What are the nutrition habits that lean people do to maintain their physical health easily over time? Here are 5 best eating habits to get a lean body.
Most diet culture fads perpetuate the idea that you need to restrict your eating in order to lean out your body. However, a recent study analysis published in Obesity proves otherwise—that what you add to your plate actually matters versus what you are taking away.
In this review, Rutgers University researchers analyzed data from multiple weight-loss trials conducted within the university and found that increasing the amount of protein on your plate will result in better food choices and avoiding the loss of lean body mass.
The trial analysis looked at 200 men and women between the ages of 24 and 75 with a registered body mass index that categorized them as overweight or obese. Each participant was encouraged to follow a 500-calorie-deficit diet in order to lose weight, but with proper nutrition counseling and support for six months.
The analysis concluded that when 20% of the food intake comes from protein, most dieters also have a higher intake of green vegetables and a reduced intake of refined grains and added sugars. While these foods aren’t completely eliminated from their diet, the higher amount of protein in their meals results in a desire to complement the meal with other healthier items and a reduced desire to eat unhealthier foods.
The researchers also point out that typically when dieters lose weight, they are also losing lean body mass along with it. It states that anyone who undergoes a weight loss regimen encouraging calorie restriction will likely also reduce the intake of healthy foods with essential micronutrients. If you’re truly looking for a leaner body versus just a skinnier one, the analysis recommends consuming a higher amount of protein and improving the quality of your diet to keep that lean body mass.
For example, the study points out that although both the low- and high-protein groups lost the same amount of weight (around 5% over the six-month period), the higher-protein group ended up eating healthier foods overall and retained a higher amount of lean muscle mass.
How to calculate your proper amount of protein
The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) states that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram—which is equivalent to 2.2 pounds. So if you are 160 pounds, your RDA for protein would be around 72.5 grams of protein.
However, the amount of protein recommended in the DRI may not hit the 20% you’re looking for. In order to determine how many of your calories are coming from protein, multiply your grams of protein by four, then divide that number by the total calories you consumed in a day (one gram of protein calculates to four calories). So if you ate 1,800 calories in a day, 72.5 grams would be a little over 16%.
To find your protein needs, calculate what 20% of your total calories is for the day, then divide that by four. For example, 20% of 1,800 calories would be 360, so divided by four that would be 90 grams.
Look for lean protein sources
Participants of the studies analyzed were encouraged to consume lean sources of protein such as poultry, unprocessed red meat, fish, legumes, and dairy. Alongside these protein sources, they were encouraged to balance out their diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while reducing their intake of saturated fats, refined grains, sugar, and salt.
5 best eating habits to get a lean body
1. Eat when you’re hungry
Lean people don’t skip meals or severely restrict themselves. They realize that too much restriction results in overcompensating later.
“When we eat regularly, we give our bodies a steady stream of fuel,” says Bess Berger, RDN. “When we skip meals, we’re more likely to show up to the next meal too hungry. Then, it’s that much harder to moderate portions or eat mindfully—making staying lean more of a challenge.”
If you find yourself overdoing it at night, you might need to bump up your nutrition game earlier in the day!
2. Have a mindful eating practice
Instead of restriction, lean folks eat their meals mindfully! They engage their senses while eating without distractions.
When you eat mindfully, you are much more able to focus on not eating past fullness. This helps prevent overeating, consuming too many calories, and boredom eating habits!
Jana Mowrer, MPH, RDN, CDCES, NBC-HWC states that mindful eating can prevent moments of feeling “starving” and/or “stuffed.”
“With mindfulness, the eating experience becomes more neutral and less charged to help you maintain a healthy weight and a healthy relationship with food,” she says.
If you have a hard time staying present while eating, start by turning off the TV and putting your phone down. It will feel foreign at first, but you’ll get better with practice.
3. Focus on balanced instead of low calorie
Lean people understand that balanced meals keep them more full and satisfied for longer. A balanced meal consists of a combo of all three macronutrients and a variety of food groups: protein, carbs, and fats.
“Balanced meals promote leanness over time because they keep calories under control,” says Jinan Banna, PhD, RD. “A balanced meal will contain fruits and vegetables, which are rich in fiber and relatively low in calories to help you feel full while maintaining a healthy weight.”
To incorporate balance, you might ask yourself questions like “what can I add to this meal to make it more filling, nutritious, or satisfying for me?”
4. Have a moderation mindset
What you do 80% of the time is more important than the other 20% of the time. Lean folks spend their time focused on the “big rocks” the majority of the time so that they don’t sweat the small stuff.
Small moments of indulgences are meant to be enjoyed and savored, and then it’s time to move on! In fact, indulging in your favorite fun food now might even prevent you from craving it and overindulging later.
5. Find other ways to handle stress
Lean people don’t use food to cope with their negative emotions. If you feel like you eat often, even when you are not hungry, then you might be an emotional eater. Having an emotional coping skills “toolbox” that helps address your stress and challenging emotions instead of turning to food is the first step to overcoming emotional eating.