If you've just set the goal that you're going to put in some time and effort to achieving your best body yet, one thing that you need to be taking into account is your diet.

Many people who form fitness and weight loss goals are quick to look into the different gym workouts they could be doing, seeking out the perfect routine to help get them the results that they desire.

But in doing so, they're missing half the picture. If you really want to achieve your healthiest, fittest, and leanest body yet, the one area that you need to devote the most attention to is your diet.

Proper nutrition is going to make up the largest component of results, especially when you have body composition goals in mind. While exercise is great and will definitely help to strengthen the body, muscles, and bones, increasing your muscle definition and physical strength, if you have a thick layer of fat covering your muscles due to poor dietary choices over time, you aren't going to be seeing the results that you hoped for.

While exercise does burn calories and if you do enough of it will burn off body fat, you'd have to do a very high amount of exercise in most cases to burn off how much fat many people are carrying.

It's simply too big of a job to do alone just with exercise, which is why turning to your diet plan as well is far more ideal.

In this guide, we're going to teach you in the ins and outs for eating well. We'll walk you through the main foods that you should be eating to foster not only a body that looks great, but feels great as well. Remember that the food you eat on a daily basis is what will provide the fuel you use to get through your day.

Look at it this way. If you just bought a fancy new sports car that you paid well over $50,000 for, would you put in less than premium fuel? No, you obviously wouldn't. You'd want to ensure that car lasted for as long as possible and would be doing everything you could to treat it well. Nothing but the best for your investment.

So why look at your body any differently?

If anything, you should be treating your body even better than you would a car. A car can be replaced. Once your body starts going, there is nothing that you can do. Health isn't something that you can often get back after it's gone. By always putting in nothing but high quality fuel, you'll keep your energy up, your muscles in proper working order, and your recovery rates higher.

Put in low grade fuel and your performance will suffer and your body might even start to break down.

In this world where we are all obsessed with instant gratification however, most people are putting their taste buds ahead of what their body really needs. It's time that you learn some self-control and to delay this instant gratification so that you can get the rewards of a healthy and fit body in the future.

So let's get started and introduce you to some of the key concepts guiding this healthy eating approach.

Where Most Diets Go Wrong

The very first thing that you need to be doing is assessing where most diets go wrong. What is it that causes most diets to fail and people to feel frustrated at the progress that they're making?

One of the biggest issues that you'll find with most diets you go on is the fact that they are strictly focused on calorie intake. You're given some fancy calorie counting calculation to figure out that then indicates the precise number of calories it will take to reach your goal weight.

This presents you with two different problems.

First, it gets your mind thinking that all that matters is calories. Eat X number of calories, lose weight.

If only it were that simple. While creating a good energy balance is required for fat loss success, what you must keep in mind is that different calories are going to react very differently in the body. Put the wrong types of calories in your body at the wrong times and you won't feel as well, you may be hungrier sooner than you should be, and maintaining that target calorie intake will be ten times harder.

In order to feel good and maintain a healthy diet with ease, you need the right mix of calories on a daily basis. Completing ignoring this fact and only focusing on calories will just encourage you to fill your body with empty foods that just aren't going to provide you with the nutrition that you need.

The second reason why just using an arbitrary calorie number to figure out what you should be eating each day is a bad idea is because there's no way to possibly know exactly how many calories you burn on a day to day basis.

Perhaps if you did the exact same thing day in and day out then you could get a fairly close estimate, but you lead a varied life. Some days you will be more active than others and on those days, it's normal to expect your body to demand more fuel of you. Failing to provide it this fuel, could mean faltering energy levels and you eventually binge eating because you feel so deprived you've been too hungry for too long.

On the other hand, if you set your calorie intake higher to account for the more active days during the week, then you could end up overeating on those days you're less active. When most people 'know' they should eat a certain amount of food, they aren't exactly going to pass it up. We as humans enjoy the act of eating so if someone tells you that eating a set amount is important, you're not going to disobey.

Instead, you should be listening to natural hunger cues. Let your body tell you when it's time to eat and when it's had enough. You might just be surprised at how well your body will help you regulate your weight when you're putting in the right types of calories.

