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What to Eat to Look Slimmer in your Swimmers


What to eat to look slimmer in your swimmers

Whether you’re shredding for a family wedding, or wanting to look good in your speedos for summer, making changes to your diet is one of the first places you’ll look.

The fitness industry is obsessed with ‘quick fix’ diets which will have you counting calories, cutting out essential food groups, or living on plain salads.

But here at Improve, we truly believe you don’t need to go to extremes for the body of your dreams.

Most importantly, we think fitness and diets should be sustainable for the long-term in order to avoid the inevitable ‘crash’ back to your old routines 6 weeks later.

Read on to understand the science behind shedding moobs and muffins. 

With the amount of media outlets banging on about the importance of the latest health foods, it can get a little confusing to know what a well-balanced diet looks like.

Tried and true principles get chucked out the window when the latest blockbuster actress tells us that her six pack is due to this new restricted diet, which coincidentally you can read all about for only £19.99 at all good bookstores.

Similarly, you get a new influencer bursting onto the scene telling his rippling muscles were born out of the consumption of only organ meat (and not that stack of anabolic steroids). 

Often, their messages are so simple but promise so much. Are carbs really bad for us? How important is protein? Are vegetables really poisonous and holding us back from living for a century?

It can all be so confusing!

And when it seems like the only solution is to measure out every ounce that goes into your mouth, it can seem quite overwhelming.

But don’t fret, here’s a 10 minute read from our expert Calum on how to nail the basics. Let’s look at what we need to put into our bodies to keep us feeling slim this summer. 

Alternatively, if you want a personalised fitness plan, including nutrition advice tailored to you, why not book a call with our team today? Our 30 day trial is commitment-free and can guarantee results or your money back.

Keen to learn more first? Read on.

Juggling fruit on a unicycle? Is that a well-balanced diet?

‘Well-balanced’ has become a little bit of a buzzword that means completely different things to completely different people. However, our aim is to simplify it down to some fundamentals that will keep you trim.

We want to have a nice mix of the three main macronutrients which make up our food; protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Often, a fad diet completely removes a macronutrient in a bid to remove a significant portion of your daily calories.

This may work in the short term but I hope this article can highlight why such a restrictive diet can cause issues downstream.

Similarly, an important aspect of our diet that often gets overlooked is the role of fibre and what it can do in keeping us lean and mean.

No matter how important these can be, there is still a fundamental principle that we need to keep our eye on.

That principle is the role of energy balance and it will explain why ‘calories’ are key.

Why don’t you come on over, calorie?

The first part of the slimming puzzle is making sure we are using up more calories than we take onboard each day. This is referred to as the energy balance equation.

If we are looking to lose weight, or decrease our body mass, we need to be consuming less calories than we use up in a given day.

It is often touted as ‘calories in – calories out = change in mass.’

Our body is going to use a net amount of energy (calories out) to allow it to move, grow and basically, live.

This will change for each individual due to a myriad of things we do not have control over – like sex, genetics, height, stress – and others that we have control over – like exercise, sleep quality, leisure activities.

Regardless of those little changes between individuals, the fundamental principle is correct and in layman terms, a drop in our daily and weekly intake of food will result in weight loss if our exercise, general activity and stress levels stay the same.

Protein, anti-tein or somewhere in between?

As the health and fitness industry has grown, the importance of protein has clearly become the buzzword. I have even seen supermarkets selling protein water (or chicken stock, as it was previously known).

Yet, many people could still get a massive boost to their weight loss by adding more protein to their meals.

Protein is essential for many functions in the body but most importantly for weight loss, it allows the breakdown and regrowth of muscle cells to occur quickly and efficiently. For us, this means it can help hold onto our muscle (shape) even as we drop body weight. 

There are also a couple more important aspects of protein that will influence our weight loss journey.

The first is that protein actually requires more energy (calories) to be broken down and digested in comparison to fat and carbohydrates.

