Most people eat meals at around 7 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. simply because that’s how they were brought up eating. Dinner is most likely the largest meal of day, and it’s eaten at a time when the body needs the least. It’s time to make some changes to your diet, so you can be energized during the day and have fuel left for your exercise. To make things a little easier, consider this: Don’t diet, just eat.
Step one to developing your new eating plan is to determine how much you can eat to maintain your body weight. If you’ve been maintaining your body weight, then track your calories for a few days to get an average. You’ll need to reduce this number by about 10-20 percent to start losing weight. So, if you maintain weight on 2,400 calories: 2400-20 percent = about 1,900 calories.
Once you’ve determined the ideal number of calories you’d like to consume, then start planning how you are going to eat all that food. Ideally, you want to eat every 2-3 hours during the day, with MORE than half of your food being consumed during breakfast, brunch, and lunch. If your calorie goal is 1,900 calories per day, then divide that by 5 and that’s roughly how many calories you need to eat every 2-3 hours. Snacks can be slightly less than your meals, for example:
1,900-calorie eating plan:
Breakfast (8.a.m.) – 500 calories
Brunch (10 a.m.) – 300 calories
Lunch (noon-1 p.m.) – 400 calories
Lunch #2 (3 p.m.) – 300 calories
Dinner (5 p.m.-6 p.m.) – 400 calories
Now comes the big step: What to eat? Low carbs? High protein? High fiber? The answer is none of these. Low fat? Yes. The only diet proven to work time and time again is one low in dietary fat. Numerous studies have compared popular fad diets like Atkins or Zone diets, and the only diet successful at weight loss for the long term was a low-fat diet.
A healthy diet that will provide enough energy-based foods to get you through the day should consist of about:
- 60 percent carbohydrates
- 20 percent fat
- 20 percent protein
Protein intake should be increased if you are exercising, as dietary protein helps keep your body building muscle instead of destroying it. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8g/kg/day, but this has been shown to be insufficient for active individuals, and also inadequate for older individuals. Dietary intake of protein above the RDA has been shown to improve muscle mass, increase bone health (calcium uptake), improve insulin sensitivity and blunt inflammation. Up to twice the RDA for protein has been shown to be healthy and have no adverse affects.