Number one, in anybody’s book, should be to get enough protein. If you don’t get enough protein every day, you will be hungry and you will not be able to build muscle.
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In fact, if there is inadequate protein in your diet, your body will cannibalize the muscles that you currently have, in order to get at the essential proteins stored there. If there are not enough calories in your diet, your body will break down muscle tissue to get at the glucose stored there, because your brain must have glucose to survive.
If you lose muscle mass, you will become flabbier and your body will burn fewer calories at rest, which will make it harder for you to lose weight, as time goes by. Plus, once you start eating more, again, you will gain back the weight faster, because you will have slowed down your metabolism; your body’s ability to burn calories and fat.
A healthy dietary intake of protein is ½ to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. To make that calculation, start with your current weight, not your goal weight. If you lose 10 or 20 pounds, you may need to reduce the amount of protein in your diet, just as you reduce the number of calories. 30-40% of your daily caloric intake can come from protein.
Any healthy dietary guidelines will tell you that carbohydrates are essential. But, they don’t always differentiate between the “types” of carbohydrates. There are two basic types; complex and simple.
Complex carbohydrates are the natural ones. They include most fruits, vegetables and whole grains, such as wild rice and oatmeal. They provide vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, minerals and a variety of other nutrients that may help you lose weight and live a longer, healthier life.
Simple carbohydrates are mostly products of man. They are digested quickly, contain very little fiber, cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have a high caloric value relative to the number of nutrients that they contain.
If you determine that your healthy dietary caloric intake is 1500 calories, 450-600 (30-40% of the total) of those calories should come from complex carbohydrates. Add that to the calories from protein and you have a total of 900-1200 calories. The rest of your daily caloric intake should come from good fats.
Good fats include those found in fish, olives, walnuts and avocado. We must have some fat in our diet. It’s just that most people get too many trans-fatty acids and too much saturated fat, primarily from eating processed and prepared foods, but also from popular spreads like mayo.
Here are two final pieces of advice. Learn as much as you can about healthy dietary guidelines and never forget the importance of exercising. That should keep you fit and in good health for life.