By: Calum McLellan, CISSN, CSCS, NASM-PES Sports Nutritionist and Sports Performance Specialist Spectrum Sports Performance Sleep, Hydrate, Protein

Don’t make healthy eating complicated. So many people worry about the numerous details of a diet rather than the absolute basics. There are a few things that must be done every single day in order to get the most out of the foods you are eating. Once these diet “bottlenecks” are in order then you can then begin to maximize and further tweak the details of a sound diet.

The first “bottleneck” of any diet is sleep. I know its been said a million times that 7-8 hours of sleep is optimal, but I want to stress how important it is. When less than 7 hours of sleep are achieved a night you are much more likely to over eat due to an increase of the hormone grehlin, the hormone that tells you you’re hungry and a decrease in the hormone leptin, the hormone that tells you you’re full.

The second bottleneck is hydration. If you are not achieving half your body weight in ounces of water a day you could be at risk of running on a sub-par metabolism. Without adequate amounts of water, the body has a harder time running numerous processes. In one study a group who consumed 8-12 cups of water burned calories at an accelerated rate versus a group who only consumed 4 cups of water per day.

The last bottleneck is not getting enough protein. A lot of people misunderstand the amount of protein you need to be “optimal” versus what you “need”. According to the RDA you only “need” 50 grams of protein a day. This is completely different from being “optimal”. There are numerous benefits from having at least a gram per body pound of protein per day over 4-6 meals especially if you are very active or working out. Regardless of your goals, protein can help you achieve what you are seeking. If your goal is to become lean “or” gain, protein needs to be the center of your eating habits.

As with all behavior changes, work on changing “one” thing at a time as you are much more likely to stick to that goal and make it a new part of your life. Even when things don’t go perfectly, just get back on track the very next day and don’t sweat the details until you have the big 3 down.

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