Un-processing your Diet
Recent studies have found that people who eat more processed food, consume about 500 more calories per day than those that eat wholefoods. Why? Because processed foods provide limited nutrients and are not as filling, so you tend to eat more to feel full and an extra 500 calories per day, can lead to quite a significant weight gain!
It’s quite a big challenge to switch to an entirely whole-foods diet overnight. But you can start to make healthier choices most of the time by making some small, sustainable changes to “unprocess” your diet.
What are Processed foods?
Most packaged foods such as crisps, sweets, chocolate bars and biscuits are considered ultra-processed along with fast food, most take-out food and packaged bakery items, refined grains such as white rice, sugary cereals and white bread also are processed. However, foods such as canned or frozen vegetables, whole-grain bread and rice, are considered less processed because they are closer to their original forms (and have more nutritional value).
Here are six practical tips to help you make nutritional improvements that will improve your energy, health and fitness, by switching from a processed to wholefood diet, increasing your fibre and protein intake and making you feel fuller without going over your calorie requirements.
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
When it comes to foods high in nutrients, fruits and vegetables can’t be beat. They contain fibre (which will make you feel full) and they also aid digestion.
- Batch chop and prep salad and veg so it’s ready to go.
- Add a side salad to your meal.
- Snack on raw vegetables.
2. Avoid sugary drinks.
Fizzy drinks, alcohol, smoothies and canned coffee drinks often contain a surprising amount of sugar and calories. For example, a Costa caramel latte contains a whopping 34g sugar and 331 calories!
- opt for tea or black coffee in coffee shops.
- Choose spirits rather than beer or wine.
- Read labels on smoothies/canned drinks.
3. Read labels.
In most cases food packaging does not give an accurate representation of a food’s nutritional value no matter what the claim on the front of the pack says! so it’s best to look at the nutritional label on the back of the item and check:
- Serving size.
- Amount of added sugar.
- Ingredient list (keeping in mind that ingredients are listed by quantity, with highest listed first).
4. Skip convenience foods when possible.
There are a lot of foods that although marketed as healthy (such as bars or snacks) are often full of sugar and lack fibre and protein. Carry your own snacks to avoid temptation!
- Nuts or seeds (portioned) and an apple.
- Chopped veg with hummus.
- Greek yogurt with fruit.
5. Eat mindfully at restaurants.
Eating out can feel like an occasion to indulge, but if you’re eating out regularly, learning to make healthy choices is essential.
- If eating out is an infrequent occurrence, order what you love, but stop eating when your full.
- You don’t have to go for all 3 courses!
- If eating out is a common occurrence choose a protein and vegetable meal with whole grains as often as possible. Such as:
- Sandwich on whole-grain bread with salad.
- Fish, Chicken or Steak served with veg.
- Salad (dressing on the side).
Small and sustainable changes are much easier and more beneficial in the long run when it comes to improving nutrition, rather than trying to make too many big changes all at once but to see a change you’ve got to make a change!
Rest and Recovery
No matter how extensive your fitness program may be, the time you spend working out is only a part of the process necessary to achieve your fitness goals. If you’re planning your training but not your recovery, you’re not going to fully reap the rewards from your Workouts.
One thing that is often misunderstood is the fact that your body becomes stronger AFTER you exercise and NOT during the actual workout itself. The real secret to getting results depends on what happens during the recovery period following the workout. This is why the correct recovery and rest is so important.
There are different types of recovery – Short-term (which happens immediately after a workout set) and Long-term (the period of time between workout sessions).
Short-term recovery can be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and it’s important to replace energy stores within this period. But the longer recovery period between workouts is the one to focus on, because it’s the time after the workout when the body adapts to the training session. The correct care of your muscles and connective tissue, eating the right type of post workout nutrition, the quality and quantity of sleep and, even the types of clothes you wear, can all promote the post-workout recovery that’s necessary to help you maximise the results from your time spent exercising.
During exercise, your muscles expend energy and experience stress. After exercise, the body needs to replenish energy with carbohydrates and repair tissue with protein so having a post-workout snack with the correct ratio of carbohydrate and protein can help massively. The correct nutrition also assists the release of the muscle-building hormones to repair and build new muscle tissue.
Stretching and Myofascial Release
Stretching, Massage, Foam rollers, Compression balls and Rolling sticks can all help to reduce muscle tightness. If a muscle doesn’t cool-down properly, the collagen fibres (which are part of the connective tissue surrounding each muscle) can create knots. Massage works by manipulating muscle tissue to break up knots and can help reduce muscle tightness and improve joint movement.
Sleep is probably one of the most important factors that can help improve your overall health and fitness. Your body produces most of the hormones needed for tissue repair during sleep so it’s vital to get enough to assist in the recovery process.
Ice, Cold Baths and Cryotherapy
Cold treatments are extremely effective for recovery as they can help cool down the body’s core temperature, reduce inflammation and promote healing in tissue that was used during the workout. The cold temperature brings increased blood to the area, which brings nutrients and oxygen to help promote healing.
Sauna or Hot Tub
The heat from a sauna or hot tub increases the body’s circulation, which removes metabolic waste products while also carrying oxygen and other nutrients necessary to help repair tissue used during the workout.
Alternating between high and low intensity workouts (muscle confusion) either daily, weekly or monthly and taking a few days off every few weeks to allow the body to rest and recover fully.
Wearing Compression clothing before and after a workout is a relatively new form of recovery treatment that may also be effective. The pressure from the tight clothing can improve circulation which will help remove metabolic waste and promote blood flow to help the tissue repair and rebuild.
Too much exercise without enough rest and recovery can lead to injury or illness, both of which could prevent your regular workouts. There are dangers to overtraining without the correct recovery periods between and If you don’t take enough R&R for your muscles to adapt this will certainly affect your ability to achieve your fitness goals.
NEVER forget to include RECOVERY into your Fitness programme!