Thus, more protein in the diet will lead to more calories burned up in a day compared to a lower protein diet.

The second point is that protein is more filling in comparison to carbohydrates and fats. This means adding extra protein to your day is likely to stop you from overindulging and craving food as you begin to reduce your daily energy intake. 

How much protein should you be eating?

Well, a good place to start is to look for three to four portions of protein per day.

What’s a portion?

To save you breaking out the scales, here’s a handy guide from the smart people of Precision Nutrition.

Consider one portion to be one palm full of protein. If you are well trained, this should be closer to two palms full to be considered a portion of protein.

No carbs before Marbs, or lots of bread and Blackpool instead?

No matter where I turn, I often notice the existence of old fitness myths that might have been better left in the pre-internet dark ages.

As with most myths, there lies some grains of truth, but it often leads some to take some extreme conclusions.

With carbohydrates, you will often hear the retort of ‘carbs are bad,’ especially when you are trying to lose weight.

Now, if I stand upon my soapbox for a moment, I really struggle with any ‘black or white’ thinking when it comes to the nuanced world of nutrition. 

Now, what’s the grain of truth?

Well, carbs are one of the easiest things to overindulge in, especially highly processed carbs.

Similarly, the role of carbs in our diet is to provide some essential energy to some of the functions of the body.

However, when people are consuming more energy than their body needs to function, it is understandable why some people can immediately turn to carbs as the harbinger of diet doom.

However, I would follow up to anyone with that claim with the following question; ‘what type of carbs are bad?’

If we simplify it down, there are two types of carbs that we can focus on: simple and complex carbs. 

With simple carbs, these are quickly digested by the body and go straight into the bloodstream. Often lacking in fibre or significant amounts of nutrients, these foods are highly palatable and extremely easy to consume in large quantities. Foods such as white breads and cereals, fruit juice and sugary processed foods are all examples of these.

Now, please do not panic at the thought of never having a biscuit again.

Simple carbs are not some danger lurking around the corner of the cupboards.

However, we want to make sure that we keep to sensible portions as the overconsumption of simple carbs can lead to increased body fat, increases in bad cholesterol and insulin-resistance (which can lead to type 2 diabetes).

With complex carbs, these have to be broken down slowly in the body and thus, they release their energy much slower.

This can often lead to a much better control of the blood sugar level, helping keep your energy (and waist) in tip-top shape.

Complex carbs also tend to have higher vitamin and mineral content, as well as holding more dietary fibre, which we look at a little later in this blog.

Some examples of complex carbs are multigrain and seeded breads, brown rice and bulgar wheat, and of course, the grain so good they named it twice; couscous.

These are examples of what people generally think of when they hear of carbs.

But, don’t forget that you are also missing out on fruit and vegetables, beans and lentils. 

Of course, that means we can eat as many of the above as we like, right?

Unfortunately, not quite.

As one of our members, Cheryl, sang to us, ‘Too much of anything can make you sick’ and complex carbs stick to that rule.

As such, a good aim is three to four portions of carbs a day, prioritising complex carbs, particularly veg, whenever possible.

Using the hand portions, we like to differentiate between the portions of vegetables and the portions of other carbohydrates, like rice, fruit and potatoes.

For veg, one portion would be equal to one ‘fist’ of veg.

For the other carbs, one portion would be equate to a ‘cupped hand’ of carbs.

What’s skinny about fat?

Originally demonised to be the problem food in everyones’ diets, dietary fat has gone through a little bit of renaissance lately and does not carry the same fear that it once did.

However, not unlike their carby counterparts, dietary fat comes in differing variations.

Before we look at fat, it is vital to know what it is there for.

Dietary fat isn’t the flab on the outside of our bodies, it is used as another form of energy as well as contributing to some vital hormonal and nervous systems.

Severely restricting your dietary fat intake can have dramatic effects on your immune system as well as your skin, hair and nails. 

So, we know we need it in our diets but what type of fat are we talking about?

