The right diet and fitness plan for health and wellness go hand in hand. You can eat well, or work out often, but the combination is key to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss. In fact, a workout plan without a proper diet is sure to fail. Why? Because the food you put into your body needs to align with your workout goals in order to achieve the results you’re looking for.
For example, if you’re trying to lose fat, you need to eat less calories. However, if you’re trying to gain muscle, you need to eat more calories!
Other nutrition factors that seriously contribute to results are protein, fat, carbs, water and timing. Surrounding your workouts with meals (pre and post workout) is key for fitness preparation and recovery.
Motivation is hard to muster alone. Read on for some nutrition tips that will help motivate you reach your health and wellness goals.
How To Eat & Plan Workouts If Losing Fat Is The Goal
Everybody has a recommended daily calorie intake. Sticking to it, however, is as difficult as saying ‘no thanks’ to a free cookie. We all too often face the moment in a meal where we are full and should stop eating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we will.
So, how to fight this demon alone? We think a little science and guidance should aid in this difficult, yet absolutely attainable, mission.
Everybody has a standard amount of calories they should eat each day based on their weight. This is called the calorie maintenance level. This means that if the amount of calories you intake equals the amount you outtake in a given day, your weight will remain the same. If you want to lose weight, you need to intake less in order to tip the scale. Sounds easy on paper, but we all know how hard this is!
- Step 1: Go calculate your calorie maintenance level. There are plenty of resources online, and we think the one we linked to above is great. Knowledge is power, and it’s very important to set specific plans in order to achieve reasonable goals that won’t let you down.
- Step 2: Now that you know how many calories you need to eat a day to maintain your current weight, figure out how many how many you should intake a day in order to lose weight or gain muscle. Remember, intaking less means losing weight and intaking more means the potential for gaining muscle.
Great! Good job. These are solid first steps in laying out a plan for a healthier lifestyle. Plans with intention are a powerful aid in reaching our goals.
Creating a Diet Plan Based On a Caloric Deficit
This step is vital to your results, and your sanity. If you plan to intake only slightly less than normal, you will lose weight in the slowest way possible, which can be frustrating. If you intake far less than normal, you will lose weight faster, but may become annoyed and begin to lose your mind.
Therefore, many experts agree that a moderate caloric deficit, or cutting calories to a comfortable point in between seeing no results and insanity, is best.
What Does This Mean?
Achieving a moderate caloric deficit means reducing your daily caloric intake by about 20%. This formula isn’t magic, but if you maintain this science, you will maximize weight loss and minimize muscle loss, which is ideal. Ok, so this sounds great, but how do you ensure you’re eating the correct amount of calories each day?
A great way to accomplish such a task is by keeping a food diary.
Keeping a Food Diary
Nobody likes counting calories. It’s tedious, time consuming and sometimes takes the fun out of eating. Rather than approaching food tracking from an accountant-like viewpoint, consider it more as a psychological challenge.
Track the meals and calories, but also track the mood behind the meal; how you felt before and after eating it and why you are eating it. Try to see food as more of a partner in your journey towards fueling your body for maximum efficiency, rather than something you mindlessly indulge in. After all, food is the key player in the game of weight loss, so treating it as such is a paramount.
This habit will help you discover patterns in your eating habits and provide clearer answers on how to restructure your caloric intake.
How Does This Work?
When you eat less calories than your body is used to, stored calories in the form of body fat and muscles will be burned. This is because your body takes from stored resources and converts it to energy that we use throughout our day.
While it varies for everybody, you should aim for the ideal rate of weight loss during this process. This lands between 0.5-2 pounds per week.
If you begin to lose weight and then hit a plateau, reduce your caloric intake by about another 250 calories a day. Repeat this process until you reach your ideal weight! It can seriously be this easy if you are consistent with your caloric intake and food diary.
How to Eat & Plan Workouts If Gaining Muscle Is The Goal
If gaining muscle is the goal, you need to do the opposite of what you just read! Create a caloric surplus by intaking calories at a rate higher than your calorie maintenance level. This will permit your body to store the food as either body fat, muscle tissue, or both, allowing you to tap into the supply to build muscle.
How Do I Combine Workouts With Both Scenarios?
Nutrition is a crucial first step in a journey towards achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That said, combing a healthy diet with an exercise routine is a match made in heaven. If you tailor your nutrition right and load your body with the necessary nutrients directly before and after a workout, your work will go farther and you’ll see results faster.
Exercising When Losing Weight Is The Goal
So, you’ve cut your caloric intake by 20% and are starting to see results. Great job! Next up is combining your food plan with a low intensity workout plan to speed up results. Case in point, a recent study of 439 women found that those who combined diet with exercise lost considerably more body fat than those who dieted alone.
What Kinds of Exercises Should I Do?
The best exercises for burning fat are weight bearing. Simply lifting light weights 3-4 times a week will help your body burn calories while preventing your metabolism from slowing down, which can be a common side effect of losing weight.
Cardio training is ok too, but light weight bearing resistance training has a combination of beneficial short and long term effects. Another study done by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that out of 10,500 adults, people who strength trained for 20 minutes a day gained less belly fat over 12 years compared to adults who only did cardio training.
Exercising When Gaining Muscle Is The Goal
Ok, so you’ve increased your caloric intake by 20% and are ready to get fit! Again, you’ll want to do the opposite of above, meaning you need to lift heavy weights to gain muscle mass. The best course of action is to challenge your body so that it activates the muscle fibers in a new way. Muscle fibers enact muscle growth, so awakening as many muscle fibers as possible is crucial to the process.
You’ll also want to change up your routine often by altering the amount of reps or exercises in order to further stimulate your body.
What Kinds of Exercises Should I Do?
Heavy weights with many repetitions are priority. However, it’s actually crucial to include cardio in this scenario. Without cardio, your muscles will bulk up and you won’t achieve a lean, yet toned, physique. Avoid gaining excessive body mass by incorporating 10-15 minutes of cardio into each routine.
Whether attempting to lose weight or gain muscle mass, a combination of a nutrition and exercise plan is the perfect recipe. Figuring out how many calories you intake in a day is the first step to success. Adjusting your caloric intake, maintaining a food diary and initiating a proper exercise plan will help you achieve your goals faster.