When it comes to getting in shape, exercise and nutrition skip hand in hand down the path of success. Travelling with your attention on only one or the other will get you so far before you're left stranded and frustrated.
People ask me all the time what my view on which of the two is most important - nutrition versus exercise. Some people are surprised when I say nutrition is a bigger part of the picture. Exercising for a better body can be acheived in as little as three to four hours a week - the nutrition and eating can be a heap more time consuming (not to mention confusing). It deserves a much greater degree of thought and consideration.
So let's take a look at your nutrition and what you can do to benefit. Some eating techniques will provide you big returns, so here's a couple of my favorites. Start working them in as soon as you can and you will be well on your way!
Let's start with the biggest obstacle most people face. This is one of the most critical areas to sort out. People who achieve ultra lean and muscle toned bodies will tell you that the most effective step they take is eating regular smaller meals - five or six per day - rather than two or three bigger meals each day.
Eating food every three or so hours can stabilise blood sugar to prevent the negative effects of surging insulin occuring. When insulin levels get out of hand they drive food calories into fat storage. By eating regularly spaced meals (around 3 hours apart) you can lessen this rollercoaster ride that sets us up for fat gain, and also prevent the onset of uncontrollable cravings. This is also an important way to protect our valuable lean muscle from wasting away. Protect your lean muscle at all costs as this is the 'furnace' where body fat is burned for fuel. When eating only 2 or 3 meals a day you risk sacrificing this fat burning powerhouse.
You may be thinking that stopping to eat, or having to organise five or six meals per day is nearly impossible to achieve. Some days are just too full on to think about eating like this...
Fortunately today, thanks to sports nutrition supplements, this has been made a whole lot easier and cheaper. Two to four of your meals each day can be based on protein shakes or liquid meal replacements. So for example eat a normal whole food breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have a protein shake for morning tea, one for afternoon tea, and one after every workout. This will work well to cover your needs while saving you time, and probably some money too. Which brings us to the next VERY important point.
Eat protein. If you aren't progressing as fast as you'd like to be it's likely you aren't including enough quality protein in your plan. Every time you think about eating a meal first include a protein portion. If you are going to miss anything never miss the protein part, it's that important. Your body needs a steady flow of protein 'building blocks'. When these aren't available your body can turn to muscle tissue and break it down for fuel. If that isn't reason enough to keep protein up it's understood that protein is thermogenic ie it raises the rate of your metabolism. The body actually uses calories to break protein down. The more protein you eat per meal the more calories you can burn. Hello leaner body!
Protein can also slow the absorption of 'High GI' sugar carbohydrates like fruit juices, sugar, and alcohol. This trick can make these types of carbohydrates less disastrous when they sneak into your week. High GI carbohydrates are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream for a huge fat storing insulin burst - but by combining these with protein you can lessen this.
There are a stack of other benefits protein can provide. It helps us feel more alert and energised (whereas carbohydrates tend to make us drowsy). Protein helps us feel full for longer, so we are less likely to feel like eating the wrong foods, binge and suffer from cravings. Protein also helps boost our immune system to protect us from illness. The best protein sources are lean beef, chicken, fish, egg whites - and sports nutrition experts agree, at the very top of the list is whey protein powder. DO NOT underestimate the importance of regular and quality protein intake, it is the cornerstone for shaping a lean and defined body.