Diets often seem incredibly complicated. There are so many different approaches out there these days it’s easy to get caught up in things that don’t really matter. I’ve created a simple, three step process for easy diet analysis which will give you a good idea if your current eating habits are on track. Three key factors should be identified: excesses, shortages and personalisation.
Where fat loss is concerned, excesses should be identified first. Here are some of the main culprits;
Alcohol – A couple of extra glasses of wine through the week? An extra beer at the weekend? This all adds up – a pint of lager or beer will cost you anywhere between 150-250kcal and a glass of wine somewhere in the region of 130-220kcal. Alcohol provides empty calories and should be the first for the chop.
Carbohydrates (specifically sugar) – Carbs are by no means the devil, but when on a fat loss phase they should always be monitored. Fluctuations in blood sugar (and therefore insulin) caused by carbohydrate intake can reduce the rate at which fat is being metabolised, therefore protein and fats should be prioritised over carbohydrates. This includes some types of fruit – bananas, dried fruits and mangoes tend to be the worst culprits of this.
‘Treats’ – A couple of sugary treats through the week may not seem like a big deal, but things quickly accumulate. Make a note of any additional treats you have and add it all up at the end of the week. A biscuit a day…makes you fat.
Vegetables – Vegetables are what’s known as alkaline forming food, most people consume acid forming foods; meat, fish and dairy for example. It is important to keep your alkaline forming foods, and therefore pH levels, in check. If your pH levels stray too far from neutral, negative health outcomes such as loss of muscle mass, hypothyroidism and an increase in stress hormones can occur. Whether eating for fat loss, muscle gain or performance, an neutral pH level will always make things run a little smoother.
Water – appropriate levels of hydration are essential to all bodily processes. It’s almost sure you could be having more. Aim for 3-4 litres per day for optimal functioning.
Protein – higher levels of protein aid fat loss. High protein intakes can accelerate fat loss via elevated satiety, thermogenesis and increased lean muscle mass.
Fats – fats do not make you fat, in fact a lack of fat in your diet will no doubt stall your progress. Dietary fat will make you feel full, providing you with a steady stream of energy whilst keeping your blood sugar at a constant level.
Once you’ve worked out what you are consuming in excess and what you’re lacking in, it’s time to tweak your diet to make it sustainable and easy for YOU to follow.
Meal frequency – the old adage of eating little and often is slowly but surely getting phased out. It doesn’t work for most people and isn’t actually optimal. Optimal meal frequency is a personal thing; work out how many meals you feel most comfortable with, and stick with it.
Meal timing – Nothing is set in stone with diets, everything is modifiable to make it personal to you. If you don’t like eating breakfast, then don’t do it. Hate eating late at night? There’s no need. Write down when you prefer to eat, and divide you food between those times.
Carbohydrate manipulation – The timing of your carbohydrate intake can be manipulated to aid in fat loss, muscle gain and recovery. For most people, this involves consuming the majority of your carbs 30-60 minutes after you’ve finished training, and limiting your intake throughout the rest of the day.
Appropriate analysis is essential to solving a problem. Addressing these three factors will give an easy diet analysis and provide the first step on the road to cleaning up your eating habits.