If you ask any person who has a great physique what their secret is, I guarantee their response is going to be their diet! With that said, what do they really mean by “their diet” and are they referring to one of the latest fad diets that are advertised all over television and magazines? Hopefully what they mean is they consume healthy, nutritious food at the right time and in the right combination. Here shortly, we’ll take a look at proper food selection and explain the purpose in combining certain food types in a meal. But first, I want to point out that irrespective of your fitness goals, these same principles are applicable. In other words, if one person is trying to build muscle and another is trying to lose fat, the same principles apply. This all sounds fine and dandy and pretty simple, but just how does one go about this?
It all boils down to the hormone insulin. Insulin can be your friend and your enemy, so the key is manipulating it to work in your favor. The food that you consume is directly related to your insulin levels. If you have not eaten in 8 hours your insulin levels are going to be abysmal and you’ll feel sluggish. If you eat a watermelon, or any other high glycemic index carbohydrate, your insulin levels will shoot through the roof and you’ll temporarily feel great for 30-60 minutes. Neither scenario is really ideal, so it only makes sense to consume foods frequently, and eat foods that keep blood sugar levels stable. To do this, you need to understand which meal combinations to pursue and which to avoid.
Avoid meals containing a large amount of fat and carbohydrates.
Unfortunately, this is a very typical meal for most Americans, and the fast food industry is the major culprit. Meals with high carbohydrate content in combination with high-fat meals can actually promote a synergistic insulin release when compared to the two alone. High fat with high-carb meals represent the worst possible scenario and explain why obesity is becoming an epidemic for Americans.
Avoid meals high in carbs alone
Reason being, the liver converts extra carbohydrates into fat, and a very high carbohydrate meal can actually lead to blood sugar levels that look like you just ate a high carb and high-fat meal! Consuming exclusively a high carb meal is only ideal for long distance endurance athlets.
Eat meals containing protein and carbs (with minimal fat)
It is no mystery that eating carbs and protein together also creates a synergistic insulin release (like the fat and carb meals above). But in this scenario, that insulin release is just what you want. By having a few meals per day that cause high blood levels of insulin, carbs, and protein (amino acids), the body tends to become very anabolic, taking up all those carbs and amino acids into the muscle cells for protein and glycogen storage. In other words, it keeps your muscles full and primed for use. Since there's no excess fat for the fat cells, fat gain is minimized.
*To come up with a protein/carb/low fat meal simply mix and match the protein w/ a carb from the list of acceptable foods. For example: Egg whites w/ oatmeal. Turkey sandwich on wheat bread w/ lowfat cheese, lettuce and mustard. Lean Sirloin Steak w/ sweet potato and green vegetables. Low fat cottage cheese with mandarin oranges. Chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing w/ brown rice.
Eat meals containing protein and fat (with minimal carbs)
As you may know, essential fatty acids (flaxseed oil and fish oil) are very important to health and favorable body composition. If you were to eat protein and carb meals all day you would be neglecting the ingestion of healthy fats. Obviously this is not good. In an attempt to balance out your two or three carb plus protein (minimal fat) meals each day, you should be eating an additional two to three meals consisting of protein and fat with minimal carbs. The purpose of protein plus fat meals is to provide energy and amino acids without causing large, insulin spikes. In addition, after eating fatty meals that contain no carbs, more carbs are stored and retained in the muscle as glycogen and you burn more fat for energy. So basically you'll be burning fat for energy and storing carbs in the muscle after these meals.
*Here are some recommendations for good fats and proteins for the protein plus fat meals:
Fats:fish oils, flaxseed oil, olive oil, canola oil, fat from nuts, fat from beef and eggs,
Proteins: beef, salmon, whey protein powder, turkey, whole eggs, pork, tuna in oil
*Examples of meals containing protein and good fat sources are: Whole eggs scrambled in olive oil and covered in cheddar cheese. Peanuts and beef jerky (more of a snack than a meal). Pork tenderloin marinated in olive oil w/ some green vegetables. Albacore tuna in oil mixed w/ mayonnaise and a whole boiled egg.
I hope this simplifies your decision making process when it comes time to pick out what to eat…Whether at home or in a restaurant!
About the Author
Gym Owner and Personal Trainer, Keith Diedrich has a B.A. in Exercise Science and has been professionally involved in health and fitness in various capacities since 2005.
"My initial thought about Keith was that he seemed very casual and not as frenetic as other professionals. I quickly learned that he was gauging my stamina, movements, and technique. He wasn't after a fast burnout, but he wanted to exhaust every muscle every time. He said we were working on a "mind to body connection." With this connection I'd be able to gauge whether a set was 15 reps or 20 reps regardless of the initial "goal of 15!" I believe much of my gains came from Keith always seeing my potential even when I couldn't." ~ Saul "Mr. Biceps"