If you’re serious about achieving your fitness goals and seeing results, chances are good that you’ve tried some form of diet and meal planning in the past. While you’re certainly on the right track by trying to optimize your fat loss and muscle gain through nutrition, you could be missing a larger piece of the puzzle. The best nutrition plan will optimize the way your entire body functions by eliminating one very common, yet often overlooked source of stress: inefficient nutrients.
An Individualized Approach
Prior to adopting a new nutrition plan, it’s important to understand that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to fat loss. Because everyone’s body is different, each person needs to take an individualized approach to the best fitness and meal plan for their needs and goals. One of the best places to start is by figuring out what you’re currently doing that is or is not working. Some of the key contributors to stress that are probably not working for you include:
- Insufficient sleep
- Poor diet
- Constant stress
Keep in mind, too, that even if you think you’re eating healthy and are able to manage your stress, if you’re not seeing results, something’s not right. When this is the case, it’s time to reevaluate your stress levels and eating and sleeping habits and start to put the pieces together.
The Importance of Stress Management
To really alter your body’s fitness level, fat content, muscle mass, and overall health, it’s crucial that you factor stress into the equation. And by “stress,” we’re not just referring to the stereotypical hair-pulling, agitated, highly emotional kind. To be honest, if you own a business, you’re under stress, no matter how you cut it.
Even if you think that you have the stressors in your life well-managed, they could be wreaking havoc on your body without your even realizing it. This could show up in the form of fat retention, especially around the midsection, fatigue, and an overall sluggish, unmotivated mood. To address stress, adjusting your nutrition is one hugely impactful approach you can take.
Optimizing Nutrition to Optimize Fat Loss
If you want to see results, cleaning up your nutrition to reduce the amount of stress on your body is one of the first steps you should take. To optimize the nutrients you’re putting into your body, follow these three rules of thumb:
1. Eliminate “bad” foods that cause inflammation (and therefore stress). You’re probably already well aware that cutting out “junk” or “cheat” foods from your daily diet is essential if you want to lose fat. There are three categories of food that most often hinder people from reaching their fitness goals. Consider eliminating or drastically reducing consumption of foods in these groups:
- Wheat: Yes, we’re talking about the g-word. Gluten. But if you think this is just a new trendy fad, think again. Countless studies have shown that even those who don’t have celiac disease can be sensitive to gluten, which can lead to a variety of gut health problems that hinder you from actually absorbing the nutrients you’re eating.
- Dairy: Again, even if not lactose intolerant, many people can benefit from cutting dairy products from their diet. Dairy can lead to congestion, sinus infections, allergy-like symptoms, headaches, and even skin conditions like acne.
- Cooking oils: These are things like canola oil, vegetable oil, and sunflower seed oil, which contain omega-6 fatty acids. A diet high in omega-6 can make your cell walls rigid, cause inflammation, and increase your risk of developing heart disease.
2. Eat more “good” foods. When you cut out the above “bad” foods, make sure you’re replacing them with nutrient-rich “good” foods so that your body’s getting the fuel it needs to optimally perform. Some foods to eat more of include:
- Vegetables: The age-old advice to eat more veggies is absolutely true. Most people don’t eat nearly enough vegetables to meet their daily requirements, yet this food group provides a great number of health benefits. Vegetables provide key vitamins, minerals and fiber. They support detoxification and can help to balance out diets that may be too high in meats.
- Omega-3 fats: These fatty acids play a role in controlling stress reactions and are abundant in salmon and fresh tuna (CMAJ). Omega-3 fats are a much better choice than the “bad” omega-6s mentioned above.
- Grass-fed beef: Believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to eat it. If you haven’t jumped on the 100% grass-fed beef train yet, you’re doing your body a disservice. Meat from a typical commercial grain-fed beef is essentially not even the same food item as a grass-fed piece of beef, and your body can absolutely tell the difference.
3. It’s not about undereating; it’s about eating enough of the right foods. It’s important to understand that losing fat is not merely about cutting calories. If you’re not supplying your body with enough energy to work out or even to perform your daily activities, your health and fitness level are going to suffer. Undereating can be just as detrimental to your health as overeating, so remember to eat enough of the good foods, and cut only the bad choices from your diet.
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Stress
Aside from changing your nutrition, which can play a huge role in combatting stress, there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to reduce stress and lose fat, including:
- Eat slowly and enjoy your food. Don’t rush your meals.
- Meditate and/or perform breathing exercises.
- Spend time outdoors. Go for a walk or a hike.
Above all, remember to go play. Have fun. Take time to enjoy yourself and your life. A large part of taking control of your health and fitness involves being in the driver’s seat of your life and owning your meals, owning your habits, owning your body. If you’re ready to take the reins and lose fat and see the results you want, let nothing stop you.