The first 3 letters summarize the entire article. If a fitness journey is pizza, diet is the pineapple topping. Legend has it that you are what you eat. Well, I’m definitely not whey protein typing this out.
Sadly, a good diet accounts for almost 90% of a transformation journey. While it takes 4 words- “Eat less, move more” to cover this entire topic, maintaining a healthy diet can be one of the toughest things in life (I smell pastaaaaaaa).
Be it mass gaining, be it fat loss, DIET is the most important component. All those push ups, lunges, jumping jacks will end up nowhere if your intake is crappy.
Before we get into what should be on our plate all day long, let’s just know what makes junk food so addictive?
It all starts with the brain. There is this colloquial term called the “reward system”. Basically, this system was designed to “reward” us when we do things that encourage our survival. This includes primal behaviors like eating.
And this “reward” releases Dopamine, which is one of the four hormones alongside Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphins responsible for our happiness.
The problem with modern junk foods is that they can cause a reward that is way more powerful than anything we were ever exposed to in nature.
When people repeatedly do something that releases dopamine in the reward system (such as smoking a cigarette or eating a Snickers bar), the dopamine receptors can start to down-regulate.
When the brain sees that the amount of dopamine is too high, it starts removing the dopamine receptors in order to keep things “balanced.”
When you have fewer receptors, you need more dopamine to reach the same effect, which causes people to start eating more junk food to reach the same level of reward as before.
This is called tolerance.
If you have fewer dopamine receptors, then you will have very little dopamine activity and you will start to feel unhappy if you don’t get your junk food “fix.”
This is called withdrawal.
Tolerance and withdrawal are the hallmarks of physical addiction.
So, basically I’m asking you to be sad in order to be happy.
Now, getting into the main topic of discussion- What should be on your plate all day long?
This differs from person to person, depending on their body type(refer to my previous article). In a nutshell, if your goal is to lose fat, you need to have at least 7-8 meals a day, and if your goal is to gain mass, you should focus more on the macros.
Meal 1- Breakfast
Meal 1 or the breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There is no rocket science behind this. Your body is starving all night and you need to refuel it.
Oatmeal is hands down the best thing to have for breakfast. Oats are full of healthy fiber(beta glucan) and helps in gaining mass, fat loss, reducing the risk of coronary artery disease, lowering levels of cholesterol, and reducing one’s risk of colorectal cancer.
Hence, oats with skimmed milk, and honey, one apple or banana, along with boiled eggs or omlettes can be the best breakfast to keep you going.
I recommend a smoothie consisting of milk, oats, bananas, 1 tbsp peanut butter for people who are looking to gain mass.
Note: If you take in multivitamin tablets, this is the time for that.
So, this meal, preferably in between breakfast and lunch should consist of peanuts or almonds, dates or avocados.
Meal 3- Lunch
Now is the time to ditch all those fries, oily food. For people who want to lose weight- brown rice or 1-2 rotis, truckloads of green veggies(any one of them), pulses, fish/chicken/paneer will do the job. A healthy lunch has a good ratio of carbohydrates and proteins. Sweet potatoes are a good replacement for rice and rotis.
This meal should be consumed around 3-4 pm. I recommend raita(curd, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, beet) with no sugar as a healthy snack for the evening rush.
Meal 5- Tiffin
For people looking to lose fat- multi-grain bread with some cheese, one or two egg whites is a good option. Fruits like grapes, pineapple, peach is also preferable.
Note: This is the time when you need to keep a check on the carbohydrates consumed. There are two simple reasons for this.
1. As night time approaches, your activities drop. Hence, there is no way you’re gonna burn those extra carbohydrates you’re consuming and hence they end up as fat.
2. Your body metabolism rate slows down. It gets really difficult for the body to consume those carbs.
Meal 6- Dinner
Crucial. Extremely crucial. For people looking to lose weight- A chicken salad or paneer salad, along with pulses and some veggies is an excellent option. For people looking to gain weight- carbs(complex carbohydrates like brown rice, sweet potatoes) along with a rich source of protein like chicken or paneer is the best option.
Meal 7- Before sleeping
A glass of skimmed milk or cottage cheese is an excellent option. I’m specifically mentioning cottage cheese because it contains casein– a slow releasing protein which provides your body with fuel as you sleep.
Some important tips-
1. Don’t skip meals or workouts, but skip(where is the best pun award)
2. Keep cheat days. There is no need to maintain a strict diet everyday. Cheat meals once a week is absolutely fine. Be a glutton on cheat days.
3. Keep yourself motivated. Watch videos, read articles.
4. Have something or the other every 2-3 hours.
5. People who are into some sports or goes to the gym need more protein. Hence, consider having 5-6 whites throughout the day.
6. Don’t let the picture freak you out.
Thanking Wikipedia, bodybuilding.com, authoritynutrition for some additional information.