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4. Eat frequently, with a mixture of protein and carbohydrates at every meal. continued...

For his afternoon snack, Nelson will grab leftovers from the night before. Then, for dinner, he often consumes up to 2 pounds of salmon, along with grilled vegetables and a cup of rice. Just before bed, he downs yet another protein shake.

Of course, unless you are a world-class athlete in training, you should not follow Nelson's diet. But the idea of eating every few hours -- with a mixture of protein and carbs at every meal -- is an important one.

5. Watch the mirror, not the scale.

Bennett says that even if your goal is weight loss, the healthiest of regimens focus on decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass, not a particular number on the scale.

When she swam her record-setting race in Sydney, the 5-foot-6-inch swimmer weighed between 120 and 125 pounds, with 18% body fat. Now, she weighs between 135 and 138 pounds, but her body fat is down to 12%.

"If your clothes fit great and you like the way you look in the mirror, does it matter what the scale says?" she asks. "It's like age. You could be 45 but feel 30. Age and weight are just numbers that we get obsessed with, but they don't mean we're healthy."

Instead of weighing, Bennett recommends having someone measure you every two weeks and check your body fat once a month, which will provide a yardstick for how much fat you're actually losing.

6. Drink plenty of water.

The body is made up of 60% water, which means it needs a regular supply to survive. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), a fluid loss of even 2% body weight will affect circulatory functions and decrease performance.

The amount of water each person needs will vary depending on many factors such as underlying medical condition, physical activity level, and environment. The Institute of Medicine generally recommends about 91 ounces of total water (from drinks and food) on average per day for women and 125 ounces for men. Most water that we consume comes from beverages, but about 20% comes from food. Too much water can be harmful.

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