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Friday, May 1, 2015

5 Ways to Effortlessly Upgrade Your Diet

Garbage in, garbage out
Rarely do I get worked up about a study. Okay, that’s not true: I actually often become excited about emerging research. Almost never, however, do I ask readers to actually read a full study. That’s my job to dissect and provide you the highlights.

Well, this recent editorial published in the British Medical Journal became a game-changer. I started highlighting stuff and… Well, I pretty much underlined the entire thing.

As a personal trainer, I see this all the time. “I train hard so I can devour a deep dish pepperoni and a few Heinekens while watching Game of Thrones” practically becomes the mantra for some guys at my gym.

Females show a little more self-restraint, but I’ve busted quite a few athletes self-permissively pigging out, I mean, dabbling at Friday girls' night out with gargantuan burritos and even bigger margaritas a few hours after doing deadlifts or squats.

I’m not talking once in a blue moon. No, these people think a few hardcore workouts license them to thrice-weekly, massive-caloric (and sugar!) food orgies.

As I often remind these well-intended folks, garbage
in becomes garbage out. You cannot optimally build muscle, sustain stamina, and recover from a strenuous workout by eating junk food. Like karma, you can’t outrun poor eating, though I’ve watched numerous clients try.

Back to this editorial: Its authors severely chastise the sugary, crappy foods that masquerade as sports nutrition or health food. They discuss the best way to reverse metabolic syndrome (hint: it involves restricting carbs) and why carb loading doesn’t work for exercise but what does.

Most readers already understand carb restriction and shifting to ketosis. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Duh. Where this editorial excels is articulating that message succinctly and for the masses. This is the British Medical Journal, not some dinky college paper or pompous didactic blogger.

“Healthy choice must become the easy choice,” the editorial writers conclude. Most people don’t have hours to prepare healthy meals, find arcane ingredients, or otherwise make dramatic lifestyle changes.

That especially becomes true if you’re juggling a full-time job, hitting the gym regularly, and maintaining some semblance of a social life while getting eight hours’ sleep every night.

Good luck with all that, right? You don’t need overly restrictive dietary advice on top of it. Fortunately, with a few tweaks, transforming a bad diet into a better – not perfect – diet becomes easier than you might imagine. These five simple strategies can repay big dividends on your health for very little investment. 

1.  Swap your sugary breakfast for a protein shake. Coffee shops and food manufacturers know you’re not a breakfast fan and probably take the path of least resistance with the day’s most important meal. Don’t screw it up or skip it. Simply trade whatever sugary concoction you scarf down for a nutrient-rich protein shake. “A protein shake takes the guesswork out of breakfast,” writes JJ Virgin. “Just toss everything into your blender and in minutes you’ve got a portable grab-and-go meal.”
2. Swap your sports drink for coconut water. Cat’s out of the bag: Those so-called electrolyte drinks come packed with aspartame or sugar and very few actual nutrients. If your post-workout replenishment demands electrolytes, opt for unsweetened coconut water or Dr. Amy Shah’s economical electrolyte replenishing drink.
3. Swap your protein bar for nuts and seeds. Most protein bars - which I call candy bars in pretty wrappers - come loaded with soy or gluten, sugar or artificial sweeteners, cheap fortified nutrients, and ingredients you can’t pronounce. My short list for approved bars is, well, very short. Instead, keep a plastic bag of roasted nuts or seeds nearby. Among his reasons for choosing nuts as snacks, Dr. Ronald Hoffman mentions they’re high in fiber, portable, and a rich source of nutrients. Bonus points for throwing in extra-delicious, low-sugar ingredients like slivered coconut or cacao nibs.
4. Swap your guilty-pleasure dessert for dark chocolate. Yeah, you, shoving that high fructose corn syrup-loaded candy bar down after your workout. Toss it pronto for some quality dark chocolate. You won’t need much to hit the satisfaction meter, so buy the best you can afford and savor it like an adult, not a kid raiding his Halloween candy stash.
5. Swap your fast food for a Caesar or Cobb salad. You completed a killer workout, you can hardly feel your triceps, and therefore you’ve earned that double bacon cheeseburger with a side of fries, right? If you’re nodding your head, we need to talk. You’re an adult, which means upgrading your fast food. Most drive-thrus have some sort of satisfying ginormous salad. They may have the burger caloric equivalent, but many salads are higher in protein and healthy fats while nixing the trans-fat and empty carbs. (Just watch those dressings and dump the croutons.) If you’ve got to have a burger, order it protein-style (in a lettuce wrap) and opt for sweet potato fries or a side salad.

With a little imagination and creativity, you can tweak nearly any favorite to become healthier. What upgrade would you add to this list? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.

You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:

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 now!
© 2015 Jinifit, Inc.

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