Everyone has a different reason for exercising, whether you are losing or better managing your weight, training for a specific sport, building a more muscular physique or just because you want to promote better overall health. The list of reasons could have me here all night typing away. But there is one common denominator that in the end, will decide how your body responds to the hard work that you put into exercising: Nutrition. The two go hand in hand.
I’m not here to tell you to hop on Google and search the most recent fad diet or change to Vegan or Vegetarian. What I want to talk about are ways to improve your diet through realistic nutrition. After all, being consistent and realistic with both your fitness and nutritional approach will lead to better results in the short and long term. Let’s take a look!
Americans are notorious for over indulging. We shop at Costco where Honey Roasted peanuts come by the quarter-ton (I’m honestly not sure if that is even an exaggeration). We eat our dinner, go back for seconds, thirds and squeeze down an oversized piece of cheesecake for desert, because, well, why not? We even have Overeaters Anonymous meetings. So why do Americans over eat?
Recent studies done at Penn State University have shown that children between the ages of 3 and 5 begin to change their eating habits because of how much food they are served. The study found that young children have an innate ability to stop eating when their body tells them to. However, when excessive amounts of food were put on their plate over and over again, they began to eat more.
The study showed that Americans are conditioned from an early age to eat more by the portion size that they are provided. So the next time you sit down to eat dinner, take a look at the portion on your plate and ask yourself if it is too much. If the answer is yes, grab some Tupperware, and save it for lunch the next day.
Have you ever heard someone use the phrase “empty calories”? They are referring to an item (food or beverage choice) that has little to no nutritional value. These items are often loaded with saturated fats and sugars and the majority of us consume far too many of them, especially beverages. Over the top coffee drinks, sodas and even artificially sweetened fruit juices are loaded with empty calories, yet people continue to drink them and neglect what they should be drinking, water.
Water has zero calories, is delicious and has magical powers. Okay maybe no magical powers, but if you look at what being hydrated can do for you, that isn’t too far of a stretch. Keeping your body hydrated will improve joint mobility, allow your body to burn fat more efficiently and even help your skin remain youthful. It is recommended that the average person drink 6-10 eight ounce glasses of water a day to remain hydrated. My advice is to drink more water than you think you should. Go get an easy to use water bottle you can keep with you throughout the day. This will help to ensure you a drinking enough water and staying hydrated.
Your alarm goes off, you zombie to the shower, trip into some clothes, grab your coffee and you are out the door. Sound familiar? For too many people, this is the morning routine, and if you didn’t eat your breakfast then you left your metabolism in bed.
Eating breakfast wakes your metabolism up and allows your body to start burning calories from the time you wake up till the time you go to bed. This process is referred to as thermogenesis, or the metabolic process of digesting and transporting food and it will help to improve concentration and increase energy levels.
It should go without saying, but making healthy choices for breakfast is a must; these include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats (a big glass of water is a very good idea as well). If you are a coffee drinker, make sure you do not add any artificial sweeteners or cream/milk that is high in fat. If you can get used to drinking black coffee, caffeine can notably increase your metabolism for hours.
Being physically fit takes dedication and hard work. It would be a shame to waste that time and effort by having a poor diet. So keep these simple fixes in mind the next time you are headed to the grocery store. Plan accordingly and when you have a good week, reward yourself. We can’t always be perfect, but making a conscious effort to be better will go a long way towards promoting better overall health!
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