Healthy Recipes – Food and Recipes Used to Fuel Weight Loss
There’s something quite important about the choice of words in the above title – ‘Food and recipes used to fuel weight loss’.
When you’re eating to lose weight, you shouldn’t think about it in the sense of a calorie restrictive diet. Instead, think of it in the sense of ‘fueling’ your ability to lose and regulate your weight. Fueling is putting the right energy source into your system in the right quantity, so your body can metabolize it and fuel the effort you need to get through the day without creating excess fat.
The type of fuel you run your engine on – your body, is critical to the performance of all your body functions and critical to how your body manages fat reserves. If you put garbage into your system you’ll generally get garbage out. Garbage out in this sense means low energy, sluggish, poor mental function, lack of desire, fatigue and even chronic illness. These are all symptoms of poor fueling choices. Also, ‘garbage’ type foods are invariably foods which are calorie dense, lacking in nutrients, high in sugar etc. These quick-fix foods are low performance fuels that will diminish your body function and will lead to long-term health problems and probably weight gain.
The Plateau Effect – Under-Fueling
Many of you will have heard of people who when dieting, encounter a weight ‘plateau’ which they are unable to pass through. It typically manifests like this – they start dieting and exercising, they drop a few pounds and are encouraged – they push harder, motivated by their small successes – then bang! They hit a weight level and just can’t seem to lose any more. Unfortunately many people then become discouraged and slowly fall back to their old habits. They then regain the weight they’ve lost and more on top.
It would be a complete guesstimate but I’m going to venture to suggest that at least 80% of dieters go through the above at least one time. I know I did.
So what’s going on? Why do we hit this plateau and how do we overcome it?
It’s surprisingly simple, albeit quite counter-intuitive at first. The secret is that we need to fuel weight loss. Fueling in this sense relates to the amount of food we eat in relation to the amount that we need to maintain our weight exactly where it is. We need to work out what the number is, in caloric terms, then cut back calories by no more than 15%.
How does that add up? Let’s say you’re a moderately healthy female, 5′ 7″ tall, age 45 who weighs 160 lbs and you exercise lightly a couple times a week. Your weight maintenance daily calorie intake should be around 1900 calories.
Now if you want to lose weight, you need to reduce that 1900 by no more than 15% – therefore cut your calories down to 1600 – but ONLY if you maintain the same low levels of physical activity.
If you’re working out more regularly, then your maintenance calorie intake is going to be higher.
Assuming you’re the same 45 yr old female and you increase your exercise routines to 6 days per week, then you may be increasing your calorie needs to around 2500 per day. Therefore 15% of 2500 is 375. So for weight loss, reduce your calories by no more than 15%, or 375 calories, and shoot for around 2100 per day.
Intuition will tell you that the more calories you cut, the more weight you will lose. But it doesn’t work that way when you are starting out. If you cut too many calories your body will assume that something is wrong and it will compensate by slowing down the metabolism. You’ll then stop losing weight, and may even start to gain weight from the same lower level of calorie intake.
You need to keep your calories within around 15% (lower) of where they should be, for sustained weight loss. Yes, it will take some time. If you can lose a pound or two each week then that’s a remarkable achievement and you’ll be creating a platform for a long-term healthy weight. If you lose more than that, you’re going to hit problems at some point and you’ll be back to where you started out before you know it.
Patience – train your body and your mind – adjust your lifestyle slowly – achieve your weight goals and maintain them with ease!
Proper fueling is critical to achieving your ideal weight and maintaining it. And it’s surprisingly easy when you observe the 15% rule. Furthermore, when you fuel with quality foods you can find yourself eating more (in terms of quantity) than you ate before, when you were on your garbage comfort food diets.
I eat all day long, pretty much. When I add up what I’ve eaten at the end of the day it’s a veritable mountain of tasty food, yet I don’t gain any weight. Why? because the food I eat isn’t all calorie dense, it’s balanced and nutrient rich. Also, I exercise. I view exercise as providing me with the ability to eat more. I’m addicted to food. Exercise and carefully considered food choices allow me to enjoy a healthy addiction without negative side-effects.
Let’s just look at some basics on food and calories.
Start out by getting a sense of what you need to take in to maintain your weight as it is right now. You can use a calorie intake calculator like the one on this website here
Use your own numbers, but here are mine – I actually find the numbers here to be a little extreme. Given my 5 day intense workout schedule I can eat far more calories than the 2813 indicated in the results. But let’s use these numbers as they err in your favor when it comes to losing weight.
