The basics of good nutrition

General Principles of Rational Eating

In this article I’m going to tell you about general principles of rational eating for a person who works out and wants to stay in shape. I want to be as clear as I can, as if I were telling about it to a friend. Despite its complexity, the science of rational eating encompasses a number of simple rules, and their observation will allow you to have a beautiful and healthy body. We are all different and there can be no single recipe for all. That’s what makes it rather complicated. We all have different body types, metabolism, genetics, health, and after all beauty standards. But undoubtedly each of you wants to benefit from physical exercises and healthy eating, have less fat and be in good shape.

Nutrition plans vary depending on the goals you set.
You may aim to:
1. Drop your body fat percentage. Burning body fat, toning up your muscles. That’s what all overweight people or people with visually unattractive fat deposits may want to do.
2. Gain muscle mass. Building muscle mass and minimizing the increase in subcutaneous fat. That’s what skinny people and people who want to gain some weight may want to do, as well as all those who don’t like their body proportions and are looking for a way to improve them.
3. Keep your body in good shape. I guess it should be clear. This nutrition plan is designed for people who’re satisfied with their body and want to keep it that way.
Those were the main guidelines for you to select your nutrition plan. So, what can be said about each of them? Depending on each plan, you calculate the required daily intake of calories, as well as your ratio of carbs, protein and fat. Why is it so important to watch not only your overall calorie intake but also the carbs, protein and fat ratio? A lot of people who try to lose weight make the same mistake. They avoid eating carbs and fat. However, this does them no good. I need to clear it up for you (and not only that).

