Have you ever heard of the 80/20 diet? It breaks down to 80 percent of the time you focus on eating clean, good-for-you foods, and 20 percent of the time you have the freedom to indulge or cheat. So how does that apply to building muscle or getting cut? If you are trying to lose weight and get lean, what you eat and when you eat it matter more than how much you exercise. In fact, it breaks down to about 80% what you eat and 20% how much you exercise. Sure, it is possible to burn off last night’s dessert with extra cardio today. But that is not sustainable over time. The best way to get lean is to target what goes in your mouth.
There is so much advice out there. You can read two articles and they both contradict each other. For example, do I need carbs for fuel, or protein for muscle?
How does the 80/20 rule come into play? Moderation and real life. 80% of the time we are trying to make good healthy choices to fuel our bodies so they can perform to the best of their abilities. Then we allow ourselves some treats. Birthdays are cause for celebration, enjoy your piece of cake. Just don’t eat the whole cake.
Now that we are thoroughly confused, here are a couple of guidelines to help get you started.
“Back in the old days, people thought they should train on an empty stomach in order to burn more fat, but that has turned out to be FALSE.
In fact, your body needs some glucose (blood sugar) for fuel in addition to what it can use from fat stores when you’re working out. If you don’t have any blood sugar available, your body will eat the muscles’ glycogen, or stored glucose. Low blood sugar will also make you tired and sluggish during your training session.
For these reasons, you eat something 45 minutes to an hour before training — you’ll have more energy and endurance to work harder, burn more calories, and improve your muscle tone” (Bosari, 2012)
“After training, during a period known as the golden hour (45 to 60 minutes after a workout), muscles absorb the most nutrients, and glycogen is replaced the most efficiently. You don’t have to have a huge meal — just a little something that contains both protein and carbs will give the best results” (Bosari, 2012).
“Eating carbohydrates at night can hinder fat loss because when carbs are introduced to the system, the body releases insulin. Insulin stops the use of fat as an energy source.
Your body naturally burns the most fat while sleeping (another reason to get your zzzz). Therefore, going to sleep with elevated insulin levels interferes with fat loss.
Also, studies have found that insulin interferes with the production of growth hormone which has powerful fat-burning properties. Your body naturally produces the most growth hormone while sleeping. So if your body is flushed with insulin, your growth hormone production will suffer, and thus, so will your fat loss and muscle building benefits” (Matthews, 2012).
Remember, food is beautiful and it is meant to be enjoyed. If you hate what you are eating, there is no way you can sustain your healthy habits. Choose to eat things you LIKE. Eat them because they make you FEEL GOOD – not because “you are supposed to.”
If you are thinking, “I have to eat ….this salad.” then you are playing the victim. Take ownership of your choices. How will you ever get off the cycle of endless diets unless YOU choose what you want to eat because it makes you feel great, rather than because some diet book told you to eat it? Thinking back to the 80/20 rule, think moderation, moderation, moderation. Plan and make healthy choices 80% of the time, and allow for a few indulgences.
Your body will respond beautifully to love and nourishment, rather than disdain and punishment.
Here are just a few healthy suggestions for snacks or meals:
-Turkey Asparagus Rollups
-Celery Sticks with nut butter
-½ cup non-fat plain yogurt, ¼ cup fresh berries, 1/8 cup chopped almonds
-Any raw veggies with 3 tbsp hummus
-½ cup non-fat cottage cheese, 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
-Frozen yogurt parfait
-English muffin jack melt
-Bean and Veggie Soup
-Tuna pita and ½ piece fruit
-Apple walnut chicken salad
-Chicken Stir Fry
-Greek chicken salad
-Chicken almond salad
-Shrimp lettuce wraps
-A hard boiled egg with salsa or some other fixin’
-Apple and nut butter (1 tbsp)
-Greek yogurt w a scoop of protein powder
-A low carb protein shake (You might want to steer away from protein bars as they feel like a candy bar and could put your brain into “dessert mode”)
-Peanut butter on whole grain/sprouted bread toast with cottage cheese
-Cottage cheese with a dash of cinnamon and deli slices with cucumber
-Whole wheat pita stuffed with lots of lettuce/veggies, plus deli slices
-Cereal with skim milk: WARNING – Many cereals are loaded with sugar. Carefully select a cereal that is low in sugar and high in fiber. Organic brands are your best bet.
-Nuts and dried fruit: Small portions only because nuts are a wonderful source of protein and healthy fat, but the calories can add up quickly. Dried fruit frequently has added sugar compared to its non-dried counterpart.
Lizzie Merritt, M.Ed. uses her experience as a former science teacher and a fitness professional to write about weight loss psychology and positive psychology on her blog. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Love Yourself Naked: 12 Keys to the Art and Science of True Body Love, as well as the book 7 Ways to Willpower (available on Amazon.) You can click here to get your copy of her FREE special report, 23 Simple Weight Loss Hacks.