So I received this email a few days ago from a friend who wants to get into shape for her wedding, I asked what her current diet and training was like.
“OK, so I have gone from normal to brown pasta and rice and trying to eat less than 1200 cals a day but were still eating takeaways etc at the weekend. I’m not doing a lot of exercise maybe 30 mins in the treadmill walking once or twice a week I’m just so tired when I get in from work but I want a realistic plan to stick to for the next couple if months.“
There are a number of things I can see from this statement alone that can be changed and adapted to help to lose weight. I am not going too in depth here and I aim to provide you with some simple information that is easy to understand (sorry if I sound patronising!)
Firstly, not eating enough.
When we restrict calories too much our brain believes that we are in a famine situation. To survive this period our body starts to down regulate and slow down to preserve energy. Simply put, our metabolism slows down and we do not burn a lot of calories.
Reduced energy intake = reduced energy output
If you are overweight and struggling I am going to throw it out there that you are probably quite sensitive to carbs. Basically you cant tolerate them as some other (lucky) people.
When we eat carbohydrates we break them down into glucose which can be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen which we use for fuel. We can only store a certain amount of glucose within the body (approx 500g for a well trained adult) when we have reached our maximum storage level we then convert the glucose into triglycerides and store them as fat.
If you are regularly training at a high intensity you may be able to consume more carbs due to the fact that you are going to consistently use your glucose stores in the body and so need to replenish them regularly.
Refined carbohydrates such as pasta and bread are not great things to eat if your goal is fat loss.
Vegetables and fruits are sources of carbohydrates however, these are single ingredient foods that will provide you will many micro-nutrients too such as vitamins and minerals. I try to consume lots of vegetables each day for my carbohydrates as I do not do well with pasta or bread.
I do not advocate a no carb diet, if you want to lose weight reducing carbs is an option but at no point should you withdraw them completely. This is especially true for women as it can cause issues with your monthly cycle.
How important is your goal?
Whatever your weight loss goal is that should be your top proirity. Again like I stated earlier I am not going to dive deep into the science of eating, digestion and nutrition toiday. I am just aiming to help this person with their goal.
You have a set time to lose a set amount of weight., You cannot afford to muck about and cheat. If you have eaten badly for a number of years then you have had enough cheat days to last you for a while!
Eating high amounts of processed foods will cause havoc within your body, malnutrition (which eating poor quality food will cause) has been linked to many illnesses from Cancer to Alzheimer’s (new research is trying to class Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes due to its strong link to damage in brain tissue by the oxidation of sugar….sorry science crept in!!)
Your willpower will have to step in here and say no to the crappy food!
Exercise is vital in the fat loss equation.
If you are only doing a couple of 30 minute sessions in the week on the treadmill, get more bang for your buck. After warming up for a few minutes do some sprints on the treadmill, take the speed up to near maximal and stay there for a few seconds (say 15 secs max to begin with). These sprints will help ramp up your metabolism and burn fat!
So here is what I would do:
1) Menu plan and prepare food
Plan everything that you are going to eat for the next week and get it all prepared. Preparation is key. If you have food that is ready to go in the fridge then you are less likely to cheat.
I have boiled a load of eggs before and kept them in the fridge along with some sauteed peppers, sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes as well as loads of salad bits so I could always grab something to eat that was good for me.
2) Eat lots of single ingredient foods and cook more!!
No processed rubbish, if you want a curry. Make it from scratch, Google a recipe and go for it. I make a mean beef curry in my slow cooker by just making a basic curry paste with a few spices, a tin of decent chopped tomatoes, an onion, some carrots and sweet potato. A nice meal made of single ingredient foods!
Load up you plate with some good protein, healthy fats and plenty of veg. try to get as many colours as possible. So greens, yellows, purples, reds etc etc.
Commit to at least 2 good training sessions a week. That is your time to train so whatever you need to do, just get it done. Put your headphones in, turn up the music and hit it hard!!
4) Be prepared to say no to people.
Your goal is important to you, to most other people though they are not that bothered. there maybe a time where you might have to say no to some friends who fancy a few drinks and a kebab one night. Or, you may have to have a fruit tea at the coffee shop instead of that large latte but it helps you get to where you want to be and if that’s the case, who cares what others think.
These are just a few thoughts that I have regarding the questions asked of me. No one said change was easy!