Below are some of the common truths which you need to observe regardless of your metabolism type and nutrition plan.
1. Eat little and often. Lots of people are mistaken saying, “I eat little, so I’m going to lose weight quickly,” “Healthy eating is eating three times a day,” or “Give your dinner to your enemy.” Forget about it! You should eat every two to three hours and your meals should be small. This will keep you your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day, preventing them from dropping. This will give your body energy, relieving feebleness and sleepiness. Also, it will help you avoid eating too much sugar and thus prevent you from accumulating fat.
2. Make sure all your meals contain enough protein. This will help you keep your appetite under control and maintain your muscle mass.
3.  Think about what you’re going to eat throughout the day. A plan is your way to success and it’s true for various aspects of life. You need to have a clear understanding of what you’re going to do and eat throughout the day. Ideally, think through all the meals you’re going to eat, as well as possible replacements (just in case).  Make sure your menu contains the required number of calories and allows you to get your carbs, protein and fat ratio and enough vitamins and minerals. Your nutrition plan should be designed according to your age, height, weight, lifestyle, and your goals. It should have the right combinations of ingredients, simple daily recipes and ingredients which are easy to find in stores. With a plan in your hand, you will never go astray in your path.
4. Drink enough water. All people know about the importance of drinking enough water, but not all do that. Drink two to three liters of water daily. This should mostly be pure drinking water.  Drinking water transports nutrients and clears the body of waste products. Water is found in joint oil, so it supports healthy joint movement. Without water, our kidneys can’t filter waste products from the body properly. That’s when they use the help of the liver. One of the essential functions of the liver is activation of fat deposits to generate energy. Busy with fulfilling the kidneys’ requests, the liver can’t perform this function properly, to the point of cessation of the function. Drinking water reduces hunger. Also, it neutralizes ammonia, a by-product of protein conversion into energy. It’s true for all people who stick to a high-protein diet. I drink 1.5 to 3 liters of drinking water every day, depending on my training schedule. In summer, I drink mostly just water. On rare occasions, some green or ginger tea. In winter I drink tea more often.
5. Never skip breakfast. Breakfast kick-starts your metabolism, while skipping breakfast slows it down.
6. Drink enough water when you exercise. While exercising, your muscles generate energy raising your body temperature. To lower it, your body releases liquid, sweat. As a result, dehydration may develop rapidly, causing you to feel unwell, slowing down the activity of your central nervous system, and affecting your performance. To prevent it, drink enough water during your exercise. I drink 1 to 1.5 liters of water during each workout (depending on how long it last) and about one liter afterwards.
7. Pay attention to what you eat. A seemingly harmless product may contain a ton of simple carbohydrates and fat. For example, you pick up a yogurt from the shelf of a supermarket and are happy to see that it only has 1.5% of fat. However, once you take a closer look, you realize that it also has about 17 grams of carbs per 100 grams of yogurt and only 3 grams of protein! You don’t need that. Put it back quickly! There’re a lot of tricky foods like that you need to be careful with. So while doing your grocery shopping, pay attention to not only the shelf life of the foods you’re going to buy, but also to their nutritional value.
8. Ordering food in a restaurant, always ask what ingredients it has. The description of a dish you can find on the menu may give you a false impression of what the dish really is. Ask the waiter about the ingredients of your dish and their amounts. I personally often come across dishes that include unwanted ingredients or the amounts of the ingredients that I need are too small.
9. Eat protein before and after working out. Studies show that protein helps our body restore fast (especially if after working out you eat protein and carbs).
10. Choose the right types of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a source of energy. They are essential for the body. However, excessive amounts or misuse of carbs leads to fat deposits. Right types of carbs are needed for fat-burning and to gain muscle mass. Carbs replenish energy in your muscles, which is essential for your vital activity and exercising. When the body digests carbs, metabolism occurs faster than when fat is digested. Carbohydrates can be simple (glucose and fructose) and complex (polysaccharides). Simple carbs are found in fruit, vegetables, foods that are high in sugar, white flour products, and milk. Complex grains are found in grains, beans, and some vegetables. Simple carbs are our enemies. If you want to lose weight, minimize their intake. If you can’t remove these foods from your diet, at least try to eat them at the right time. For instance, when you need to quickly restore the energy lost during a workout. Eat more grains, fruit, vegetables, beans, etc. Fresh unprocessed foods are always better for your health than processed ones.
11. Eat foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic index shows how quickly sugar will be released into the blood after a man eats food that contains 50 grams of digestible carbs. High-Gl foods rapidly raise blood sugar levels causing increased insulin production. Insulin lowers blood sugar levels, distributing it throughout the body either for short-term use (as glycogen in muscles that is released when needed to give us energy), or for future use (depositing it as fat). Since muscles can’t accumulate glycogen infinitely, excess glycogen goes to fat deposits which can. Our body can accumulate as much fat as it wants, just in case. On top of that, insulin doesn’t allow fat to turn into energy unless it’s an emergency. Low-Gl foods are digested slowly, reducing the amount of sugar released into the blood. This makes us feel full longer, preventing weight gain.
12. Never starve yourself. A calorie deficit makes your body adapt. As a result, in an effort to save energy your metabolism slows down. That’s why most diets lead to nowhere. Our goal is boosted metabolism and energy for working out.
13. Eat the right types of fat. We tend to look for foods that are low in fat. However, radical reduction of your fat intake is fraught with serious consequences. I made this mistake in the past, too. If your fat intake is too low, eat more Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.  It has been proved by numerous studies that enough Omega-3 fatty acids can help you maintain your muscle weight even if you lose weight, and help burn fat. It’s believed that five fish dishes a week are enough to keep your Omega-3 levels in balance for optimum health. If you can’t ensure that, take Omega-3 supplements daily.
14. Control your intake of sugar. Sugar contributes to fat gain. A source of fast carbs, it reduces insulin sensitivity in cells. In other words, if you eat a lot of sugar, insulin won’t be able to deliver it to your muscles to replenish energy. Instead, it will deliver it to your liver where sugar is turned into fat! Pay attention to the amount of sugar in the products you buy and read the labels carefully.
15. Minimize your alcohol intake. Alcohol is carbs which, unlike other types of carbs, don’t turn into glucose. They turn into fatty acids, and usually they are deposited as fat. Moreover, alcohol is high in calories. Alcohol has a number of other negative effects on your health and I’m sure you know what they are. I haven’t been drinking alcohol for three years now, and I can assure you that life without alcohol is not a bit less exciting. If you’re stressed out and need to relieve your stress, go to the gym!
16. Take multivitamins and mineral supplements. Despite your balanced diet, you may fail to get vital vitamins and microelements. So multivitamins will do you no harm.
17. Don’t cut back your calorie intake dramatically as it may cause stress to your body. Also, your body may start to “adapt to hunger.” Cut back your daily calorie intake by up to 300 calories, until your diet meets your nutrition plan.
18. Weigh your food. Always try to weight your food, especially if you’ve just started a new nutrition plan, as well as if great and fast results are crucial to you. Write down the amount of food (in grams) you should eat at each meal. Kitchen scales will help you stick to your plan. After a while, you’ll learn how to estimate serving sizes without the scales. By the way, any kitchen scales can be used, including the cheapest ones.
19. Count calories and calculate your carbs, protein and fat ratio. It’s also very important if you’ve just started a new nutrition plan. If you have a proven menu and simply follow it, perfect. But if you don’t have a proven menu or you had to replace some of the dishes you were supposed to eat throughout the day with something unusual, enter the data into your calorie counter or food diary. Luckily, there are a lot of programs for that to choose from today. If you want, you can write down everything you’ve eaten throughout the day, even it was a spoon of rice and you ate it while cooking. Then, before going to bed, enter the data in your program and it will calculate your calorie intake and carbs, protein and fat ratio for you. This will allow you to analyze your diet and correct the mistakes (if you have any).
20. Be careful with fruit! Many believe that one can lose weight by eating only fruit and vegetables. But fruit is a source of simple carbohydrates. Excess carbs are deposited as fat. If you want to drop your body fat percentage, eat one or two fruits or a cup of berries a day. To maintain or gain weight, you can eat up to five fruits a day. If you want to reduce your body fat, avoid eating such high-calorie fruits as bananas and grapes (especially if you tend to gain weight after eating fruit).
21. Carry food with you. Often we just don’t have time to eat healthy because we’re too busy at work. Or, let’s say, because our office café offers nothing but fast food. To eat healthy, that is little and often, and to not have to snack on chocolate, you need to carry your foods with you. It may seem inconvenient to you at first, but after a while you’ll understand how simple and great it is! Prepare your healthy meals according to your nutrition plan. Use several food containers to pack your foods into: meat and rice, fish and bread to snack on, vegetables, and nuts. Put one or two fruits into a plastic bag. Take it all with you. Now you can have your meals exactly when you need to anywhere, and you’ll get your perfect carbs, protein and fat ratio without being hungry.

