Trying to lose weight can be an extremely frustrating process. Fortunately, we can enjoy a much greater level of success once we understand how tightly linked nutrition is to our weight loss efforts.
From Fisherman’s Wharf to Canary Wharf, there are two questions that personal trainers and fitness professionals across the globe can always expect to hear from their clients:
-What’s the best way to lose weight? Dieting or exercise?
-Can I eat “normally” and still lose weight if I just exercise hard enough?
Oftentimes there’s only one response: you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.
We all remember high school. Those days when we could eat with reckless abandon and still maintain a slim figure. Unfortunately, we can’t stay 17 forever. Research shows that adults often gain an average of one or two pounds per year. Our metabolic rate slows down as we age, and it simply becomes more difficult to lose weight the older we get. Precisely why dieting and nutrition play an increasingly critical role in our fitness goals as we get older.
Even with a commitment to a strict and rigorous workout schedule, our diet and nutrition matter much more than you might think if you’re interested in sustainable fat loss.
Proper Nutrition Means Faster Weight Loss Results
The personal trainers we talked to told us that weight loss is 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise. We’ll experience more success losing weight if we focus on eating the right foods rather than trying to dial up the level of intensity of our workouts. In fact, people who eat without applying any kind of dietary restrictions and cling to hopes that they’ll burn off those unwanted calories by intensifying their exercise activities often run into a simple problem - our bodies are rigged to respond by telling us that we need to eat more food – not less.
If fat loss is your goal, eating a nutritious diet should be your primary focus; not relying on those extra 10 minutes on a treadmill to “pick up the slack.” Frankly, we’ve found that once people begin to eat the right foods and prioritize nutrition (on a consistent basis), weight loss results often come much easier than one might expect!
What is “Good” Nutrition
Social media is absolutely loaded with clickbait and Instagram influencers promoting diets that promise you’ll lose weight while allowing you to eat the foods you love – avoid them. Typically, such diets lack any real focus on nutrition, and they rarely result in sustainable weight loss.
Your first steps towards good nutrition should consist of replacing unhealthy foods choices with healthier ones and doing so consistently – not just for a few weeks. Focus on eating natural, unprocessed foods and avoid packaged, highly processed foods as much as possible. Foods with excessive sodium and swaths of unfamiliar ingredients are to be avoided as well, and that also means limiting your sugar intake.
Once you’ve eliminated those foods, you should focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods including:
Unprocessed, whole grains
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Lean meats, fish, and poultry
Nuts and seeds
Hunger cravings affect 90% of the population, and they’re often the main reason why our dieting efforts come off the rails. However, once you start focusing on nutrition, you’ll begin to experience fewer of those irritating food cravings and hunger pangs. That’s because a diet that’s focused on good nutrition keeps these cravings in check by stabilizing your blood sugar levels and promoting feelings of fullness for a longer period.
How to Start Using Nutrition as a Weight Loss Strategy
Using nutrition as a weight loss strategy is a process that’s made more successful when we make small, incremental changes to our eating habits over time. In other words, you should make small changes up front that you know you can keep up with. Here are a few ways that you can immediately optimize the nutritional content of your diet:
Stop DRINKING extra calories: Nothing against coffee shops (I’m a regular too), but research shows that substituting water or tea for sugary, caffeinated drinks will dramatically augment your weight loss efforts.
Swap in more salads: Every grocery store has a deli that offers pre-made salads. They’re a great source of fiber and allow us to get those nutrient-rich veggies into our systems.
Make healthy foods immediately accessible: Takes a bit of discipline but making nutritious snacks like peanuts, beef jerky, and dried fruit immediately available and within reach is a huge advantage.
Put out a fruit bowl: Natural substances in fruit provide your body with the vital minerals and vitamins that can help you lose weight and optimize your health.
Focus on Protein: Protein sources like lean meats, fish, and eggs are vital to your weight loss efforts because they enhance the growth of lean muscle mass and reduce our caloric intake.
In fact, protein can be used to turn our bodies into calorie-burning machines…
Protein, Muscle Mass, and the Thermic Effect
Our diet consists of three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Protein is the single most important macronutrient for weight loss and it’s crucial in obtaining a leaner looking figure.
Here’s the science: amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and our bodies use these amino acids to build lean muscle. It is a fact that muscle mass burns more calories than fat, and that means the more muscle mass we have in our bodies, the more calories we can expect our bodies to burn throughout the day…even while we’re at rest.
However, the benefits of protein don’t end there. It behooves anyone with an interest in weight loss to understand the thermic effect of food, or TEF – it’s the amount of energy required to digest, absorb, and metabolize the food that we eat. Of the three macronutrients, protein has the highest TEF rate. In fact, the TEF rate can be as high as 30% for protein. In other words, if we eat 100 calories of protein, we only need to concern ourselves with burning up the 70 usable calories that remain after digestion.
Finally, protein plays a key role in helping our bodies maintain that “full” feeling for a longer period of time so we’re less prone to snacking.
How Much Protein is Enough?
According to our research, 30% of the calories you consume should be protein sources if weight loss via nutrition is your goal. In one study, those who kept their caloric intake at the 30% protein mark automatically reduced their intake of calories by over 400 per day without really even trying – a huge amount if weight loss is your goal.
Excellent sources of protein include eggs, turkey, fish, and leaner meats. If you lean more towards the vegan lifestyle, add more Greek yogurt, dairy products, and nuts to your diet to increase the protein content.
Oftentimes, those who try to lose weight will immediately resort to cutting calories, but if not done properly this can present health risks. Those who are most successful at achieving their fitness goals (whether by modifying their diet or strictly through exercise) are the ones who seek the advice of a fitness professional or personal trainer first.