Taking control of your diet
We’ve been in self-isolation for almost 2 months now, and if you’re anything like me it’s starting to wear on you. It’s no secret that humans thrive on companionship, and many of us have let our diets slip as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, poor diet saps our physical and mental energy, which will make us feel worse in the long run.
We don’t know how much longer this will go on, so now is the perfect time to take back control of our diet! If you read my posts from last month, you’ll remember I gave a few basic pointers for how to fuel your body for optimal mental and physical health and performance:
- Green veggies should be your primary daily carbohydrate
- Protein should be part of every meal
- Stop being afraid of dietary fat
- Sugar is not good for you
- Drink WATER — not soda, diet soda, or other unhealthy drinks (at least the majority of the time)
You already know the basics, so how do we start implementation?
To begin with, meal timing is something that is often overlooked but makes a huge difference. Breakfast should be a mix of proteins and healthy fats, which gives you long lasting energy and keeps cravings at bay for a long time.
If you’re going to eat carbohydrate, especially starches, you want to keep them to dinner, or as close to the end of the day as possible. Not only do carbohydrates awaken food cravings but they actually make you sleepy, which is why 2 hours after you ate that bagel with cream cheese you needed a nap. Timing the majority of your carbohydrate towards the end of the day (including all of your starches when possible) lets you escape the majority of cravings, and will actually help you sleep better than if you ate most of your carbohydrate at breakfast.
Time Restricted Eating
This concept seems to be where I lose a lot of people, but please hear me out. Snacking throughout the day is a relatively new concept, but with the exception of professional athletes it almost always leads to weight gain in the long term. Years ago the “6 small meals per day” idea became very popular, in large part because dietary fat had suddenly become taboo and without it people were hungry very frequently.
Not only have we learned that dietary fat is extremely beneficial for your health and body composition, but we’ve learned that eating all day long is exhausting for your body. Your gut needs a rest during the day where it doesn’t have to digest anything, and your body needs a break from the hormones released when you eat (particularly insulin).
Time restricted eating, sometimes called intermittent fasting, is simply making sure you give your body enough time to rest and repair before you feed it again. The eating window can be adjusted based on your needs, with 16-8 (16 hours of fasting and 8 hours open for eating) and 18-6 (18 hours of fasting and 6 hours open for eating) being the most often you’ll see talked about on social media.
If the idea of going 16 hours without food seems completely insane, don’t worry. Simply eating dinner a little earlier and delaying breakfast by an hour or two can be enough time for your body. The idea is not to go as long as possible without food, but instead to find the sweet spot where you still have great energy but are still maximizing the rest you’re giving your gut. This is different for everyone, and you may need some trial and error to figure out what works best for you.
These strategies are most helpful when you’re already following the basic pointers I outlined above a good percentage of the time. These are meant to start fine tuning your nutrition plan, and that only works when you already have a strong nutritional foundation.
Visit this Thursday for more information on time restricted eating and why it can be helpful!