This is one topic which I love talking about. Enjoy!
By Marni Rakes, M.S.
As a fan of fitness, health and challenging yourself to exercise out of your comfort zone, it's likely that weight loss and an ideal body image will always be on your mind. No matter how good you feel after a workout, at the end of a race or first thing in the morning, most women are not comfortable in their own skin.
In reference to the word "diet" and "weight loss,"most people dread the thought of low calorie diets, expensive fat-free/sugar-free foods, constant hunger pains and lots of exercise. However, when it comes to reducing calories, optimal and balanced nutrition are key to staying healthy, increasing longevity and improving performance. Although it is wise to de-emphasize foods that provide minimal nutritional value, it is equally as important to not eliminate essential heart-healthy foods in the diet in an attempt to reduce calories.
Caloric restriction is a scientific method suggesting that you can add more healthy years to your life by reducing caloric intake to 20-40% less than recommended. The difference between compulsive dieting and lasting healthy weight loss, however, is to adopt healthy habits that build a more nutritious, satisfying and balanced daily diet. As you cut back on calories, in an effort to tone up or maintain weight, it is required that you still obtain necessary macro and micronutrients in your food choices, necessary for energy production, immune system functioning, hormone production and proper recovery.
As you embark on a healthy journey of caloric restriction and daily exercise, you must learn how to choose foods that provide nutrients without compromising flavor and satiety. Rather than skipping snacks, attempting to stretch out meals to reduce daily calories and cutting back on healthy fats and carbs, recognize the foods that need to be replaced in your diet. Instead of eliminating foods (both healthy and heart unhealthy), swap empty processed calories, which are heavy in calories and poor in nutrition value, for nutrient-rich foods. Choose high- fiber bread with natural peanut butter instead of low calorie, enriched bread with 4 squirts of spray butter. Or, snack on a low-fat yogurt with nuts and granola rather than an energy bar and a diet soda. Not only will your palate desire more nutrient-dense foods, with substantial amounts of nutrients and fewer calories, but you will find yourself enjoying a feeling of contentment from wholesome and natural foods.
According to the 2002 Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrients report, moderately active to active women should consume around 2,000 - 2,400 calories on a daily basis. However, in a calorie restricted diet, in an effort to increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass without compromising energy levels, reducing daily calories to 1,600-1,800 is a practical guideline. Because food is your primary fuel source to improving strength, speed, agility and cardio-respiratory endurance, add 100-200 extra calories a day (to your 1,600-1,800 daily calories) for every hour of exercise. For example, if you work out for one hour a day, add a 100 calorie low-fat protein snack (yogurt) after your workout to ensure proper recovery. If you workout at high intensity for 90 minutes, plan for a 100-150 calorie pre-workout snack (wasa cracker with 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter) about 45-60 min. before the workout and a 100 calorie low-fat protein snack (skim/soy milk) immediately after the workout. By spacing out your calories, and avoiding the tendency to eat more than 400-500 calories per meal and 125- 200 calories per snack, you should find your calorie restriction plan enjoyable, realistic and practical.
Remind yourself that healthy eating is not a fad and temporary changes are not options. Avoid the all or nothing approach, if you mess up all is ruined for the day. The keys to a lifetime of healthy eating are balance, moderation, nutrient timing, portion control and most of all, enjoying the healthy ways of living life.