1) Make protein your number one priority for every main meal
Protein is king. If you are looking to optimise your health whether you are in a fat loss phase of muscle gain phase it is the foundation of any nutritional plan. It builds and repairs everything in your body, not just muscles, but all cellular tissues. It supports your lean muscle tissue, and when in a calorie deficit it becomes even more important in helping maintain muscle and helps avoid the muscles being broken down and used as energy and alongside your training it will fuel your muscles for growth and repair.
It also is the most satiating macronutrient of them all. Meaning if you consume a good portion of protein, 1 to 2 palm fulls at any given main meal if using the portion control method or 20-40g of protein if you are actually tracking your macronutrients of course the dosage depending on your individual goals or needs, you will feel nice and full after a meal and feel fuller for longer allowing you to go the 3-5hours before consuming another main meal with protein again as your number thing on your plate and will help avoid snacking in between times or the potential binge you get when you start to feel hungry and get the cravings.
2) Increase your vegetable consumption
Alongside protein, vegetables are absolutely vital for optimal health and performance. Obviously! They contain all of the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies require and consuming more on a daily basis will improve your health tenfold and help you achieve your goals. You should aim for as wide variety of vegetables as possible constantly mixing them up on a regular basis to get the wide range of vitamins and minerals we need. Aim for as many different colors as possible.
Once you have your protein on your plate, look to fill the majority of the rest of your plate with vegetables, say 2 cupped handfuls as a minimum! They are very nutrient dense and mostly contain very low amounts of calories per serving. You would be surprised at how much vegetables you can consume in a day and in each meal and still keep your calories low.
For example: 200g of broccoli only contains 100 calories! 20g of that is carbohydrates of which 7.6g of that carbohydrate is fiber, 1.2g of fat and 8.4g of protein!
That’s a lot of a high-quality vegetable and only contains 100 calories and a high amount of fibre! Fibre is crucial in the diet as it helps with digestion and the passing of stool. Fibre in the meal slows down the digestion time thus increasing satiety for that meal keeping you feeling fuller for a longer period of time. This is extremely important when dieting as when a good amount of protein is paired with a high amount of vegetables the meal is going to be extremely satiating and satisfying for you as you feel nice and full and won’t be reaching for a sweet snack anytime soon.
To finish off your plate you can then add a good quality carbohydrate source for a more carb based meal or a good source of good fats like avocado for a more fat based meal or a mixture of both carb and fats to go with your protein and vegetables and you will then have a complete high quality nutritious meal.
3) Don’t just sleep more, sleep better!
When it comes to health and performance for any given individual, sleepis number one. The affects sleep has on the body are so important and when you are not sleeping optimally or getting enough sleep it can have a wide range of negative effects on everything from energy levels, mood, concentration, hunger, cravings, performance, and obviously, recovery and repair in the body at many levels.
Improving sleep isn’t a difficult task at all, you just need to find the right approach that works for you and stick to it. Three things that can have positive impacts on sleep and you can start to look to implement are: creating a sleep routine, reducing caffeine intake in the later parts of the day and consuming a high carb meal as the last meal of the day.
A sleep routineoften refers to the steps or process in the 30 minutes – 1 hour before going to bed or attempting to fall asleep. What you do in this time frame will either aid in helping you get the best night sleep possible or will make it harder for you to fall asleep and sleep optimally. The main focus here is winding down your body and brain in line with our inner body clocks.
A good idea is to look to base your sleep routine off reducing your exposure to bright lights in the 30minutes - 1 hour before planning to fall asleep. In this time instead of being sat in front of a TV or on a mobile phone other things you could be doing in this time instead to help wind down the body and mind are:
Having a hot shower or bath, doing some sort of light relaxing stretches or slow mobility exercises, reading a book or writing in a daily journal diary.
Also on top of this improving the setup of the room could be beneficial by reducing any exposure to lights, blacking out the room, using ear plugs to reduce any external noises and using eye covers to again help reduce any external exposure to light. All of these steps may prove to be beneficial and result in improved and more consistent sleeping patters.
If you do currently consume a lot of caffeine, reducing your overall intake will result in putting less stress on the body reducing the high cortisol levels and letting the body have its natural peaks and troughs of the circadian rhythm, releasing hormones throughout the day in a normal and healthy cycle. If you consume caffeine then gradually reducing your intake over time will improve your sensitivity to it resulting in needing a lower dosage to get the same stimulant affects. Also to avoid consuming caffeine after a certain period of time in the day being mid-afternoon depending on the time you will be looking to go to sleep that night, to avoid having it in your system at the time of trying to wind down and fall asleep due to the fact of caffeine having a long half-life in which will have a negative impact on your ability to fall asleep and your sleep quality.
Consuming a high carb mealas the last meal of the day may have many positive effects on your sleep. If you are in a calorie deficit and don’t have many calories to play with in a day, then consuming the potentially most enjoyable and calorie dense meal at dinner time could help you relax and feel nice and satiated. This could result in being able to go to bed feeling full and content rather than hungry and not satisfied as this could decrease your ability to go to sleep and decrease your sleep quality especially if you were to wake up during the night due to hunger.