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The diet for the summer season

Words by Elena Casiraghi
Summer's almost here. A season that rhymes with sea, beach, sun. It goes without saying that overcoming the swimsuit test might be in many people’s mind. To show off an enviable shape it is necessary to adopt a balanced diet and exercise all year round. This does not mean you cannot rest from time to time, it is important to remember that recovery is an active part of training and that training is not just getting tired.  However, we should not be saddened if we are aware that we have not prepared enough to arrive ready for the new season. Nothing is lost. In fact, now it's the right time to act.

In fact, being swimsuit ready is a strong motivation that can lead us to adopt a positive lifestyle and help us achieve our goal in a short time. Let's find out how.

First rule: hydrate yourself

Water is the best drink to keep you hydrated. Sparkling, still, whatever you prefer. Start the meal by drinking a couple of glasses. It will activate gastric satiety, saliva synthesis (essential to activate the first process of digestion of nutrients) and promote the intestinal transit of food. How much do you have to drink in a day outside the meal? There's no such thing as a precise amount that's good for everyone.

And thirst is not a good wake-up call. You have to play it early, taking water constantly throughout the day. The suggestion is to normally drink one glass for every hour of your day from the time you wake up. A total of 10-12 glasses of water per day, which corresponds to about two litres in total, is a sufficient quantity to satisfy the basic demand of our organism. If you have an abundant perspiration, then remember to integrate magnesium and potassium when resting.

The right sequence of food in the meal

In order to lose weight, what counts is not only what and how much you put on your plate, but also the sequence you have when you consume food. Each nutrient when taken is responsible for the synthesis of a specific group of hormones. Eating one food before another, therefore, can change results. You can think of hormones as neurotransmitters that go straight to our cells, bringing them distinct messages. To simplify, each individual nutrient activates a corresponding hormone, which in turn will trigger a different reaction by our body.

There are the hormones that activate satiety, then there is the one that stores the glucose beads that pour into the bloodstream when we take carbohydrates, just to name a few. Studies and scientific observations have shown that the best response, both in terms of glycaemia trends and satiety, can be obtained by eating food in this sequence:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Protein source food
  3. More refined carbohydrates

The "dish strategy" -which I will show you in the next paragraph- will allow you to activate "buccal satiety" (linked to how much you chew and swallow) and at the same time "gastric satiety" (which depends on the fullness of the stomach), as well as seeking an optimal hormonal response. This order therefore allows us not to get lost in false illusions, even when we eat.

A nice mockery for our well-established "Italian style" habits: the first course based on carbohydrates and - only to follow - the second course, with vegetables and protein foods. Or, in more modern versions: a first for lunch and a second for dinner. At this point you will know that the most advantageous choice will be to reverse the traditional order, first consuming the vegetables and the food source of protein and only to follow the first course, possibly reducing the quantities. Another simple little trick which brings great advantages.

The dish strategy

In every meal your dish can be unique, at lunch you can divide it into three equal parts. The starting point will be to find for the first third a lean food source of protein such as white meat such as chicken, turkey and rabbit, or fish - better if caught - eggs and egg whites.

A good vegetable alternative can be found in tofu or chickpea or lupin beans spread. Then continue by adding in the second third of the dish seasonal vegetables - raw or cooked, to be seasoned with a tablespoon of raw extra virgin olive oil. Conclude it by adding in the last third a source of carbohydrates with faster absorption, better if wholegrains and grains, such as legumes or cereals.

For dinner, on the other hand, the suggestion is to subdivide your dish this way: the base, the first third, must always be a lean food source of protein. Then add a lot of vegetables for the remaining two thirds of the plate. If you are hungry while you're cooking, you can eat a vegetable platter such as celery, fennel or salad. They have a very low glycemic index and are rich in fiber, water and many other substances beneficial to our health such as polyphenols and plant nitrates.

Say no to high-protein diets

Protein is a fundamental nutrient for life: if you don't take enough of it, your body suffers. They perform numerous tasks, both structural and functional. They participate in the formation of cells, hormones, antibodies and enzymes, just to name a few activities. Everyone needs a personalized amount of this nutrient. It is good for this not to take less but not more than you need. What happens when you go too far?

Taking more protein than you need may cause some problems for the body. For example, it stresses the liver and kidneys, two essential organs in protein metabolism. It can also lead to an increase in fat mass. The excess of amino acids, the bricks that make up the proteins, is difficult to dispose of, to such an extent that it could cause metabolic acidosis, easily due to the characteristic bad smell in the breath and urine.

Counting calories? An obsolete and misleading method

Calorie counting was, fundamentally, the only measuring considered assessing our relationship with food. We've spent far too much time behind these calculations and it's time for a change. In fact, we know that our bodies don't behave exactly like a calorie-burning machine. The human body is a sophisticated complex of cells, enzymes and hormones: to regulate thermal energy and body temperature it uses complicated metabolic mechanisms, which do not depend exclusively on food calories. Just think that about 60% of the daily caloric intake is not used for metabolism. It is then clear: it is longer enough to count only calories and cleanse our conscience in this way, without knowing the real meaning of what we do. It is therefore clear that we can’t rely on the calculation of this almost "magical" and mysterious entity. Going straight in this direction, without considering the combination of nutrients, will not lead us to be effective in pursuing our goal and can even be misleading, in knowing the quality of our nutrition. Certainly not the best choice, to promote wellbeing and achieve - or maintain - a healthy weight.

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