Simple food rules cut fat, build lean muscle

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The spate of books, diet offerings, and food theories available today can be extremely confusing for someone looking for the best way to build a healthy body.

Frequently, my clients approach me with questions about the latest news on particular foods and the role those foods play in the increase or decrease of both body fat and lean muscle. Just about everywhere you look, there's a magazine offering "10 super food secrets" or a "miracle berry" that proposes to make you look five years younger.

What comes to mind is the old saying, "the more things change, the more they remain the same." When it comes to food selection, this adage is certainly true. The more one delves into the science of nutrition, the more they realize that some of the most potent foods for optimal health come from good old Mother Earth.

The greatest challenge to the American lifestyle, however, is not the availability of nutritious foods, but the time Americans are willing to spend in the preparation of these foods.

At our training center, the time-preparation "ingredient" has always been either the deal-breaker or the deal-maker in an individual's success in losing weight or building lean muscle.

Several of the areas of nutrition that repeat themselves frequently in my work involve the following:

• Protein as a fuel source: Keep in mind that the role protein serves in the human body revolves around igniting the "metabolic engine" through digestion. It also works in the repair of muscle via its building blocks called amino acids. While each amino acid plays a role in body physiology, it is important to understand that for an athletic event, protein is not an ideal source of sustained energy but more of a buffer in slowing the break-down of muscle.

• Calories in, calories out:In the end, the math is very simple. You either burned more calories than you consumed, balanced calories consumed with calories expended or consumed more calories than you expended. Too often people depend on the food doing all the "work" when it comes to weight loss. Living and dying by food consumption without exercise is extremely difficult.

• Carbs for performance: Food itself is a form of energy. When consumed by the human body, that energy becomes converted into other forms of energy. Some of the best carbohydrates are "complex" -- creating a gradual rise and gradual fall in blood insulin. These come in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. These carbohydrates ultimately are converted to glycogen: a potent energy-producing compound that allows you to keep energy up throughout your day.

• Win with water: The merits of water and adequate consumption are numerous and can be easy to overlook. The majority of blood is comprised of water and maintaining adequate volumes allows blood to move effectively through your entire circulation system, including your heart. Dehydration can thicken blood and make your heart work harder, similar to pushing thick oil through pipes versus water. While numbers vary, the general rule of thumb is to consume one-half of your body weight in ounces throughout your day. Not only does water saturate and expand fiber, but also "escorts" nutrients for absorption.

• "Diet" does not mean "less": Too often, people interpret diet as meaning less food. Often, the opposite can exist, where people are encouraged to eat more of the right kind of food. Very simply put, the food you eat is either calorie dense or nutrient dense. Stick with the nutrient dense -- your common sense will usually prevail.

There is a glut of misinformation about nutrition, however the echoes of our parents encouraging us to "eat our fruits and vegetables" still rings true when it comes down to what is best for our bodies.

Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at billv@victorfitsystems.com, 360-750-0815 and online at theflashpoint.org and VictorFitnessSystems.com.