I say it often and repeat it ad nauseam...
Feed yourself about every four hours
Prioritize protein and fiber
Hydrate early and often
...this is what living a #prioritizedlifestyle entails.
Simple or challenging, this is how I build a foundation of nutrition with each and every one of my clients. It's not about restricting things you like, it's about prioritizing what the body needs and then incorporating all the foods you like. Some people follow these principles already, while others attempt fad diets, restriction, or their own personal style. I'm not going to say anyone is wrong in how they approach their eating habits - as long as they are healthy, safe, and achieving the outcomes that defines their own personal success.
When I'm approached to support someone in their goals, be it, athletic, body composition, control, accountability, or general health - I start here. This is where we can support blood sugar, cholesterol, energy levels, controlled eating habits, muscle maintenance, and athletic performance. Stay aware of how I'm not telling anyone NOT to eat anything. Coming from a place of restriction will only lead to rebellion. Prioritize what you need first and then you can decide what and how much to eat of other foods. This is what supports the outcome people look for.
"Restriction will only lead to rebellion."
FEED YOUR BODY EVERY FOUR HOURS:
The body requires energy to move, think, and maintain itself. We also eat to satiate ourself and enjoy food. Start first with this, the muscle everywhere in your body (skeletal, heart, other organs) is what uses energy. It tends to require exogenous nutrients about every 3-5 hours, depending on activity, when the concentration of blood glucose and amino acids are low. Now I understand fully that we can utilize body fat as energy, but the body doesn't prefer it and it will only use so much at a time (let's cover ketones at another time).
No one is the same though and we need to approach nutrition from a personalized standpoint. It's possible to go longer without eating. You won't die if you skip a meal and eat next in six, eight or even 16 hours - some people sleep for that long. What I'm talking about is optimizing muscle maintenance and energy. It's not optimal for us to go that long without eating: out muscle is compromised, our blood sugar drops, and really we're just missing an opportunity to take in nutrients like protein and high fiber foods. If you decide to only eat two times in a day consuming all the protein and fiber that will best benefit your body can feel overwhelming and one could argue, unenjoyable.
I also understand that people may not be hungry every four hours or have the time to eat every four hours. Well, while hunger is important to be aware of, you're eating for more than that. You're eating to nourish your body and by skipping meals, as I said above, you're missing an opportunity to give your body what it needs and it also leaves an opening for feeling un-satiated and hungry a few hours after you've said you're not hungry and that can lead to a binge.
Bottom line: prioritize timing of meals and eat to maintain your muscle mass, stabilize blood sugar, and control hunger.
PRIORITIZE PROTEIN & FIBER:
Now here we arrive at what to eat every four hours. If you're deciding to eat morsels of food every four hours you'll be starving. On the flip side, I'm not asking you to overeat and indulge every four hours either. I ask you to eat enough and prioritize the foods that digest slowest, maintain your muscle mass, and control blood sugar.
Protein vs carbohydrate and fat have an advantage in that it promotes satiety, blood sugar control and promotes muscle maintenance. Fat also digests slow and can support blood sugar control, but with it lacking benefits for muscle maintenance I won't prioritize it - that doesn't mean I'm not asking you to eat it. It'll be important to understand how much protein you need. Simply 0.8-1.1 grams protein per pound for most of the populations I work with. You may be fine with less, but again this is optimal for muscle maintain and recovery for the active people I work with. Once we figure out how much protein to consume, we can break that up into the amounts you need every four hours. It'll then be important to understand foods, snacks, and meals that have 20, 30, or 45 grams of protein and work those into the day. It's not overly complicated once you understand all of this. Lastly, I don't care if you're vegan, vegetarian, or taking bites out of live animals - you still need enough protein.
"I don't care if you're vegan, vegetarian, or taking bites out of live animals - you still need enough protein."
Fiber is likely the one thing besides protein most individuals, especially Americans, are not getting enough of. Let me ask you this. If you could consume something that would regulate blood sugar to reduce your risk of diabetes, stabilize your energy throughout the day to keep you alert, remove cholesterol from you body to support heart health, lower incidence of breast cancer in women and bowel cancers specifically in men, support hunger control and satiety for weight loss, and give you most of the nutrients people look to supplement with - would you choose to consume it? Of course you would! Fiber does this and more.
"Fiber is likely the one thing besides protein most individuals, especially Americans, are not getting enough of."
Fiber comes from carbohydrate, so when someone tells me they don't eat carbs I call them out on their mistake - they are eating carbs from fruits, vegetables, dairy. What they mean to tell me is that they don't eat starches. Most people, when they say this, also look at me with or other for approval. They think I'll be giving them a thumbs up and a pat on the back. However, by omitting carbs including starches you're missing out on fiber. It's important that I educate someone on where fiber comes from (carbs: fruit, vegetable, starches), how much to consume per day (30-35 grams for women and slightly more for men at 38 grams), the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber, and finally what food sources are best to incorporate. Once I can get this across - I know the person I'm working with will find some "food freedom" in the way of feeling fuller longer and improved energy. Bottom line: provide the body, first, with what it needs for muscle maintenance and blood sugar control then you can decide what to eat with it
HYDRATE EARLY AND OFTEN:
Hydration supplies water and water is the medium in which all metabolic process take place in. By remaining hydrated you will likely feel more energized as oxygen is supplied to the body more optimally, the body is able to flush the bi-products of metabolism (dare I say toxins) from your body more efficiently, you remain fuller longer and reduce food cravings, bowel movements are improved, and skin health is supported.
Now water isn't the only hydrating liquid. Coffee, tea, seltzer, soups, fruits, and vegetables also supply water (check out more info from one of my posts here). It could be argued that if you're become thirsty you've waited too long. Your thirst mechanism tends to kick in when you've become under-hydrated or dehydrated. Don't get thirsty!
Knowing how much to drink is incredibly important so someone knows when enough is enough. It can feel challenging some days to hydrate optimally. While other days feel simple because of how the day plays out. Regardless your body needs how much it needs.
Many people forget to hydrate because they aren't reminded to drink by the cold weather, they aren't working out and sweating, or they just plain don't feel thirsty. This leads to feeling sluggish as the blood becomes more viscous, the body becomes less oxygenated, and nutrients are delivered at a slower pace. Stay hydrated is also going to become even more important for healthy bowel movements as protein and fiber is increased in the diet.
Bottom line: drink what your body needs, early and often. Don't get thirsty
Living a #priotizedlifestyle is easy. It can take some work and requires time to absorb all that it has to office - but it's easy. I promise. It's all about understanding what your body needs and prioritizing that over foods that may be more indulgent or less nutrient dense. What it isn't is restrictive. So when the occasions come up where cake is offered - you eat. When you have a work happy hour - you join in. When you go out to one of your favorite restaurants - you order the best dish.
Learn to prioritize what you need and you will find food freedom.