The most critical factor in weight loss or “getting in shape” is the food (fuel) that you are consuming. Eat bad (low nutrient) food consistently and you will have a poorly performing body – and degraded health as an addition. Consume nutritious food that increases your body’s efficiency and you will notice the positive benefits almost immediately. Even if your Calories In, Calories Out ratio is good and you are reaching your fitness goals, eating the right food will make it optimal (and easier) so you can get there that much faster and without so many challenges. It all comes down to good calories and bad calories.
So, what is the right fuel (good) for my engine? It’s quite simple: Start by only eating natural foods with natural ingredients. Avoid processed foods. If it comes in a factory sealed package or box it is probably processed and loaded with unnatural ingredients. Eat tons of vegetables and fruit – your main “go to” food. Canned vegetables are fine just watch out for added salt. Also, look for foods that are lower on the Glycemic Index (GI) scale… because eating high GI foods increase insulin (spike) and make you eat more. This is nothing to fear once you are hitting your fitness goals but for someone starting out, stay on the low GI side of things. Go for leafy, green vegetables such as kale, spinach and bok choy. Other good ones are peppers (all kinds), asparagus, carrots, broccoli (& broccoli rabe), zucchini, brussel sprouts and okra. For fruit, go with apples, oranges, grapefruit, mango, cherries, berries (all), grapes, pomegranate and bananas. A quick online search for “superfoods” will steer you in the right direction.
After vegetables and fruits, stick with foods made from whole (and sprouted) grains and limit your intake of anything “white” such as bread, rice, and pasta. Anything made with processed and refined flour is to be eaten in extreme moderation (less is better!). The great thing is that we have many alternatives for the things we crave. Instead of regular pasta noodles, go with buckwheat. Instead of white rice, go with brown basmati or sprouted rice. Get the picture? Brown is good because it usually means fiber. Fiber is your friend because it helps control blood sugar, makes you feel full (so you take in less) and lowers blood cholesterol, among other benefits. There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both are necessary. Sources of soluble fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, barley, rye, peas, beans, carrots, apples, and oranges. Sources of insoluble fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, wheat bran, brown rice and other whole grains. And again, canned vegetables are fine. Just watch out for additives.
As for meat and animal-based foods – eat it sparingly. Your diet should primarily be plant-based. When you must eat meat, go for white meats. Processed meats such as salami and deli meats should be avoided. Again, the packaging often tells the story. You can lower your risk of death (all dietary causes) by 25% by choosing “healthy” unprocessed white meats such as turkey, chicken and fish. Eggs are fine in moderation as is dairy. When choosing dairy products, go for the most natural kinds possible. For fish, go for fatty kinds such as salmon and tuna. Look for wild instead of farm-raised. Again, eat sparingly as many fish contain pollutants such as mercury.
Sugar – avoid it as much as possible. Sugar is the bad in bad calories. Sugar is in nearly every processed food. And there is no such thing as a sugar substitute. Sugar is sugar and it triggers the same responses throughout your body. Raising insulin levels and ringing the dinner bell for the formation of free radicals. Eliminating 99% of added sugars from your diet will have an almost unbelievable effect – you will feel more awake and energetic, once you’re are off the sugar high that many of us are on all the time. I don’t care if you ignore everything above this paragraph… cut your sugar and you will be a lot healthier and less prone to ailments such as heart disease and cancer. It is my opinion that sugar should be regulated by the government as a dangerous drug.
Now, to wrap this up – Eating the right kinds of food is like putting high octane fuel in your engine. Seriously, you are what you eat. If you eat the good stuff, you will be good. Your metabolism will start to function like a super-charged sports car’s engine. Very little will go to waste. Fuel goes right to power and propulsion. After a while (just a few weeks) of eating right, you will feel better and have more energy. You will get “sick” less often. If you eat the bad stuff, you will be bad and will not perform or function as it is intended. You will be unhealthy. Your body will break down and leave you stranded on the side of the road… maybe even literally if you are competing in an endurance event such as running or cycling. For you non-athletes, this information is just as important if not moreso.
So, there you have it. Eat your vegetables.