So you can see that as a 52 yr old male, 6′ 4″ and 190lbs, who exercises 5 days per week at a fairly intense level, I can consume 2813 calories per day without worrying about gaining any weight.
Now let’s take a hypothetical snapshot of what one day might look like based on eating healthy, eating what I enjoy eating, and not exceeding the maximum daily calorie allowance.
|Tea with dash 2% milk||10|
|Steel Cut Oats, 0.5 cup, made with 1 cup water and 1/2 cup Almond Milk||220|
|Medium Tortilla Wrap with salad and cheese||290|
|Fruit bowl w/ fat free Greek Yoghurt, coconut, nut chips and bee pollen granules||190|
|Banana (late afternoon snack)||110|
|Grilled Chicken Breast in fat free yoghurt and Indian spices||310|
|Pureed carrots, onions, garlic and spices||110|
|Home made flat bread with whole wheat and Quinoa||180|
|Corn on the cob – grilled, touch of EVO in place of butter||95|
|Small mixed salad with dates, black olives and feta cheese||210|
Supper / Snacks
|Organic Cacoa / decaf Coffee (Like a Mocha)||35|
|Fat Free Greek Yoghurt over toasted oats recipe (small)||145|
Now 2155 calories is 658 fewer than what I need to maintain my weight. Therefore in around 5 days I would lose 1LB on the above diet. What’s amazing is that even I, as a 6’4 male who cycles like a crazy person, have a hard time eating that amount of food in a day!! Sure, on the day of a 75 mile bike ride I might eat like a horse, but on a typical day I’m hard-pressed to consume that much food.
And that’s why I’ve been losing weight for 10 months straight. (as of the time of writing, – November 2014).
Now let’s look at a different angle on food intake, one where I’m not required to eat so much damn food 😉
|QUAKER, SUN COUNTRY Granola with Almonds small 120 grams with milk||610|
|Coffee and cream||40|
|Fast Food Burger||550|
|Fast Food Medium Fries||380|
|Afternoon Snack – Cookie||140|
|Soda – Can||120|
|Pizza Uno – Individual Portion Chicago Deep Dish||2300|
|Soda – can||120|
|Chocolate Ice creme||240|
|Soda – can||120|
So on the second option, I’ve consumed about the same amount of food but my calorie intake has more than doubled. Not to mention that my fat intake, sodium, chemicals and all the other crap that makes up our delicious fast food, has gone through the roof.
How do you think I feel the day after eating from diet 1 versus diet option 2?
The Numbers, They Lie
In fact yes, they do not tell the whole story, as I discovered to me chagrin.
The problem with using online calorie counters and such, is that they’re obviously very generic. Most use a simple algorithm that discounts the metabolic effects of regular exercise.
I want to deal with the metabolism in more detail in a separate section here. Why? Because I’ve come to realize that it, more than anything else, is the ‘magic pill’ for weight loss. If you can learn to manage your metabolism you’ll never worry about being overweight again. In fact, you may arrive at the same place that I’ve arrived at where you’re actually concerned about losing more weight.
Here’s the practical reality –
Using the link to the website I provided above shows my Maintenance calories at 2813 given my specific parameters. But I know from research and from my own results, than my maintenance calorie level is actually much higher than even 4000 per day, possibly closer to 6000. How is that possible?
(I use an iPhone app to track nutrition, calories and also track my exercise and activity. So I keep a very detailed watch on what’s going on.)
Here’s the crux – regular exercise increases your metabolic rest rate, which means you’re burning the calories at a higher rate even when you’re sleeping. We all know this, right? I just didn’t realize the extent of it and how it would impact my weight loss goals.
Unwanted Weight Loss – High Metabolism
If you remember, I started out with a peak weight of over 280lbs. My target wasn’t rigid since I was really moving through uncharted waters, but I had a number of perhaps 190 lbs in mind.
In mid October 2014 I stepped on the scale one morning and was surprised to see my weight down to 179 lbs. It wasn’t an entirely pleasant surprise. I’d been exercising quite regularly through the summer months, and exercising quite hard. But for the two weeks leading up to the mid October weigh-in I’d taken time out from exercise yet had continued to eat at my normal higher rate. So I wasn’t training and I was eating like a horse and still losing weight. Was there something wrong with me?