This is yet another reason why proper food choices are a must – eat the wrong foods and you won't be able to control your hunger and then your body won't naturally be able to control your body weight.

Once you can get past this concept that all it is that calories matter and start putting more focus on getting in high quality nutrition, that is when you'll find that your body weight naturally takes care of itself.

The Function Of Each Macronutrient

The second thing that you must understand if you're going to put some healthy eating principles to work is how the body utilizes the different calories that you eat. The main three types of calories in the human diet can be broken down into proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

- Proteins are going to provide the raw materials that you will generate new body tissues with as well as form hormones and other messengers throughout the body that cause reactions to take place

- Carbohydrates are an immediate source of fuel for the body and are required to some degree to sustain proper brain function (unless taken very low in which point the brain will run on ketone bodies)

- Fats provide a long term source of fuel and will also assist with the uptake of certain vitamins in the body

Because each of these nutrients provides a key role in the body, each one is required in your diet. They are required in different proportions and this is one place where many people do go wrong.

Getting the right blend of nutrients is what will help you foster the greatest overall health and feel your best day after day.

The protein rich foods that you should be focusing on in your diet plan include those that come from lean animal sources. To meet your daily requirements, aim for between 0.5 to 1 gram per pound of body weight. Those who are more active should consume more protein and those who are less active require less.

Keep in mind that if you are dieting and using a lower calorie intake, this means you'll actually require more protein because of the fact there is a higher chance that some may be burned up as energy.

Carbohydrates are the nutrient that often gets quite a high amount of confusion in the diet. While they do provide the main energy source for the body, the body can also use fats for energy, with the major difference between the two being that fats don't cause any change in insulin while carbs will cause an insulin spike followed by a crash.

Therefore, fats are actually the superior form of fuel. That said, the brain does require glucose for proper function and so you feel your best. This amounts to around 100-150 grams per day for most people. Beyond that, unless you're doing plenty of high intensity exercise regularly, there's no real need for more.

The sources you get your carbohydrates from should include those that contain the most fiber and that break down slowly in the body. This includes fresh fruits and especially vegetables. You want to stay away from those that are very calorie/carb dense as this will just cause you to become hungrier and struggle more to maintain your diet.

Finally, the last type of macronutrient in the diet is fat. Since fats have virtually no impact on your insulin level, they'll be excellent for controlling your energy level, reducing your risk of hunger, and keeping you going throughout the day. The important thing to remember is that for optimal heart and body health, you want to be choosing your fats from healthy sources. This includes nuts, oils, avocadoes, seeds, as well as the fats that are found in grass or grain fed animal sources as well as fish varieties.

You want to stay away from trans fats that are located in processed meats, dairy products, eggs, as well as those found in baked goods (but you won't be eating them anyway as they aren't an allowed form of carb).

These are the types of fats that are going to keep your body healthiest and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

There's no specific requirement for fats because you are to be eating however many it takes to meet your target energy requirements after your protein and carb intakes are met. Those who are more active will need more fats to 'fuel their fire' so to speak, so will need to adjust their intake level upwards. Those who are less active or who are trying to lose body fat will need fewer fats to reach their goals.

Remember that fats are quite calorie dense containing twice as many calories per gram as both proteins and carbohydrates are so you'll want to make sure that you are keeping track of how much healthy fat containing food you're eating.

Eat too much of this food and you can be certain that it's going to make weight control much more difficult.

So that gives you a brief run-down of the different foods that make up your diet. If you pay attention to these and make sure you take in the right balance each and every day, you will realize success towards your goals.

Why Building And Maintaining Lean Muscle Mass Is So Important

Another key idea driving this nutritional approach is the idea that lean muscle mass is going to be imperative for success. Maintaining lean muscle mass or building new lean muscle mass if you're strength training regularly and eating a higher calorie diet is one of the best ways to encourage better health.

The first reason why having more muscle is desirable is because this will help to increase your metabolic rate higher. The higher your metabolic rate is, the easier it will be to maintain your weight as you can eat more calories without risking weight gain. Those who have a significant amount of lean muscle tissue will find that they become fat resistant in a sense where when they do overeat, their body has a tendency to burn these extra calories of.

