Fine, we won’t talk about calories… much.
Let’s assume you’ve figured your perfect calorie intake for your goals. Not only that, but you have a perfect relationship with your food, knowing exactly how much you can eat of any one thing to stay within your ranges.
Great. I would patent your system and pen a book as soon as possible. You’re going to rich beyond your wildest dreams.
But, back to reality… It helps most people to restructure how we prioritize nutrients.
People with admirable healthy lifestyles, excusing the genetic freaks who can eat anything, prioritize their macronutrients with almost every meal.
Most of the time, meals are built around the protein, packed in with veggies, especially roughage, then occasionally dressed with the dreaded-yummy carbohydrates.
Protein comes first because it’s awesome. Of your macros, protein is one of the highest post-meal thermogenic stimulators. Not only does eating protein, animal or plant, ensure that your lean mass retains its volume, but eating protein also causes your body to burn fuel from digestion.
This is called the thermogenic effect of food, or TEF. It’s that warm-all-over feeling you get after eating. Since almost nobody wants to lose lean mass [read: muscle] protein must take center stage.
Go Crazy with Roughage
Your gastroenterologist will advise you to eat your roughage last. Reason being, roughage [read: green and leafy] is fibrous food, loaded with insoluble fibers. These are the fibers that keep everything flowing in the digestion department.
That said, I’m not a GI doctor. If you’re seeing one, listen to your doctor first.
After you pound your protein, or in between bites (however you prefer) eat roughage as much as you like. You can fill up on broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, beans, kale, and just about any vegetable that goes in a salad.
In fact, the closer to raw your veggies are, the more vitamins and minerals you’ll be able to assimilate from those veggies. If you want to sauté them in a little butter, that’s fine.
Just, mind your calories. Sorry to bring it up. A little butter goes a long way.
If you prioritize protein and roughage with enough fat, you’ll have covered most of your nutrient bases. You will have created a dense meal of good-for-you stuff.
Mind Your Grains and Starches
If you have room left or you just really want to eat those carbs, do it. I love carbs. I eat them whenever I can, and yes I still have a six-pack.
Now, “eat them whenever I can” is nowhere near as often as most folks indulge. There is nothing inherently wrong with carbs. Unfortunately for our starchier friends, they are often served combined with fats and sugars. Or worse, trans fatty acids, like crackers or some breads.
If you must carb, go for something dense like baked sweet potatoes, or al dente cooked pasta. Um, no, not cheese-stuffed ravioli.
Do I even need to say that most desserts fall under number three? That part about grains being packaged with some of the things that work against that lean body we’re looking for, that’s dessert all day long.
Honesty break: “dessert all day long” sounds like my kind of heaven. This is why I don’t keep cupcakes in my home. It’s a personal choice. I just can’t control myself.
If you get cravings for naughty stuff at night, you should read this blog next. It may help.
Otherwise, stick to the basics. Let’s recap: Start with your proteins. Fill up on roughage, and don’t skip your fats. Beyond that, let it go at least once a week.