I don’t know if there’s ever been a time with more stress eating going on than right now. Most Americans have been mostly staying indoors for many months now and Californians are still sheltering in place. Work from home is the new normal for many people and it’s looking like it might stay that way even after the pandemic is past us. As a result, we must acknowledge the possible effects this could have on our personal fitness and adjust accordingly.
Given the limitations of these circumstances, most of us have seen a decrease in our activity levels. We aren’t just exercising less, but we’re performing less activities of daily living too. The calories we typically spend getting to work or class, walking to the store, making our way around town, etc. may seem marginal but they do add up. After all, it takes only 20 excess calories a day to gain 20lb of fat over the course of 10 years. (20 x 365 x 10)/3500 = 20.8 (There are roughly 3500 calories in a pound of fat).
Lately, my diet has been a high-protein variation of a high-fat low-carb diet (HFLC). I’ve upped my protein intake for three reasons: to keep myself full (limits overeating), to maintain as much muscle as possible (for increased performance, longevity, disease prevention), and for its high thermic effect (keeps me from going above maintenance calories). There was a pretty compelling study done a few years ago that backs this method up.
So why High-Fat Low-Carb? Because with less activity and more time sitting around at home, I’m not really tapping into my glycogen stores (stored carbohydrate in muscle that we use for energy) like before. To match my typical consumption of carbohydrates would be unwise, as there’s no use, and it would lead to over-saturation of carbs in my body. This would decrease my insulin sensitivity and put me at risk for disease over time.
Fat is the least filling macronutrient, so I pick high-fat ingredients that are high in fiber too. I also consume lots of nuts and seeds which happen to be rich in protein as well. And of course, tons of plants, especially green leafy vegetables. I’m fasting 16 hours daily, eating 3 meals a day and not consuming any snacks. My last meal is the highest in carbs in order to replenish glycogen after my late-afternoon workouts. This way I can replenish my glycogen stores while I sleep and they remain virtually untapped until the next day’s exercise.
In times like these, I also advise people to try and stick to whole food. The small stuff adds up. Try to limit processed carbs and prioritize protein, greens, fiber-rich carbs, and quality fat from plant sources. It takes discipline, but it can be done if you just take it one day at a time.
A lot of people have put on the quarantine fifteen. It’s not hard to gain weight when you are working twenty feet away from your fridge and are forced to be more sedentary than ever before. But like in a sporting event, if you adjust your gameplan accordingly and have the necessary knowledge about what it is you have to execute, you can come out of this pandemic as fit as ever. If you have any questions regarding this article or if there’s something you think I missed, please leave a comment below and I would be happy to discuss it with you!
Halton, T. L. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15466943/