What diet are you on at the moment?
Is your diet working for you? How are your energy levels and you mood? Do you need some inspiration? Winston writes about his personal relationship with diet and hydration.
If you are interested in your health on any level, you have almost certainly come across or tried some form of dieting. When I talk about dieting, I mean eating in a specific way with a specific goal.
Lifestyle, on the other hand, is how you live more generally speaking, and what you will discover is what I believe is more beneficial in the long term.
My journey started about 20 years ago, but I became very conscious of what I was doing around 2011. I thought I was underweight as a teenager and young adult. Many of us suffer from feelings of insecurity based on the way we look as teenagers, and young adults. You might start doing things to control your weight, your image, and general satisfaction with your body. In my case, I ate as much as I could stomach and trained the best way I knew how.
Looking back I realise that I made so many mistakes.
I ate too much. I ate the wrong foods. I trained in the wrong way. I trained too little or too much. My sleep was all over the place, I was generally naive and inconsistent. But we all have to start somewhere.
Then things started to make sense.
In my late twenties, I began looking for inspiration in the right places. Doctors, fitness experts, and people who had tried and tested what worked for them. What I realised was that there is no one rule that works for everyone, and many of the things we have been taught about nutrition since the 1940’s up until quite recently, were untrue, or not properly/fully researched.
If you start basing your efforts on research that is incomplete, you can be left feeling frustrated by lack of progress or poor results.
One example of this is, how Mark and I like to wake up at 5 am. That doesn’t work for everyone. If you do shift work for example, or you get home from your job at 1 am every day, your sleep routine will probably affect your diet.
Over a couple of years, I started to play around with my training, sleep routines, and diet. I went in with the approach that I could do any diet for 30 days without it being detrimental to my health. I learned a lot about how my body reacts to different foods, rest, and exercise.
Here is what I found out about diet and lifestyle, that I’m sure will be beneficial for you, and hopefully inspire you to take a fresh look at your current situation.
Hydrate before you caffeinate (or anything else)
When you have slept for 6-9 hours, you have probably gone for at least 8-11 hours without water.
Second to air, water is the most important thing we need to survive. To put things in perspective, You can survive for 8-21 days without food, but you can only survive for 2-4 days without water.
As soon as you get out of bed, and before you do anything else, rinse your mouth, and have 1 to 2 glasses of water. Think of it as putting oil in your car, or on your bike chain. Your body just works better. Your brain and body work better when it is not dehydrated, so kick start your day as you mean to continue, with water.
If you are like me, the first thing I like is water inside, and out. So, I normally take a glass of water to the bathroom which I drink before and after I shower. This always gives me momentum for a great morning.
After that, I can judge if I am hungry or not. Normally, I’m not because of my intermittent fasting.
After trying lots of different diets, I discovered that sugar made me really hungry. This became even most apparent when I started fasting.
During my zero carb diets (there were a couple), I found that I had less of an appetite. When I started intermittent fasting for 14-18 hours, I started eating fewer carbs and sugars for my last meal. It helped me feel less hungry in general, but especially in the morning.
Another benefit of fasting is that because I am more conscious of what I eat, I generally eat healthier. I notice on my non-fasting days, I sometimes eat relatively badly. That’s where I squeeze in the week’s unhealthy foods, oops!
Another bonus is that eating once or twice a day, requires less effort (also less time and money). Eating more nutritional food, can leave you needing less food. I know it is often more expensive to eat healthy salads, and quality foods, but I’ve found that eating higher quality and lower quantity still works out cheaper. I thought I would lose weight and that my training would be negatively effected, but it turns out to be opposite. My weight is stable, and I feel stronger at the gym on and empty stomach. Longer cardiovascular sessions can be a challenge, so I might cheat with a high carb drink or muesli bar if I can feel that my energy is low.
Intermittent fasting became easy, when it became a lifestyle rather than a diet. I am not very strict with my timing, which makes it easier to plan around it. But my partner and other friends tend to be quite strict about their 16/8 routines. There are a few smart phone apps to help you.
WHY IS FASTING IMPORTANT?
Fasting helps to cleanse the body of toxins. It also puts the body under stress in the same way that resistance training and cardiovascular training stimulates the body to grow stronger.
Later during each period of fasting your body starts to burn fat as an energy source, which is great for weight loss and balancing blood sugar levels.
After a long time of experimenting with foods, I learned what my body reacts best to in different circumstances, and how to use foods, to get the desired effect.
If I want to fast, I reduce my sugar intake up to the beginning of my fast and preferably through the whole day, however, if I am recovering from or planning to have an intense hypertrophy gym session (training with heavy weights until muscle failure), I will increase my carb intake before my high protein meals, and before and after training. I might even break my fast early for the early morning sessions if I’m feeling low on energy. There is no reason to pass out on the assault bike.
You should give at least 2-3 hours between bedtime and your last meal; also try to avoid too much water before bedtime. Maybe just a few sips before you go to bed. This is because you will sleep better if your stomach is not trying to digest food, while you are lying down. It may sound obvious, but many of us get into bad habits, of late meals.
LIFESTYLE OR DIET?
At first glance it might seem like a lot of different things to change in your life, when it comes to food, but I assure you, if you take it one step at a time, things start to fall into place, and before long, you will have created a much healthier way of eating, which fits in to your life and is easy to maintain, without too much effort.
The difference I have found with looking at it as a lifestyle change as oppose to a diet, is that diet is often associated with some kind of goal like losing a specific amount of weight or a competition on a particular date. When the goal has been reach, the motivation for the diet disappears. On the other hand, with lifestyle you are choosing to live in a particular way because it is healthy, and not because of short-term temporary goals. Lifestyle is based on habits, and once those habits become your normal way of living, you don’t have to use much energy thinking about them.
I am fortunate that my partner has a similar diet to mine, as it makes it easier when we are cooking or eating out.
I would recommend being explicit with people who might be affected by the way you eat, especially with timing, as this can be one of the more practical challenges, when living with other people.
If you do some kind of shift work, be realistic about when you can create 8 hours windows for eating either during or after work. And carry some nuts or other healthy snacks around in the beginning, as you get to know how your body reacts to the changes you make.
You can spend time reading lots of different people about your diet, but in the end, you need to try it out for yourself.
As you research more about how to take care of your health through what you eat, remember that your body and the way you live, is different to others, so you will need to experiment for yourself. You can survive most things from 30 days, so give it a shot and tell us about your experience.
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