How to Calculate Your Need for Carbohydrates, Protein & Fat

Here’s one good calculator that calculates your need for carbs, protein and fat according to your age and weight. Also, it allows you to find out your carbs, protein and fat intake depending on your nutrition plan.

Daily Food Plan
Your daily food plan has to include three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and two or three snacks. Needless to say, meals should have more calories than snacks. I’ve managed to boost my metabolism due to eating frequently. It is real, even if your metabolism is quite slow. By the way, unhealthy eating makes it even slower. Our goal is to boost metabolism. Also, I’m used to eating small meals. I get full easily, but 1.5 to 2 hours later I get hungry again. Once you understand how rational eating works, it’ll be easy for you to eat healthy without feeling hungry throughout the day and at the same time achieve your goals.

Sample Menu to Reduce Body Fat Percentage

According to the calculations above, the menu provides 1,567 kcal, 150.82 g of protein, 154.01 g of carbohydrates, and 41.83 g of fat.
7.30 a.m. Wake up and have one glass of drinking water.

8 a.m. Breakfast: 360 kcal, protein  — 29.25, fat — 8.07, carbs — 43.55
    •    3 egg whites + 1 egg (avoid eating more than one egg yolk a day, as it is high in cholesterol)
    •    1 cucumber, 1 tomato
    •    2 Finn Crisp wholegrain crispbreads (6 g each) (see the description here)
    •    30 g of wheat flakes with 0.5 % milk (200 ml)
9.30 a.m. – 11 a.m. Workout.
11 a.m. Snack: 304 kcal, protein — 26.21, fat — 7.5, carbs — 36.01
• Protein drink (0.5 % milk, berries, protein powder, Omega-3, bran)
12 p.m. Lunch: 342 kcal, protein — 31.23, fat — 8.39, carbs — 40.19
    •    150 g of boiled buckwheat
    •    120 g of tilapia
    •    bowl of salad (cucumbers, pepper, tomatoes, parsley, green onion, dill) with olive oil 

