A better body is 20% gym, 80% kitchen. Recalibrate your plate to reveal your dream physique. Here are your biggest nutrition mistakes and how to fix them:
Not eating enough
Your weight comes down to a simple formula: calories in minus calories out. If the number’s positive expect your jeans to feel snugger. Negative, and you’re on your way to using virgin belt notches. But as you should know from the fads your better half engages in, it’s not as simple as starving yourself. The foundation of long-term fat loss is building muscle. But unless you’re putting in enough fuel you’ll wither your arms as much as your waistline.
Use a calorie calculator to work out how much you should be eating every day. Then try to ensure you’re getting roughly 30% of your calories from fats, 40% from carbs and 30% from protein; a US study found eating double your RDA of protein – up to around 110g – boosts muscle growth and fat loss. Track your input and output to make sure you’re eating around 500kcals less than you’re burning and focus on weights over cardio. The more muscle you build, the more calories you burn while doing nothing. Which means even eight hours in bed will help you build a better body.
Eschewing the fat
Eating fat does not make you fat. Put away nothing but boiled chicken breast and quinoa but spend all day in your chair and your collars will soon start feeling tighter. Scoff on a lunchtime quarter-pounder with cheese but knock out 50 pull-ups in the evening, and it’s your sleeves that will start to pinch.
If you’re looking to lose weight then cutting back on fat is wise – a gram of olive oil packs in more than twice the calories as the same weight of protein – but going fat-free is an error. Without it your body can’t build the hormones that tell your body to turn protein into muscle, which is the best way to burn off your love handles. Up fats to around 30% of your daily calorie intake, then hit the gym. Often. And hard.
Eating big, late
Rushed mornings and last-minute lunch meetings mean most men eat most, last. But piling more on your plate later in the day means that when you hit the sack there’s a gutful of carbs you’re not burning off.
Put simply, follow the old adage: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper. A recent study found people who ate most of their calories before 3pm lost more weight, because front-loading your calorie intake provides more energy throughout the day and more time to process them. Try this week of breakfasts for a protein-packed way to kick off the day. Then in the evening go low-carb and eat enough to feel sated rather than stuffed. That way your body can focus on building muscle overnight, not storing fat.
Cutting carbs completely
Realistically, you should probably be cutting back on carbs. Especially if they’re hand-cut and triple-fried. But going totally carb-free is not only an agonising endeavour, it also deprives your body of much-needed pre- and post-workout fuel.
Reduce your intake, eat your carbs early in the day, and make sure you’re chowing down on wholegrain. As a rule of thumb, if it’s white – be it bread, rice or pasta – you probably shouldn’t be eating it. And if it’s served in a glass with a foaming head, then you definitely want to steer clear.
Going gluten/lactose/whatever free
If you can’t process gluten or lactose then steering clear is, of course, something your body will appreciate. As will the people you share a bathroom with. But if your shift away means you swap wholegrain loaves for highly processed “free-from” options, don’t expect to see any positive change on the scales.
With only around 10% of people actually suffering gluten intolerance, binning bread can’t be treated as a magic bullet. Dropping the refined stuff from your diet is a better long-term bet than switching your ham and cheese sandwich for a salad covered in sugar-packed dressing. It’s easier to maintain, too. Even if you do manage to cut out bread completely, filling the carb void with crisps tends to undermine your abstemiousness.
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