The second reason why having more muscle is desirable is because this will help to control your blood glucose better. Those with more lean muscle mass will be more sensitive to insulin, so when they do eat carbohydrate rich foods, the energy from these foods will move into the muscle cells for storage, rather than either staying in the blood or being transported to body fat stores, causing you to gain weight.

The more muscle you have, the more storage you have for incoming carbs, making you less resistant to fat gain from this perspective as well.

Finally, the last reason why having more lean muscle mass is important is simply because it is what will keep you strong and fully functioning as you age. Losing lean muscle mass is quite common as the aging process takes place, especially if you become less active.

By maintaining a proper diet for maintenance of muscle tissue and making sure to keep your nutrition in proper alignment, you can avoid muscle loss entirely. The old statement that weight gain is inevitable as you grow older is completely inaccurate.

If you stay on top of your weight lifting workouts and your diet, there is no reason you have to put on weight as you grow older.

So one of the key foundations of how this diet is structured is to make sure that you are getting in enough nutrients for lean muscle building or retention (depending on your calorie intake).

Some diets miss the mark on this and that is a huge problem when looking at your long-term success.

Why Controlling Insulin Levels Is A Must

The next key idea behind this diet is that you need to be sure that you're controlling your insulin level. Insulin is a hormone that is released each time you consume carbohydrates and its job is to take those carbohydrates out of the blood and place them into storage.

Since very high blood sugar levels or very low blood sugar levels are both detrimental to your health and well-being, this insulin system aims to keep your levels between a precise range. As soon as blood sugar is too high, insulin comes into the blood to take care of this.

The amount of insulin released will be in direct proportion to how many carbs you eat and the type of carbs consumed.

Now, at first it may seem like insulin is a good thing – it's going to help to keep blood glucose at the right level. But this isn't always how it pans out.

If you eat too many carbs and thus get a very high insulin response, you're going to correspondingly suffer a dramatic blood sugar low as insulin rushes all those carbs into storage.

When this low takes place, you'll feel irritable, light-headed, and possibly hungry as well. By keeping your insulin levels controlled by taking care of your carbohydrate intake better, you'll reduce the chances of this occurring and prevent those highs and lows.

What's also very important to note is that if you do experience dramatically blood sugar highs throughout the day and your body is going to have to work overtime to keep up with it (always releasing insulin from the pancreas).

This can eventually cause the pancreas to wear out and stop producing insulin as effectively, or your cells may become less sensitive to the insulin being released, meaning that you will have to release more insulin to control the blood glucose level you're experiencing.

Both of these situations lead to the development of diabetes, which is one of the most predominant health problems in our society today. By making smarter food choices that don't spike your blood glucose levels to the extreme, you can help avoid this from happening.

Why Man Is The Greatest Enemy To Your Health

Which now brings us to the final point that summarizes this diet approach – that point being that if there is one threat to your health right now, man would be it.

Back in the caveman era, there were no supermarkets with shelves and shelves of processed foods. Instead, there was food that you caught in the wild. This is what humans grew up eating and what provided long-term fuel that kept them going throughout the day.

Now that technology has brought many new advancements, we're seeing 'fat free' or 'carb free' foods that have been created hitting supermarket shelves.

Whether it's cookies, crackers granola bars, low-fat chips, low-carb pasta, and so on, there is an endless amount of foods that appeal to your taste buds and also appeal to most people's diet mentality.

The big issue with these however is that none of them are natural. These man created foods are filled with processed ingredients that will offer very little in the way of nutrition and may still also cause blood glucose increases and crashes.

For example, take that bag of low-fat cookies. While they may be low in fat, they're going to contain a high amount of flour and sugar, two key ingredients that will wreak havoc on your blood glucose level.

So are these healthy to eat just because they're 'low fat'? They most definitely are not. Yet, this is what many people eat on a daily basis while thinking that they're following their diet.

If you want to really see success with your diet plan and healthy eating approach, you need to focus on foods that come in their most natural state. Foods that have not been manufactured and contain just a single ingredient. Do that and then you will find the real truth of what eating healthy means.

About the author: Shannon is a fitness trainer and freelance writer who has written for Bodybuilding.com.

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