Are you confused about how to eat? Do you need to lose body fat and want to eat in a way that keeps you healthy? It’s reasonable to wonder, is a healthy diet necessarily a diet that will optimize body composition?
Unfortunately, no. It’s extremely easy to eat too many calories and gain fat while eating foods that everyone agrees are healthy. Another pitfall to many fat loss diets is that they place the sole focus on calorie counting. This approach ignores how different foods trigger metabolic sensations such as hunger, energy levels, and food cravings. Therefore, this article will give you top priorities for eating healthy and optimizing body composition simultaneously.
#1: Eat Protein For Breakfast
Research shows most people are eating too much protein at the wrong times. Namely, we need more high-quality protein at breakfast and less at dinner.
Spreading protein out over the course of the day will keep you more satiated and help you make better food choices so that you don’t overshoot your calorie intake. Another reason protein for breakfast is a must is that it triggers protein synthesis and gives your muscles their first chance to rebuild after going 10 to 12 hours without food.
Benefit: Trigger protein synthesis and set your metabolic profile up for an energetic day.
#2: Eat Foods In Their Natural State
Reducing your intake of refined or processed foods is very important for leanness and health because it gives you more nutrition for your calorie buck. You get all the minerals, vitamins, and fiber without a chance that they have been degraded in processing.
Just as important, you avoid all the junk that food manufacturers add to food to suck you in and keep you coming back for more. Nowadays most processed foods are intentionally engineered to light up receptors in the brain that make you overeat and crave those foods.
The simplest way to approach this is to get most of your nutrition from meat, fish, nuts, eggs, fruits, and vegetables that haven’t been processed. And avoid eating foods that are pretending to be something else: Avoid the fake meat, artificial sweeteners, margarine (fake butter), low fat dairy, chocolate-flavored sauce, and so on.
Benefit: Get more nutrients for your calorie buck.
#3: Understand Why Protein Promotes Leanness
Protein foods have the greatest impact on reducing hunger, but that’s not the only reason they’re important for both leanness and health. First, anytime you have a calorie deficit (which is necessary to lose body fat), your body enters a catabolic state, which means that it is also losing lean tissue in conjunction with the fat.
The more muscle you lose, the more your metabolic rate will drop. This effect (known as metabolic compensation) is one of the primary contributors to rebound fat gain. However, a high protein intake that is spread out over the course of the day has been shown to offset muscle loss, which will keep your metabolism higher and maintain your strength and functional ability.
A second benefit of high-quality protein is that it helps manage blood sugar and insulin. This reduces inflammation and decreases cravings for sugar.
Benefit: Keeps protein on your radar and gives you a reason to plan every meal around high-quality sources like eggs, fish, and meat.
#4: Eat Healthy Fats In Reasonable Quantities
A higher fat intake will improve your body’s fat burning ability. To burn fat, your body must be “metabolically flexible” so that it is able to readily mobilize and use stored body fat for energy in addition to glucose (carbs). A failure in metabolic flexibility leads to fat gain and insulin resistance.
Choose healthy fats that are largely unprocessed: Fish, grass-fed meat, eggs nuts, seeds, and avocados, but minimally processed foods like whole-fat dairy, nut butters that are just ground-up nuts, or extra virgin cold pressed oils are beneficial as well.
Benefit: Improves metabolic flexibility and the ability to burn body fat. Provides essential nutrients and the building blocks to manufacture hormones.
#5: Balance Protein With Veggies & Fruit
One potentially negative side effect of high-protein diets is that people often eat fewer nutrient-rich fruits and veggies. These foods are extremely important for health because they provide bioactive compounds to eradicate inflammation that comes from a high protein intake. By adding a fruit or vegetable to every meal, you get the antioxidants you need and ensure you are getting healthy carbs. Nutrient-rich foods include leafy greens, cauliflower, peppers, cherries, berries, kiwis, apples, onion, and garlic, among others.
Benefit: Provides fiber and the antioxidants to fight inflammation associated with a high protein intake.
#6: Eat Gut-Friendly Foods
The microflora that live in your gut play a pivotal role in establishing your body composition, cholesterol profile, and long-term heart health. Support it by eating foods with fermented probiotics and lots of plant foods. Studies of groups that eat traditional diets have excellent gut health due to the high intake of root tubers, leafy vegetables, fruit, and nuts.
Benefit: Improve digestion and optimize your microflora for health and leanness.
#7: Find Alternatives To Caloric Beverages
It’s a wonder that anyone still drinks their calories based on all we know about the ills of sugar-sweetened beverages. Stick to water, coffee, and tea for better metabolic health and an easier time managing calorie intake.
Benefit: Stay hydrated and boost your antioxidant load (from coffee and tea), while avoiding the extra calories in soda, juice, and sports drinks.
#8: Avoid High-Fat, High-Carb Combinations
Eating reasonable quantities of high-fat foods (walnuts on a salad, avocado slices with chicken, cooking veggies with coconut or olive oil, etc.) conveys many benefits Healthy fats are delicious, filling, and nutritious. But, when you pair high-fat and high-carb foods together (baked goods, ice cream, French fries, jam and toast, pizza, etc.), you jack up fat storing hormones and get a HUGE dose of calories.
Top that with the fact that high-fat, high-carb foods activate regions in the brain that trigger food intake and you’re in for some body composition misery. By keeping your diet real (real food that is), it’s easier to avoid these fat-storing bombs and keep your metabolic hormones at reasonable levels.
Benefit: Keep total calories in check and avoid metabolic hormone derangements.
#9: Don’t Be Afraid of Salt, Fat, Meat, Eggs, Etc.
These foods aren’t the enemy. Sure, there are variations of these foods that you should avoid (processed meat, trans fat, refined foods) but in reasonable quantities these foods are delicious and have various health-promoting benefits.
For example, sautéing veggies with olive oil will improve flavor and enhance absorption of nutrients. Meat and eggs provide necessary nutrition for brain function and physical performance that can’t be gotten from vegetables (creatine, carnosine, vitamin B12). Salt enhances the flavors of home cooked food and is a key component of healthy electrolyte balance.
Benefit: Better nutritional profile and daily delicious, flavorful food.
#10: Adopt Mindful Eating Habits
Studies show there are a number of simple dining-related habits that can lead people to eat fewer calories and feel greater meal satisfaction with very little extra effort. For example, when women performed a brief mindfulness meditation and then focused on chewing while eating, they improved satiety and ate fewer calories than a control group.
Saying grace before eating is another way to improve meal satisfaction and it conveys additional benefits that impact body composition. For example, those who take time to be grateful may enjoy better sleep, lower cortisol levels, and enhanced overall well being.
Benefit: Greater enjoyment and slower eating so that feelings of fullness catch up with your food intake.