I know I've said it many times, but you can't have lasting health and fitness without looking at your diet. I've been banging the drum for years and I'll never get sick of saying it; nutrition has to be intrinsically linked to your exercise to achieve the results you want to see.
When people hear that, many of them will think it means a complete overhaul of what they eat and when they eat it. If your diet is a complete and utter mess, that may be the case, but for most people it simply means making a few easy changes to what you're already doing. With these few small amendments to your diet you're going to make big gains with your exercise.
With that in mind, let's take a look at 5 easy (and perhaps unexpected) ways you can change your eating habits that will drastically improve your training.
1. Size Is Important
No, not that, I'm talking about the size of your plates (obviously). The size of your dinnerware and even the glass or beaker you drink from can have a huge impact on how many calories you're taking in. It often happens without you even thinking about it. The bigger the plate, the more food you're going to be eating.
We all have a tendency to 'fill' the plate with food and have been conditioned since we were kids to 'clean your plate' afterwards. Taking that philosophy into adulthood, even subconsciously, could be really harming your efforts.
Plates themselves have been increasing in size over the last century. The average dinner plate size has gone from 9.62 inches to almost 12 inches since 1900. The same goes for bowls and drinking vessels. Studies have shown that people are less likely to fill tall, skinny glasses than short, wide ones, even if the glasses themselves take exactly the same volume of fluid.
When you're next plating up or dinner, however delicious it may be, get some smaller plates to keep you on the right track.
2. Here or There
This might seem like a strange one, but depending on where you plate your food can have a huge impact on how much you eat.
Studies have shown that if you plate up your food at the kitchen counter or stove, as opposed to taking everything to the dinner table, you are less likely to return for seconds. In fact studies showed that those that do consume 23-35% less food. Maybe that walk 'all the way' back to the kitchen for more food is just too much to bear for some of us!
3. Foiled Again
I said that a few of these might be a little unexpected and this is definitely one of them. It also plays into the psyche of us humans. We're a strange bunch at times!
Once you've prepared your delicious meal and served it (at the counter remember), what do you do with your leftovers? If you're anything like me, you'll probably box it up in some tupperware and put it in the fridge for another day. The question is, do you place it in a dark or opaque container? Do you cover it with aluminium foil or clear 'clingfilm'?
You might not think it matters, but it does. Apparently. We're more likely to eat food, even leftovers, if we can easily see them when we open the fridge. If they're shrouded in a dark container or covered in aluminium foil, our brains figure it's just too much work to find out what's in them. To be sure you eat your nutritious food the next day, put it in a clear plastic box with either a clear lid or use clingfilm. Trust me, it works.
4. 4 Lords a'Leptin
One little known trick when you're looking to lose weight is to boost your leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone produced by your own fat cells. Obviously the more fat you have, the more leptin you produce. Leptin controls not just your metabolism, but your hunger and your energy expenditure. When your leptin system is optimised, your mood will be better, you'll feel mentally sharp and you'll be raring to go.
So how do you boost your own leptin levels? I'm glad you asked. There are a few ways to do that, but a couple of simple dietary tricks including not going overboard on carbs. Too much in the way of carbohydrates will result in your insulin levels spiking, which raises your leptin production. Stay away from sugary drinks or any food that registers highly on the GI scale.
One other great way to stay in control of your own leptin levels is to stay lean. Avoid going on large bulking regimes or go too far over your target weight. When it comes to leptin, it's all about balance.
5. Blood Sugar
The last tip I've got for you when it comes to changing your diet is all about your blood sugar, more specifically why it's important to control it. You might think it's a tricky thing to control, but it's really not.
Blood sugar, or blood glucose, level is the amount of glucose (aka sugar) in your blood, which is your primary source of your energy. Too little and you'll feel lethargic, too much and you're be on a high (but not in a good way!). Glucose gets transported from the intestines or liver to your body's cells via your bloodstream and becomes available for cell absorption via insulin, produced by your pancreas.
Now, if you're looking to get lean and ripped, being able to use insulin efficiently is a key weapon in your arsenal, so improving your insulin sensitivity is key. There is a lot of misinformation about insulin, particularly when it comes to their involvement with carbs, but for this you'll need to focus on the positives. Insulin is great for helping you to maintain muscle while your overall diet continues to strip off fat.
It really boils down to whether you are insulin sensitive or insulin resistant. If you're the former, you'll get more of the anabolic effects (improved amino acid uptake) so your carb intake can be higher. If you're the latter, then you'll get more of lipolytic effects of insulin (fat storing) so carbs should be lower. How does that effect your eating habits? Well...
To monitor your insulin sensitivity I would recommend cutting out fructose. Fructose is the main culprit that cause insulin resistance so avoid things like sugar, sweeteners, fruit juice and smoothies. I would also recommend cutting out trans-fats and hydrogenated oil. If your food has those on the labels, avoid them like a boil-in-the-bag plague.
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