Your diet should be seen as a healthy eating plan that is adopted for life and not something temporary that you go on and come off. It should promote fat loss and create an environment for muscle retention and/or muscle gain.
80% of your body composition (% of fat and muscle) is determined by your diet not by your exercise levels. Don’t try and out train a bad diet, there will only be one winner and it won’t be you.
Your diet should fuel your training and most importantly enable you to live a healthier lifestyle. Get your diet and your training right and the gains that you make will accelerate fat loss, improve confidence, improve sleep, improve athletic performance, improve muscle retention/gain, improve your mood, reduce your chances of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc etc, the list goes on. What is there not to like?
Wholefoods which have not been processed or refined and are free from additives and artificial sweeteners should form the majority (80%+) of your diet. You should significantly reduce your consumption of processed foods and hi-glycemic (High GI) carbohydrate which is found in abundance in alcohol.
Hi GI carbohydrates cause a release of the hormone insulin to remove excess sugar from your blood which is directly stored as fat. Alcohol in-particular promotes fat storage and also stops your body from burning fat. Too much alcohol also encourages you to make poorer food choices, therefore promoting further additional fat storage. The more alcohol you drink the fatter you get and more fat you retain.
Fluctuating blood sugar caused by high GI carbohydrates (not protein or fat) eventually causes insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Sugar, (not protein or fat) makes you fat and makes you ill; now and later in life.
The macronutrient split of your diet should be 30% protein and 30% fat & 40% carbohydrates. This is based around the Paleo diet of which there is a wealth of content about on the internet.
What to Eat & Drink to lose fat and gain muscle – Protein 30%, Fat 30% & Carbohydrate 40%
You need to change how you think about the meals you are planning to eat. We have been brought up by our parents generation to base our meals around the starchy carbohydrate first, then the protein, then the fat i.e. ‘jacket potatoe’ with tuna and cheese, pasta with meat bolognaise. To change this approach it is best to think about the protein being the main subject of the meal, which is accompanied by low GI carbohydrates (predominantly from vegetables) and then the fats/oils.
Work towards getting as close as possible to the first list below with your diet. For most of us, it is unrealistic to completely change our diet in one go, but aim to migrate your food choices towards the first list below and away from the subsequent ‘food to avoids list’. Some foods such as organic grass fed meat can be to cost prohibitive to buy, but you can buy commercially farmed cuts of meat, just buy the best quality possible and cut off excess fat.
Ultimately though you need to put money and time aside now for a healthier diet and healthier life, or put money and time aside later in life for ill health; it’s your choice. If you do make poor choices along the way, then don’t beat yourself up, just commit to improving your choices next time round.
What to eat and drink
Alcohol – red wine, one glass
Chocolate – with high cocoa content 70-80%+
Coffee – one cup a day with cream instead of milk
Drinks – Water (with added fruit to taste), green tea (matcha is best)
Dairy – Ideally raw, high fat and organic
Eggs – preferably high in Omega 3
Fats & oils – coconut, dark roasted sesame, extra virgin olive. Animal fats are best for cooking
Fish – ideally wild caught, oilier the better
Fruits – locally grown in season, berries are best
Herbs & spices –add to cooking for flavour as they can be high-antioxidant, anti-inflammatory & immune supporting
Meat – Organic, free range, grass fed, hormone free. With standard meat, choose lean cuts and cut off excess fat. The bad stuff is stored in the excess fat
Nuts, seeds & their derivative butters – high in Omega 3 and nutritious and they make a quick to prepare snack
Starchy tubular vegetables – sweet potatoes and yams
Snacks – Vegetables dipped in cream cheese or almond butter, cottage cheese with nuts or fruit. Canned tuna, sardines, berries, hard boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, olives
Vegetables – Locally grown, organic, in season. Lots of leafy greens
Wild rice – in moderation instead of white or brown
Food & Drinks to Avoid
If it has ‘diet’ or ‘low fat’ written on it then it will only make you fat, so avoid it. If it’s processed, baked, a fizzy drink, margarine, deep fried, high in sugar, made of refined grains or vegetable oil, then steer clear of these as well.
Drinks – Alcohol (more than one glass of red wine a day), sweetened sugary fizzy drinks, artificial sweeteners, diet drinks
Coffee / tea – in large quantities
Dairy – limit conventional dairy due to antibiotics, allergenic and pesticides, eat high fat where possible
Eggs – from caged birds
Fats & oils – Avoid all trans and partially hydrogenated, high polyunsaturated oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, baked and deep fried foods
Fast food – it’s all chemically treated, deep fried and insulin stimulating and is void of nutritional content
Fruits – avoid genetically modified
Fruit juice – unless freshly squeezed with bits (fibre retained)
Grains – wheat, rice, corn oats, cereals, breads pasta, pizza base, bake goods (cakes, pies, biscuits etc)
Meat & poultry – limit commercially grown as well as smoked / cured meats. Cut off visible excess fat
Processed food – avoid
Snacks – Energy bars, pretzels, crisp, biscuits, cakes and grain based snacks
Vegetables – avoid genetically modified
In summary – eat a diet based on meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, some fruit, little starch and no sugar and also drink plenty of water.
For further reading and some recipes and meal options, search ‘paloe diet’ & ‘zone diet’.