Confused by nutrition?
Everyone’s got the perfect solution or the promise of a magic bullet to make it easier. This makes nutrition mistakes common and inescapable.
This article will give you five unique nutrition pitfalls to avoid if you want to lose fat and be healthy.
#1. Not having a set meal frequency.
Chances are, you’ll benefit from more frequent meals (3 to 6) if you answer yes to any of these questions:
1) Are you new to exercise and/or smart eating habits?
2) Do you have a history of unsuccessful dieting and calorie counting?
3) Are you under a lot of stress and anxiety?
4) Do you have a lot of trouble sleeping? Are you tired all the time?
5) Are you hungry a lot? Do you have intense food cravings, especially for high-carb, junky foods?
A set meal frequency that is based on whole protein, fat, and vegetables can help you avoid constant hunger and food cravings, two indicators that the hormones insulin and cortisol are out of balance. This metabolic state gets in the way of fat loss because insulin elevates an enzyme that promotes fat storage but blunts a second enzyme involved in fat burning and energy use.
Fix It: Pick a meal frequency that allows you to avoid cravings. If you’re just starting to fix your eating habits, or you’ve been living on high-carb processed foods for a while, try eating 5 to 6 meals a day for better metabolic hormone balance.
#2: Being scared of hunger.
For the vast majority of us, hunger is not dangerous. Obviously, for people without access to food, hunger is a problem, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Being hungry for a bit doesn’t mean you’re going to lose massive amounts of muscle and get all catabolic. You’re not going to immediately start storing fat as soon as you do eat in order to prepare against future low energy stores. Those metabolic effects are results of longer term energy restriction, not a few hours of hunger.
Being able to deal with hunger will allow you to get some perspective on your eating behaviors and how you feel in different states of fueling. Hunger should not equal panic. Being hungry is a useful way of analyzing the thoughts you have about food and eating.
Fix It: This doesn’t mean you need to fast or be hungry for long periods—remember #1 and the importance of avoiding constant hunger and cravings. Just don’t go around on “auto-pilot” responding to outside cues to eat.
#3. Using food labels and media headlines to shape your diet.
Packaged food labels are advertisements. They’re written by crafty copywriters looking for the slogan of the moment to get you to buy the product. This is marketing, not science.
A similar problem is media headlines, which are often fueled by ad copy or press-hungry scientists, looking for further funding. Media outlets are businesses, and their goal is to sell ads and increase readership, not scour respected scientific journals for relevant food and health information that will make a difference in your life.
Fix It: Stubbornly protect yourself from these messages and find a reputable academically-grounded source for your information.
#4: Not resolutely taking care of your gut.
Gut bacteria will live off of what you eat. Some foods we eat promote the proliferation of beneficial bacteria, while others promote dangerous bacteria. People who eat more animal protein tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume less fiber, which is a dietary profile that promotes inflammatory “bad” bacteria.
Emerging research suggests the microbiota composition in your gut is one of the biggest factors regulating body fat, so it’s important to prevent a poor gut profile. For example, when you have a gut that is inhabited by inflammatory gut bacteria, your body is able to absorb a greater amount of carbs and convert them to body fat. An unhealthy gut can literally increase your caloric intake.
Fix It: Encourage the growth of beneficial gut bacteria with a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and something called resistant starch, which is most easily consumed from raw unmodified potato starch. It’s also found in foods such as green bananas and cooked and cooled potatoes and white rice.
#5: Not monitoring your behavior when sleep deprived.
Lack of sleep has a profoundly negative effect on eating behavior because it increases our hedonic, pleasurable drive to eat high-fat, high-sugar foods. It also increases our tendency to take risks and leads us to be less active.
In one study, sleep deprived individuals voluntarily increased calorie intake by 300 calories over normal. In another, lack of sleep led them to drastically reduce physical activity so that their total energy expenditure was much lower than normal.
The effect of increased eating and decreased activity is seen in studies that show short sleepers are at greater risk of obesity. Other ill effects of sleep deprivation are poor blood sugar tolerance and reduced insulin sensitivity so that your body favors fat storage from the food you eat.
Fix It: To counter this, you need to consciously make ideal food choices and stay active when exhausted:
• Call a training partner and track your food intake.
• Promote pleasure in beneficial, nurturing ways, to respond to that hedonic drive to feel good and reduce the suffering from short sleep.
• On tired days, make the extra effort to get a lot of protein, water, and fibrous fruits and veggies.
• Opt for physical activity that you enjoy over modes you dislike.