Let’s throw them into three large categories: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

These categories all relate to what the fats look like at the chemical level but don’t worry, we aren’t going to dive into those scientific depths in this article. Here’s what you need to know though.

Often, you will hear about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats in the diet.

It is relatively easy to spot what are known as the ‘bad’ fats; these are often called trans-fats and hydrogenated fats.

Think of margarines and cooking oils, or the fats added to cakes and sweets.

These fats have been processed and changed to make them more delicious and more ‘shelf-stable’ especially when compared to the unprocessed fats that humans have eaten since our existence.

With ‘good’ fats, there is more nuance.

An important aspect is trying to balance out your fat with your carbs, too.

If you are someone who likes a higher carb diet, then reducing your fat intake to one, maybe two, thumbs worth of fat with your meal is important.

On the other hand, if you’ll pardon the pun, someone who exercises regularly and you struggle with carbs, then upping to three or four thumbs worth of fat at a meal would be a sensible approach.

In terms of specific fats, let’s avoid getting stuck in the weeds and instead, focus on aiming for a varied amount of sources of fat in our diets.

Aim to get them from as many unprocessed whole foods as you can; nuts, seeds, oily fishes, avocado and coconut are great sources.

When consuming animal fats, aim to have the highest quality that you can afford.

Don’t forget omega 3’s and 6’s too!

If you don’t consume oily fish on a weekly basis, or stick to a plant-based diet, you might be best to look into supplementing your diet with some fish or algae oils that are rich in these vital fats.

Fibre? I hardly knew her!

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate which the body finds very difficult, or almost impossible, to digest. There are two main forms that we can look at; soluble and insoluble.

The soluble types dissolve in the liquid of the gut, and play a role in your blood cholesterol and glucose levels.

The insoluble fibres can’t dissolve and they basically help your gut keep moving.

Now, a higher fibre diet is related to some significant health outcomes.

It lowers the risk of high cholesterol and colon cancers, and can help with the regulation of diabetes.

However, if we are looking at only weight loss, then fibre plays an often underrated role in our diet.

Fibre, alongside protein, is very satiating in the body.

This means that it tends to leave us feeling full and satisfied with much less calories.

Similarly, it can help keep your internal plumbing running smoothly.

For most, bloating and constipation is going to hamper healthier food choices and a good intake in fibre will help avoid those problems.

Although there are plenty of fibre supplements floating around, focusing on getting as much fibre from whole foods is key.

Unlike the supplements, whole foods bring both fibre and all the nutrients alongside.

The supplements tend to just make you feel empty as quickly as possible. The less said on that topic, the better!

Where can we get this fibre from? Well, surprise surprise, the answer is whole foods! It’s fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and whole grains. These all contain a blend of both soluble and insoluble, with the beans skewing heavily to the insoluble side, and a mixture of all the above will keep your gut clean and your stomach lean.

Putting it all together.

One thing that is vital to get your head around is the importance of the energy balance relationship; no matter how you swing it, getting lean is all about consuming less energy (calories) than our body is using up over time.

There are many tools we can use to achieve this but the principle still remains the same.

Counting calories is an excellent method of doing this but it is not the only tool.

In fact, it is a fairly recent trend and yet, humans have found successful ways of dieting over the last 100 years. So, how did they do it?

Well, they reduced the portion sizes of what they had been eating, which began to decrease their calorie intake.

They ate more fruit and veg, which filled them with fibre and nutrients that reduced their cravings.

They increased their intake of lean proteins, helping to fuel their muscles and fill their stomach. 

Those three principles, smaller meals, more fruit and veg, more lean protein, will go a long way to changing your diet for the better and start trimming away at the fluff around your midsection. 

And if you are finding that you are hitting the above notes and still struggling to change your shape, then maybe it’s time to get some expert support.

Click here to book a call with one of the Improve Glasgow coaches and see if our 30 day trial can help you to change your shape and get you feeling like yourself again.

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