Gear up for the homestretch.
At last, after a long and unforgiving winter during which you occasionally wondered if you would ever feel warmth again, Memorial Day is upon us, which means that it’s almost time for that pre-summer diet and exercise regimen to which you’ve adhered with such discipline to pay off. Since this last week is what really separates the Globo Gym physical specimens from the Peter LaFleurs of the world, we asked a couple of registered dietitians for their advice on what you should eat in order to finish on a high note. Whether you choose to celebrate this weekend by launching yourself headlong into a sea of perfectly-grilled hamburgers and sunscreen-laced light beer afterwards, though, is entirely up to you.
Protein and produce. This may come as a shock, but lean proteins are really, really good for you. Maria Bella of Top Balance Nutrition explains that protein produces a hunger hormone called ghrelin and requires a bit more energy to digest than other nutrients, which makes these foods the bedrock of a smart diet. Vegetables should also be a major part of what you eat this week—a good rule of thumb, according to Bella, is that produce should take up about half of your plate’s surface area at any given meal.
Cut starches, not carbs. Don’t get confused! Carbohydrates are found in pretty much everything that we eat, and cutting them altogether would be both unnecessary and wildly impractical. But you can get all the carbohydrates you need from a few servings of fruit combined with your intake of foods that are sources of lean protein, like beans or dairy. It’s the elimination of starches—foods with high energy density and minimal nutritional value like breads and pastas—that will have the most significant impact on your precise degree of shirtless season-readiness.
Timing matters. You are probably going to feel hungry as you work off those last few pounds, but Pam Nisevich Bede of EAS Sports Nutrition is here to reassure you: It’s going to be okay. Most people today prefer to eat frequently and graze throughout the day, but Nisevich Bede urges her dieting clients to reacquaint themselves with their satiety and hunger signals. As a rule of thumb, she suggests scheduling four nibbling-free hours between meals—no matter what the voices in your head say.
Eat things in order. When eating meals this week, Bella offers a simple suggestion for limiting intake of starches: Eat them last. If you’ve already eaten your servings lean proteins and produce, she points out, you’re going to be less likely to go back for those second and third helpings of spaghetti that threaten to torpedo all your best-laid plans.