need to eat!
If improving your eating habits is one of your goals in 2021, think about long-term habit changes. If the diet is the kinds of foods a person habitually eats, then the solution is to habitually eat nutrient-dense foods aligned with your goals. Rather than starting with restrictions, work on ADDING! If your dietary approach starts with healthy additions rather than subtractions, we can build positive associations with your changes.
What have I added?
Protein is one macronutrient I never skimped on when maximizing my performance and having a lean muscular, and strong physique was my goal. Committing to eating a protein source each time you eat is a great way to start healthier eating habits.
Here are a few reasons to consider prioritizing protein intake:
1. Protein is an essential nutrient. Nine of the 20 amino acids that make up protein are considered “essential”; your body cannot make these amino acids. Protein is the building block for our lean muscle tissue. When you ingest enough protein, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is activated – when activated this can improve recovery, help improve your strength and increase lean muscle mass. This is especially true when combined with a weight training program.
2. Protein has a higher thermic effect when compared to carbohydrates and fats. All of the food we eat actually requires energy to be digested and assimilated into our cells. Protein is a more “expensive” macronutrient and the thermic effect of protein is somewhere between 20-30%. If you eat 100g (400 calories) of protein today 80 – 120 calories are burned during digestion and assimilation of the nutrient!
3. Protein is appetite satiating, which typically means you tend to eat less. Why? Protein is typically much more voluminous because it is not calorically dense. For example, 2 Strawberry PopTart pastries equate to 400 calories. Nearly 1 pound (~12oz) of boneless chicken breast would be needed to reach 400 calories. Which of these choices would be easier to consume? Additionally, protein has an influence on cholecystokinin CCK which has been shown to be a satiety signal.
4. If the above is not motivation enough, protein is not just something we can eat. Protein is involved in numerous body processes. Protein’s end products (amino acids) are used to create enzymes that help drive our cellular processes. It is the building block of hormones like growth hormone and IGF-1, two very important hormones shown to aid fat loss and muscle growth.
What to eat? The short answer is finding protein sources you like to eat! Over the years I’ve gravitated towards:
Eggs and Egg whites
Chicken (Breast or thighs, the latter has a bit more fat)
Turkey (93-99% lean ground)
Beef (if adding muscle I used cuts like flank/sirloin; when leaning out I stuck with leaner variety like the eye of the round)
Whey Protein Isolate
Fish (wild-caught salmon and cod)
No magical dietary plan or secret. I hope you’ve challenged the way you think about diet. What we eat fuels our day, performance, and quite literally our lives. Wanting to improve your physique is admirable and your efforts will be supported and sustained if your dietary practices are sensible and sustainable. Habitually prioritizing protein with your meals is a great way to start eating nutrient-dense foods aligned with your goals. Protein is a powerful macronutrient that supports many body processes and can help to improve body composition, support energy, recovery, and satiety. Do not let past associations with this four-letter word deter you. Make helpful additions to your daily diet to yield long-term benefits.
Best in health,
B.S. Community Health