I'd like to shed a few pounds, and I usually workout pretty hard. My regimen consists of weight training three days a week and cardio three to four days a week for about 45 minutes. Should I use solely high glycemic foods and follow the glycemic index in order to get the energy I need for high intensity workouts?
I’m glad to see you’re following a fairly intense weight training and cardio routine as this is the first step to achieving your body composition goals. However, before discussing nutrition, I think it’s important to discuss your exercise routine a bit.
Although you’re doing weight training and cardio exercise, if you’re after fat loss, I think it’s important that you’re following a mix of weight training, high intensity interval exercise and lower intensity cardio work. This combination of exercise has been shown to maximize the metabolic rate and best help with fat loss, especially when your total weekly exercise volume is five hours or more (although some folks may need up to seven hours a week to maximize the metabolism and fat loss).
So, even if you’re working hard in the gym, if you’re not using the right combination of weight training, interval work and lower intensity work (and you’re not doing enough total weekly exercise), you might be having a hard time shaping up due to your training, not your nutrition. However, let’s talk nutrition now.
When it comes to nutrition, although the glycemic index does provide some utility in helping you choose better carbohydrates, there are much more useful strategies for determining your daily food selections. Here are a few tips:
- Eat frequently (every two to four hours). Researchers at Georgia State University have demonstrated that eating frequently can lead to better glucose tolerance, decreased insulin response to meals, decreased blood cortisol, decreased blood lipids (fats), decreased body fat and maintenance of metabolic rate. That's right! You can control your sugars, your cholesterol and triglycerides, decrease your body fat and improve your lean mass by eating frequently. (Of course, you have to eat the right stuff too!)
- Take advantage of post-workout fat burning. Within one to two hours after exercise, the body prioritizes fat burning while at the same time prioritizing carbohydrate storage. This is a unique phenomenon as the body typically burns a mixture of carbs and fat. Therefore, after the workout, there's a great fat-burning window. This is great news if you've got some fat to lose!
- Use during and post-workout carbs intelligently. As a result of the body's post-exercise shift in fuel burning/storage, carbohydrates eaten during and after exercise are much less likely to provoke fat storage than they would be during the rest of the day. Instead, they are stored, forcing the body to burn more fat. The take home message here is this: you've gotta earn your bread by exercising first!
So, in the end, to drop some fat, you need to make sure that your training is fine tuned and that you’re following a few basic nutrition principles. These principles include, but are not limited to, eating every two to four hours, saving your higher carb meals (those rich in sugars or starches) until during/after exercise and eating meals composed of lean proteins, healthy fats and veggies and fruits the rest of the day. Starting out with these simple nutrition strategies can bring you a long way toward an improved eating plan and an improved physique.