What When Water

Having the same resolution over and over again to start living healthier is frustrating. Is there a way to shift how we eat so that at least that part of the resolution doesn’t keep returning? Yes: Instead of committing yourself to improving your nutrition monthly, quarterly, or annually, look at how you like to eat (what you keep gravitating back to) and make a few adjustments so that your body gets healthier without depriving yourself or going through some sort of nutrition boot camp each year.

To minimize change in how you eat but get the biggest bang for your buck (the best results) you need to target whatever one or two things are holding your body back the most from improved health. It might be what you are eating, when you are eating, or a lack of water. These are the three Ws of nutrition: What, When, and Water. Here is a quick tour of the Ws to give you a quick start to your personalized new nutrition program based on who you are, your personal needs, and how you like to eat.

WHAT you eat: Have a significant protein source in each meal if at all possible, meaning legumes (beans or lentils), soy, or an animal source (diary, eggs, lean meats). By significant, I mean the volume of the palm of your hand, plus or minus 50%. Have vegetables in every meal when possible, not just for nutrients but also to slow the digestion of any caloric carbohydrate you are eating. The advantage of vegetables slowing your digestion is that calories entering the bloodstream slower give your lean tissues more time to absorb those calories so that fewer go to body fat. How many higher-calorie carbohydrates you eat should be dependent on how active you are. Higher-calorie carbohydrates are starches (potato, yam, rice, corn, grains such as wheat or oats), fruits, and the higher-calorie vegetables (carrots, tomato, beets). Fruits and higher-calorie veggies absolutely should be eaten in the first and last third of your day to maintain a stable blood sugar to keep your mind and body functioning well. A stable blood sugar will also dramatically reduce potential binging at night that sabotages a whole day of healthy eating. Lastly, do not avoid fats, but do emphasize unsaturated i.e. mainly plant fats (vegetable oil, olives, nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado, soy, fatty fish). Since fats are high in calories, go with thumb (Tbsp) volumes of fats instead of the palm volumes applied to protein and carbohydrate. Use up to 2-3 fist volumes of vegetables to slow down the entire meal, making even the unhealthiest meals (e.g. pizza, pasta, burgers) healthier without having to give them up.

WHEN you eat: Eat within a half hour of waking and within a half hour after exercise, including carbohydrate at those two times because these are when you have the lowest blood sugar. Don’t eat a substantial dinner less than 2-3 hours before going to bed. If your dinner has to be late, have a substantial snack at your ideal dinner time, then have a smaller dinner later on so you aren’t bloated when you go to bed.

WATER: One liter per day for each 1000 Calories you eat. We each have a general sense if we eat an average amount relative to others (probably 2000 Calories plus or minus 500), more than others (over roughly 2500 Calories) or less than the average (1500 Calories). Base your fluid intake on a rough guess. At least half of your fluids need to be water, not anything else. Make sure this happens by drinking an equal amount of water before your coffee, tea, or other fluid. Space your fluids out through your day just like you do your calories.

As you read through this guide for a Healthy Start, you will likely see one or two things that really stand out as things you do the least. These are the one or two things to focus on. Leave everything else the same so you can have a nutrition program that moves you to greater health while still allowing you to eat the way you want to eat and the way that is best for you personally. Make this the first day of the rest of your life, committed to doing it your way, with minimum changes for maximum effect. This is the sustainable you!

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