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Friday, April 24, 2015

How to Balance Your Meals and Your Energy Along With it

Empty carbs ruin everything!
11:00 A.M. You’re watching the clock.  How on earth are you going to make until 12:30; the prescribed lunch hour at your office? That’s a tough one. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re stomach is rumbling.  Scratch that. It’s hard to stay conscious when you’re that hungry.  Brain fog sets in, you’re quite dizzy, and all you can think about is how good that plate of nachos and pint of beer will taste.

Have you thought “wow, I’m sooo hungry, I really have a taste for a heap of broccoli and a big, thick, skinless chicken breast? Probably not.  When you’re really hungry, cravings set in and that means carbs (and I’m not talking about a half of a yam or half cup of brown rice.)  The only thing that satisfies those kinds of cravings is junk and at this point, face it, a few bites of your favorite baguette will not do. If you let yourself get that hungry, it’s all over.  You’re like a runaway junk food freight train.

So what’s the strategy to prevent this from happening? 
Start by remembering that you’re only as good as your last meal. If it sounds like you in the paragraph above, I’d first ask you what you had for breakfast.  If you’re patting yourself on the back right now for even having breakfast then, I commend you. You're off to a good start.  But it’s just the first step.

Next is: what did you eat for breakfast?  A coffee and some toast is nothing but pure carbohydrate.  A "breakfast" like this will raise insulin and encourage the storage of fat. A bowl of cold cereal in skim milk is pure carbohydrate. A bagel and cream cheese is mostly all carbohydrate (and some saturated fat) as is a bowl of instant oat meal (which is really salt-and carbohydrate (steel cut oats are a better choice by the way.)

You get the message.  These are not breakfasts.  As far as your body is concerned, what you have just had with these examples is dessert-for breakfast-and I know your mom always said you couldn’t have dessert for breakfast. The body converts carbohydrates into sugar; glucose to be specific. That's what the body runs on. Without some protein and healthy fat to blunt the effects of all that sugar, your cravings will run wild and your energy will be, well, not too abundant.

Being only as good as your last meal means that if it was a good one, your meal was balanced. On the protein side of things, 4-6 ounces of clean, lean protein if you’re a woman (more like the 4 oz. if you don’t have a lot of muscle on your frame, and more like the 6 oz. portion if you do have a bit of muscle on your frame.)

Men should have 6-8 oz. of protein with the same approach as far as muscle mass is concerned.  Eggs are a good option (barring any food sensitivity issues), and so are protein shakes.  Even a lean cut of beef for breakfast can be a good option if your inner carnivore occasionally demands it.

The mistake that most people make is not to have enough protein at meals (or believing an In and Out burger is an appropriate protein source; it isn't-even sans bun.) Having balanced energy (which reduces cravings) means balancing your blood sugar which eliminates cravings and keeps your brain humming along too.

The key to finding this energy balance is to build your meals around your protein source.
Make sure protein is the focus of every meal along with some leafy green vegetables. Then add your healthy carbohydrate source (about a half a cup.) Examples of good carbohydrate sources include things like sweet potato, brown rice, beans, and steel cut oats.) Add a little healthy fat (like avocado, olive oil or nuts) and you should be satisfied for the next 41/2  to 6 hours.

Carbohydrates from sources such as breads, pastas, sweets and most fruits, shouldn’t be in your pantry or refrigerator to begin with (or you’ll be tempted to actually eat them.)

The goal is to have only a small portion (about a half a cup) of healthy complex carbohydrates and a much bigger portion of leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peppers, sugar snap peas, zucchini, etc.

You can thank the fiber for slowing stomach emptying, keeping you fuller longer, and keeping the plumbing moving along…you know what I mean.  

Add a little of that healthy fat and you have a balanced meal.  A balanced meal=balanced blood sugar.  Balanced blood sugar means good, study energy with no "dips," no cravings, no face planting into a plate of pasta, or fried chicken causing unnecessary insulin "episodes."

Protein and fat give a sense of satiety or fullness. That sense of fullness is not just an impression or a sensation, it’s actually doing something. Eating all those vegetables guarantees you’re eating a lot of fiber. The longer you feel full on these lower calorie foods, the longer you can go between meals (preferably 4 ½ to 6 hours.)  What's more you won't be encouraging additional insulin secretion (and probably fat storage) due to frequent snacking.

Now you don’t have to gorge on junk food (along with the plate it’s served on) because you’re that ravenous.  If you think about these guidelines, you’ll realize that you’re still eating a lot of food, just the right food, on a "balanced plate."

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out how!
© 2015 Jinifit, Inc.

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