Simply put, diet is one’s daily or normal food and drink intake. The word itself has morphed into a bad word in my book. The first three letters spell “DIE” — something I prefer to wait a long time to do! Diet for most Americans refers to a restrictive state, and that sounds a bit too much like starvation to me.

If you are at your ideal weight, you will not have to restrict your caloric intake. On the other hand, if you need to drop a few — or many — pounds, you will have to restrict some intake. A pound of fat is 3,500 calories. If your goal is to lose weight, you will need to get into caloric deficit, meaning you are expending more calories than you are taking in. This can be done through diet, exercise and a combination of both.

How many calories does a person need?

For the past decade I’ve said a person needs 12 to eat calories per pound of weight to maintain weight and 11 calories per pound to begin to get into deficit. So a 150 pound person would need 1,800 calories to maintain and 1,650 to start to lose weight. At a deficit of 150 calories a day, it would take 23 days to drop a pound of fat. If you want it to come off faster, you need to get into more of a deficit. Remember, though that dropping your calories too low too quickly can have a negative impact on metabolism.

Where should your calories come from?

Should you eat high carbs, fat free, low carbs, Paleolithic or a balanced caloric intake? Here are some base numbers to start with: your diet should be 30 to 40 percent protein, 40 to 50 percent carbohydrates, and 10 to 20 percent fat.

Protein

When you are in a restrictive state, protein will help retain calorie-burning lean body mass — muscle looks good and burns calories. Foods such as skim milk, fat-free cheese, eggs and egg whites, poultry, lean red meat, and fish are rich sources of protein.

Carbohydrates

Carbs need to be broken down into a few sub-groups, and they are starchy, fibrous, fruit-based and refined. Starch comes from foods such as whole grain breads, wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, beans. Fibrous carbs come from all vegetables excluding peas and corn, which are starchy. When speaking of fruit, stick with the natural version and shy away from juice and dried fruit since they can have a lot of calories. Refined is pretty much anything that uses processed flour and sugar — it’s the good-tasting stuff.

Fats

For health reasons, fats should be limited. The key with fats is that you need to get the right fats. When selecting fat, look for anything high in Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon or other cold-water fish. Limit things like butter, margarine and visible fat on the meat you eat. High fat intake can slow down digestion and hinder fat loss.

Water

Many sources recommend that the individual consume a minimum of one gallon of water per day. Water aids the liver and kidneys in the detoxification of poisons and the elimination of wastes from the body. Without sufficient water, we become dehydrated and our organs (including muscle, liver and kidneys) do not function optimally. Optimal kidney function leaves the liver free to perform maximum lypolysis, or fat burning. You may have to work up to a gallon a day gradually while your bladder adjusts, but you will reap the benefits of your efforts almost immediately.

Eat frequent, small meals.

For the best results in terms of high energy level, diminished body fat, muscle recovery, and good gastrointestinal health, you should be eating four to six meals per day. Do this by taking your caloric intake and simply dividing into equal amounts.

Chad Coy is the co-owner of Club Fitness 24 by Powerhouse Gym and a professional American Strongman.

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