This may be an unpopular opinion - but if you are new to fitness, you should think about not being on any kind of diet until your workout habits are fully entrenched. Change takes time, and when you change too many variables in your life it is easy to set yourself up for failure.
The number one biggest diet mistake we see is putting oneself into too severe of a caloric deficit. This promotes hunger, metabolic stress and sets us up for binge type eating. If you are not used to exercise, your body is already burning more calories than it did when you were more sedentary. So, do not add another level of caloric restriction to the mix as that can backfire. Do this instead:
Ramp up your lean protein intake. (And if you worry that protein will make you bulky, read this “will protein make me bulky” article). Lean protein is defined by the following parameters: for every 4-ounce portion, fat should be 10 grams or less. Spend time researching the proteins you like and stock up at the grocery store. Dietary protein is a great tool for weight loss and will also help support muscle repair and recovery.
Clean up your carbohydrate quality. We have had people lose weight in our practice simply by shifting the type of carbs they eat from highly processed - to more whole foods based, complex carbohydrates - without cutting their caloric intake at all. And yes, this means more vegetables and fruits, and less shelf stable items that have a laundry list of ingredients. The less ingredients your carbohydrate choice contains, the higher it is in quality and complexity.
Try making these simple swaps to higher quality carbs:
Energy bars/granola bars → toasted oats with dried fruit and apple
Crackers and dip → raw vegetables with a few nuts or hummus
Chips and ranch dip → oven dried chick peas cooked in olive oil and lemon
Cereal → white or brown rice with honey and milk, or oatmeal with maple syrup
Increase your fiber intake. This may seem like grandma-level stuff, but increasing your fiber intake helps regulate digestion and can reduce bloating. The good news is, the more complex carbohydrates that you choose (one-ingredient carbohydrates), the higher your fiber will automatically be.
Great sources of fiber include:
- Sweet and white potatoes
- Any type of beans or legumes
- Nuts and seeds (especially chia and flax)
- Fruit (raspberries, pears and apples are great sources)
You can even work the above nutrition tips into a simple 4-week program to compliment your new exercise routine to introduce healthy changes gradually to help them stick.
- Week 1: Add more lean protein into each of your meals.
- Weeks 2 & 3: Identify 2 or 3 processed carbohydrate sources in your diet and start replacing them with whole, complex carbs.
- Week 4: Work on getting 2-3 servings of fiber rich foods into each day.
When you try out these tips yourself, let us know on social media with #ARYAfitforgood. And remember that you can make real changes to your health and fitness with small, incremental changes over time. You got this!
Sheb is the Arya® Resident Nutrition Coach and record holding powerlifter. Her company, Shebnation® Nutrition was founded in 2017 and she has helped countless people reach their nutrition and weight loss goals, all the while fostering an environment of science based knowledge and empathetic support for her clients. If you're interested in learning more about Shebnation Nutrition, visit Shebnation.com or find @Shebnation on Instagram.