The common wisdom about weight loss has always been to eat less and less. You may lose some weight, but along with feeling terrible, you have no energy to exercise (if you’re getting any). So you loose muscle and get flabby, not fit or toned. Well, that’s not very attractive.

We gain weight when we consume more calories in food and drink than we burn up. To lose weight, we need to shift that balance and burn up more than we consume. We can accomplish that by consuming fewer calories, burning more, or both. Cutting calories doesn’t necessarily have to mean going on a “diet.”

It can just mean avoiding or limiting one or more foods high in calories from fat (such as high-fat meat, cheese, or snack foods, or too much added fat), lots of sugar (like sweets or sweetened drinks), or alcohol.

Cutting calories can also be accomplished by reducing our portion sizes, or by eating smaller portions of those high-calorie foods and filling up on larger portions of low-calorie vegetables and fruits.

Burn fat with fat

Monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fats and fish oils all play a role in keeping your body and your mind in top shape. The fats found in fish and shellfish, avocados, olives, nuts, nut butters, seeds and healthy oils like olive, canola and peanut help control appetite, improve mood and cognitive function and decrease fat cell size and numbers.

Diets too low in fat also decrease coping skills, increasing stress, anxiety and frustration.

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The trouble with most high-protein diets is that they eliminate most carbohydrates. That’s fine if you’re a couch potato, but if you’d rather be moving around and keeping your heart pumping at full tilt, zero carbs means no fuel. You must get too hungry and too fatigued to exercise at any level other then first gear.

If you eat whole and unrefined sources of sugars and starches like vegetables, fruits, winter squash and whole grains – known as low and moderate glycemic foods – the carbs are digested more slowly and blood sugar doesn’t rise as rapidly.

By eating these foods in small portions throughout the day rather then all at once and by combining them with sources of protein and fat, absorption slows even more, limiting the insulin response each time and allowing the carbs to be used as energy or stored in muscles as fuel for exercise.

Water: Drink plenty to avoid dehydration

Your body uses the water in your blood to carry nutrients such as sugar (glucose) to cells and to remove waste products from the cells. The presence of water in your body ensures that you can safely sustain physical activity. As you exercise, your body produces heat. This heat leaves your body as you perspire, taking with it electrolytes – elements, such as potassium, calcium, sodium and chlorine. If you don’t replace the fluid you lose during exercise, your heart rate increases and your temperature rises, putting you at risk of dehydration as well as compromising your workout.

When it comes to eating and exercise, everyone is different. So pay attention to how you feel during your workout and your overall performance.

See also: Best Healthy Food Blogs 2013