2 p.m. Snack: 220 kcal, protein — 10.79, fat — 7.48, carbs — 29.03
    •    35 g of smoked salmon
    •    50 g of wholegrain bread
    •    1 cucumber

5.30 p.m. Dinner: 253 kcal, protein — 37.5, fat — 9.37, carbs — 2.51
    •    120 g of steamed chicken breast ()
    •    bowl of salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, pepper) with olive oil 

7.30 p.m. Snack: 88 kcal, protein — 15.39, fat — 1.02, carbs — 2.72
    •    100 g of 1 % cottage cheese
    •    30 g of 0 % President cream cheese  (see the description here) • Stevia
10 p.m. Bedtime

This sample daily food plan will help you understand the essence of eating little.

Products to Avoid & Recommended Replacements
Mayonnaise. Use low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt instead. If you want, add some vinegar, mustard, garlic, or herbs.
Chocolate, candies, cakes.  I used to have a sweet tooth myself. Perhaps, deep in my heart I still do. I had trouble lowering my sugar intake. I had breakdowns once in a while which were always followed by serious overeating.  Then I didn’t eat sugar while drying out before a competition and almost two months after it. That’s when I realized I didn’t want sugar. I just got used to living with no sugar. The foods that I had been obsessed with seemed too sweet. If you eat right, your blood sugar level is stable and you don’t have those urges to eat something sweet. Now I can eat just one small lump of brown sugar when I’m enjoying a cup of coffee. I prefer to replace natural sugar with Stevia, a sweetener and sugar substitute. My advice to all of you is as follows: don’t keep sweet stuff at home, even if you have kids. Firstly, eating too much sugar is not healthy, and it’s true for children and adults. If you want, you can buy occasional sweet treats for your children but not for yourself. That way you’ll avoid the temptation. If you want to eat something sweet, have a fruit and some protein. I like protein shakes. They are slightly sweet and taste great. Also, I make wholegrain pancakes and low-fat cottage cheese desserts and suchlike.
Ketchup. Have a tomato instead! Or don’t be lazy and make some tomato sauce.
White rice. Use brown or wild rice. Remember, wholegrains are very good for your health.
Instant oats and sweet cereals. Choose whole grain and non sweetener products
White bread. Replace it with wholegrain bread.
Packaged juices. Better eat a fruit. Or have some fresh juice diluted with some water.  
Macaroni and spaghetti. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to stop eating your favorite pasta. Just make sure it’s wholegrain.
Soda. Soda contains a ton of sugar. Have some drinking water instead.
Butter. Add some olive oil to your spaghetti instead of butter.

One of the basic principles of rational eating is having carbs together with protein and fat before noon, while protein, healthy fats (not much) and low-carb foods (vegetables) after noon. This principle works for most people, including me. The sample food plan’s been designed according to this principle, too. It is believed that this way of eating prevents fat deposition, because the energy the body receives with the carbs is spent before noon and nothing’s left for the evening. Remember, candies, pasta cakes and other desserts you have for breakfast go straight to your fat deposits! That’s how I used to live and it was incredibly difficult for me to change this habit. But I’ve won and my beautiful body is my award. However, we all have different daily routines, go to the gym at different times, and have different metabolism types. That’s why for some people this 30%, 30% and 40% approach to their carbs, protein and fat intake, as well as eating carbs before noon, doesn’t work out.

What should you do? To begin with, take this test and find out your metabolism type. Perhaps, this way of eating is ideal for you. However, first try to adhere to the basic principle of healthy eating, like most athletes and all those who try to stay in shape do. If you feel something’s wrong, adjust your diet. Anyway, it’ll do you no harm.
I want you to understand that everything that I’ve said in this article won’t necessarily work out for you. When I first tried to lose weight, I knew a lot of what’s been said here, but figured out what’s best for me only by trial and error. You may be very much like me in terms of your body composition, but my nutrition plan may fail to work for you. So arm yourself with the knowledge, start experimenting, and listen to your body. I’m sure sooner or later your dream of having an amazing body will come true!