Dieters need to consume a strong protein intake to help protect their muscles. That is, when you restrict calories, you burn not just body fat but also muscle tissue. Enjoy a protein-rich food (in combination with carbs) at each meal and snack.
Protein is satiating; it helps keep you feeling fed and can curb your appetite. Dieters who eat protein (eggs) at breakfast stay full longer than those who eat just carbs (bagel, fruit, granola bar). By eating a enjoying a satiating breakfast, you'll be less likely to crave sweets and succumb to donuts or candy bars.
Fat (preferably healthful fat such as in nuts, olive oil, salmon, peanut butter) is an essential part of a sports diet. It's required to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. A little fat gets stored right within the muscle cells and gets used during long workouts. It enhances endurance. Runners who switched from a low (16 percernt) fat diet to a moderate (30 percent) fat diet improved their performance by 14 percent (5). That's a lot! And, they did not gain body fat.
The mantra "Eat fat, get fat" is false. Overeat calories and you will get fat, particularly if you overeat calories from fatty foods. Excess dietary fat easily converts into body fat.
Vitamins: The less fuel you ingest, the fewer vitamins you consume. Taking a vitamin pill might replace some of those losses, but a pill does not provide other bio-active compounds in foods that protect your good health. Strive to enjoy colorful vegetables and/or fruits at each meal.
By satisfying your hunger with wholesome sports foods at daytime meals, you will ruin your appetite for the evening "junk food" that contributes to fat-gain. You feel better during the day, have better workouts, be in a better mood—and be able to knock off 200+ calories of evening snacks so you can lose weight easily when you are sleeping. Experiment for just one day with front-loading your calories; the benefits will be obvious!
Easier Said Than Done?
While food-binges can simply be the backlash from unrealistic efforts to lose a few pounds, they sometimes also serve the important job of distracting people from thinking about painful relationships and feelings of inadequacy. That is, if you incessantly think about food, you are not thinking about how sad, depressed or lonely you might be feeling. You'd rather focus on losing five pounds, believing weight loss will make you happy. Doubtful.
Instead of trying to find happiness from a number on the scale, the better bet is to appreciate your body for all the good it does. Do not compare your body to others. To compare is to despair. Practice eating mindfully and ask yourself before you eat "Does my body need this fuel?" Eat mechanically, on a time schedule, with even-sized meals that truly satisfy you, so you don't just stop eating because you think you should.
Rather than struggle with food and weight issues on your own, consult with a sports dietitian who can help you create a positive food plan. Use the referral network at SCANdpg.org to find your local RD CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics). Life is too short to spend it fighting with food.
Nancy Clark MS, RD counsels casual exercisers and competitive athletes at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, MA (617-383-6100). Her NEW 2008 Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook 4th Edition, and her Food Guide for Marathoners and Cyclist's Food Guide are available via www.nancyclarkrd.com.
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