The first thing I had to do was to see if I could put a few pounds back on quickly, and keep it there. So I began to look for specific foods with a more dense calorie profile – energy bars (the healthy variety), red meat, full-fat milk/yoghurt/cheese, pasta/potato etc, and I rather guiltily increased my one indulgence – chocolate.
I pushed my calorie intake well north of 7000 calories per day, about twice what the calorie-counting charts would have me believe was appropriate for my physical parameters, and sure enough I started to see a small increase on the scale. I was able to regain around 3 lbs over a one week period, which at least made me feel comfortable that there wasn’t something wrong.
But what’s going on here? How can I stop exercising and still eat so much food and still lose weight?
The answer is simple – high metabolism.
All summer I’d been training fairly consistently on the bike. I’d naturally increased my riding distance and also my riding pace. I’d arrived at a fitness level where I could even take on a couple of 100 mile Charity Rides – ‘Centuries’ as the cycling community likes to call them. Now I’m in no way super-fit, so don’t go thinking that I’m an athlete therefore none of this applies to you! Quite the contrary. The point is it’s all relative. I’d moved from being a couch-potato to someone who enjoys a 30 mile bike ride a few times a week, then the occasional ride of longer distance. I even took a short 4-day camping expedition on the bike, which perhaps I’ll talk about in an upcoming chapter. The point is, mentally I’d crossed a barrier where cycling was an exercise, into a place where cycling was a recreational activity that I enjoyed – a pleasure. It was no longer looked upon as being a workout.
So quite by accident I’d gotten to be moderately fit and raised my metabolism as a consequence.
I like to think of metabolism as a simple flywheel. You’re all familiar with what a flywheel is, in the mechanical sense – a large and heavy rotating mass that you put energy into to get spinning up to speed, then you don’t require so much energy to keep it spinning fast. So moving from couch-potato to moderately fit, as I had become, was putting the energy into the flywheel (metabolism) to bring it up to speed, now I needed only to keep it spinning to claim all of the benefits. To the point where I could actually stop putting the energy into it for a few days or more, and it would continue to spin.
That’s the easiest analogy I can come up with for the flywheel effects of higher metabolism!
So what does all that mean going forward, in terms of exercise and eating?
It’s important to maintain a regular exercise regimen. You can and should take time out from regular exercise to rest and recover, and it needn’t impact your metabolism as long as you don’t stop altogether.
Once you get your metabolism up to a fairly high level, you need to throw away all of the calorie counters and all of the preconceived notions about how many calories you should consume, and use the scale as the arbiter. Because you’re going to find you can pretty much eat as you please, and may even have to eat far more than you please just to maintain weight.
Once you’ve been through this it very quickly becomes manageable. I’ll talk more about this in upcoming sections, but basically on days following a longer bike ride I really focus on calorie-dense foods. I also eat recovery foods right after exercise – usually higher calorie protein bars.
On days when I’m not riding I try to eat normally – in the 3500 calorie range (which is still a lot of food 🙂
If your eyes are glazing over right now and you’re getting confused, don’t worry. What it means in simple terms is that the reality of exercising more frequently is that you can eat more than most of these online calorie counters say you can. So if you want to throw a pizza into the mix once a week, it may be ok to do so if you’re careful. In fact, I encourage you to eat the foods you enjoy, just take an all around more sensible approach to it and don’t think that you can just get away with unhealthy eating because you walked to the liquor store.
Be informed and be cognizant of what you are doing, how much you are exercising and how many calories you are consuming, and you can lose weight. And be aware that as you become more fit your metabolism will increase and require that you eat more to maintain your weight.
3500 calories equals 1 pound of fat.
So if you eat 3500 calories more than your maintenance calories in a week, you’ll gain a pound of extra fat in that week. If you eat 3500 fewer calories, you’ll lose that pound of fat.
The above is a generalization but it’s a good enough working guideline. If you find it isn’t quite working out for you then adjust the intake level or your exercise level accordingly.
I haven’t talked much about dietary supplements at this point but I’ll cover that in upcoming sections.
You do know that I use whole grain bee pollen granules, and you can see those in one of the recipes I’ve listed above. I also use Total Bee Plus with bee pollen, royal jelly, propolis and honey. These are the closest you’ll come to ‘miracle diet pills’, though as you can see, they don’t work in isolation, they just provide me with part of the foundation.
Hopefully I whetted your appetites (literally) with a snapshot of some of the things I’ve been eating. The next section takes a look at some recipe ideas and how to incorporate a more healthy approach to cooking and food choices.
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