The Ultimate Guide To Dieting with a Busy Schedule
In part one of this series, we discussed the 3 key principles of successful dieting. In part 2, we discussed an effective method of quantifying your food intake without having to count calories. You can find Part 1 at 3 Essential Principles of Successful Dieting, and Part 2 at How to Diet without Counting Calories here.
In this post, we will discuss how to select a diet that is right for you, strategies that you can use to improve your current diet, and the proper way to make dietary adjustments to reach your goals.
Welcome to the WCT Guide to Dieting With a Busy Schedule
Here we go..
PICKING A DIET THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU
There are many diets on the market, and each one proclaims to be better than the last. Some restrict certain foods, while others allow you to eat anything you desire (within certain confines).
The truth of the matter is: diets don't have to be overly restrictive, nor do they have to condemn any particular food group (as most brand name diets often do). Balanced diets that ensure appropriate intake of the three macronutrients are easy and essential.
The answer to the prevailing question of "which diet is the best diet" is always the same. The best diet is the one that you will follow.
Therefore, your diet needs to be sustainable for YOU, and for your situation.
We find it helpful to think of healthy eating as a lifestyle. By changing your perception of food consumption, you are more likely to sustain your dietary habits for the rest of your life.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CURRENT DIET
The real challenge lies in making good food choices when you're working 12-16 hour shifts, and everyone else around you is eating whatever they please.
Here are some quick tips that you can utilize to help accomplish your goal: whether that is to eat better, lose weight, or gain muscle.
ALWAYS CHOOSE PROTEIN
When in doubt, always consume more lean protein - these include high quality meats like lean chicken breast and beef, wild caught fish, and organic eggs.
Other non-animal options include tofu, peas, lentils, and hemp seeds.
Proteins are complex and require a lot of energy to digest and breakdown. They are also the building blocks of maintaining lean muscle mass, one of the best indicators of overall health. High protein intake from high yield sources will help you achieve ANY goal, no matter what that goal may be.
FATS ARE GOOD FOR YOU
Secondly, do not be afraid of fat- they are essential and should be consumed at every meal. Fats help curb your appetite and decrease food cravings. When choosing fatty foods- keep saturated fats to a minimum, and attempt to get the majority from mono-unsaturated fats including olive oil, nuts, nut butters, seeds, dark chocolate and avocados. Do not forget, fats do not make you fat!
SOME CARBS ARE HEALTHIER THAN OTHERS
Carbohydrates are the trickiest, as this is the macronutrient that everyone consumes the most of. You can eat carbohydrates at every meal, but unlike fats and protein they are not absolutely necessary.
If presented with a choice, choose the whole wheat or whole grain variety. Brown rice vs white rice, whole wheat pasta vs regular pasta, whole grain bread vs white bread etc.
Also, ensure that your carbohydrates are consumed in moderation. A simple trick to minimize carb consumption is to only consume what fits in your cupped hand at each sitting.
For the most optimal benefit, you can choose to replace the carbohydrate altogether with a handful of leafy green vegetables.
This way you get the benefit of meeting your daily vegetable quota (which is at least 5 servings a day by the way) and it will not feel like you are consuming salads all the time.
NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES MADE SIMPLE
Spread out your daily intake and aim to consume 4-6 meals per day. Not every sitting has to be a complete meal (which we will define as a meal that contains a protein, a fat, and a carb), but the more complete meals you have the better. The remaining meals can be snacks. Eating multiple times throughout the day will keep your metabolism active, which is always a good thing.
For a complete meal, consume
*3-4 ounces of a protein (palm size),
*1/2 cup of starchy carbs (cupped hand)
or a cup of vegetables (fist size)(preferred)
*And a tablespoon of fat (thumb size)
Refer back to Part 2 to see how you can easily measure these quantities*
Women can consume one serving of each macronutrient per meal.
Men can consume up to two servings of each macronutrient per meal.
For snacks, the best options include protein and healthy fats such as nuts and nut butter packets, greek yogurt, or avocados.
HOW TO MODIFY YOUR DIET TO MEET YOUR NEEDS
In order to get to your destination, you must know where you are going. Define your goals. Are you trying to lose body weight? Are you trying to gain weight? How much and by when?
If your goal is to change your body weight, do not check the scale every single day. Due to variations in hydration levels alone, your body weight can fluctuate ~1% on any given day. As a result, you should only weigh yourself 1 to 2 times a week to measure any true progress.
Always check your body weight first thing in the morning, after going to the bathroom, to keep as many factors constant as possible.
If your body weight doesn't change significantly over 2 weeks (2-3 lbs), then you are eucaloric.
This means that your body is using up energy at roughly the same rate at which you are consuming it. If you are gaining weight, you are hypercaloric, and if you are losing weight you are hypocaloric.
Based on these results, we can then adjust your intake accordingly.
MAKE SMALL CHANGES
If after 2 weeks, you have not noticed a change in the desired direction, make SMALL adjustments.
Keep in mind that this is NOT a quick fix. It is important to use 2 week intervals to evaluate your progress.
If your goal is to lose weight, aim to lose 1 lb pound per week (+/- 0.5 lbs).
No more no less.
Anything more than this is unsustainable and will cause an unwanted rebound.
The same goes for weight gain. Aim for 1 to 1.5 lbs per week.
If you are not hitting the above recommendations, modify each meal by a small margin. Consume slightly less of the starchy carb at each sitting, and more of the vegetable if you are trying to lose weight. If you are trying to gain weight, eat slightly more of the carb or the fat. Always keep protein consumption high no matter what.
Do not change the amount of meals you consume. You should still aim for 4-6 meals per day. This is critical as constant food consumption will keep your metabolism high as your body has to continuously keep digesting food throughout the day.
The higher the quality of the food, the more work your body has to do to digest and process it.
Don't forget, this is more about creating a lifestyle, rather than simply following a 'diet.'
Adding some form of exercise will also be extremely beneficial when following this lifestyle. Regular exercise can increase muscle mass further increasing your metabolism and calorie burning potential. Learn how busy professionals should exercise by reading Creating Quick and Effective Workout Routines.
Using these methods, you can create a sustainable diet that works for you and your lifestyle. Don't make things complicated, diets truly are simple!
So in a nutshell...
- Eat 4-6 meals per day, aiming to consume a balanced proportion of each macronutrient at each sitting.
- Use your hand to determine your serving sizes.
- If your not getting closer to your goal after 2 weeks, make small adjustments in the desired direction and re-evaluate your progress in two weeks intervals.
- Make sure that your diet is personalized to you and your circumstances. The goal is to create a lifestyle that is sustainable.
Check out this amazing infographic by Precision Nutrition which summarizes the key points
So that's it. After reading these three articles, you are now armed with the most useful principles that encompass healthy eating. Go forth and conquer!
Be sure to check out 7 Simple Ways to Eat Better Immediately for actionable ways to improve your diet regardless of how busy you are.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced with nutrition? Post your comments and questions below.
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