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Make fruits, veggies and protein staples in your recovery meal.
Losing belly fat is all about calories in versus calories out. Unfortunately, there are no fancy tips and tricks you can employ to make the process easier -- it is simply a case of burning more calories than you consume. You still need enough calories to recover from your workouts though, meaning your post-workout meal needs to provide you with enough nutrition to get your strength back in time for your next session, without going overboard on calories.
Protein is the most important factor in your recovery meal and in your weight loss efforts as well. When you train, your muscle tissue breaks down, and protein is required for this damaged tissue to be repaired. Increased protein intake may also aid with weight loss by increasing satiety, according to a study from the Department of Human Biology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends choosing fish, chicken or beans as your protein source and avoiding processed meats or high-fat proteins such as lamb or ribs.
Carbs can be a tricky customer. Cutting carbs reduces your calorie intake and may be more beneficial than a traditional low-fat diet, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Carbs are important for workout recovery though, notes sports nutritionist Dr. John Berardi, so cutting them out completely isn't a good idea. Instead, Berardi suggests eating most of your carbs in the six hours following your workout and limiting them the rest of the day. Good carb sources include fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains such as whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain rice or wraps, plus beans and legumes.
Protein and carbohydrate are the main players when it comes to recovery, with fat taking a backseat. Fat doesn't have any direct role in helping recovery immediately post-workout, so there's no need to add in any extra fat to your meal. Likewise, you needn't avoid fat completely if you decide to choose a slightly fattier source of protein, such as salmon, fresh tuna or sardines, all of which contain healthy omega-3 fats. Keeping fat low in this meal can help control your total daily calorie intake, however, which is key in losing belly fat.
Tips and Sample Meals
The most important factor to consider is how your recovery meal will fit in with your daily diet as a whole. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that active men consume between 2,400 and 3,000 to maintain weight and women consume between 2,000 and 2,400 calories daily to maintain weight. These are only guidelines, though, and you should eat around 500 calories below your maintenance level to lose weight. If you eat three meals per day, aim to consume roughly a third of your calories in your recovery meal. Perfect sample meals include a turkey stir-fry with peppers, carrots, green beans and brown rice, half a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter accompanied by 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese and an apple, or chilli made with extra-lean ground beef, kidney beans and tomatoes and served with a small baked sweet potato.