Shaping up, losing weight and improving our level of fitness can seem like a daunting task. After a lifetime of following a less than healthy lifestyle, making the switch to healthy habits can easily end up in the too hard basket. The key to making the change is to take gradual steps on the way to a health and fitness lifestyle. And it starts with what you are putting into your body. In this article, we provide you with a two-step plan to reset the way you eat for health.
It Starts with Nutrition
You’ve probably heard the statement ‘you are what you eat’ so much that it’s lost its meaning. The reality is that the key to getting in shape is largely dependent on what you put in your mouth. Another saying that you may be familiar with cautions us that ‘you can’t out-train a bad diet. In other words, all of your hard exercises will mean nothing unless you have your nutrition on track.
When it comes to nutrition, there’s a lot of confusion out there. Every day it seems that there is a breakthrough in terms of fat loss, muscle gain and super nutrition. Often missing are the facts. Let us focus on just two key nutritional principles to help you to reset the way you eat.
The first key to getting in shape is to try not to eat so much. When it relates to food, a calorie is officially called a kilocalorie (kCal). It is simply the amount of heat required to raise 1 litre of water one degree Celsius. Heat, of course, is energy. When calories are burned within the body, they release heat, just the same as wood does.
We also use the word calorie to refer to the amount of energy that lies within our stored body fat. We can then use the word to tell us how much energy is in a food and how much exercise or negative caloric balance we need to burn it off.
As an example, a McDonald’s Big Mac will add about 600 calories to your body, and it would take 75 minutes of fast walking on a treadmill to burn it off.
An easy way to think of calories in the body is the illustration of a bank account. The food we eat is like the money we deposit. The energy you burn is similar to the money you withdraw when you make purchases. If your intake exceeds your output, your balance will increase. When it comes to your bank balance, this is a good thing. But when it comes to your body, it will lead to weight gain.
That weight gain will either consist of FAT or MUSCLE. The difference depends on the macronutrient ratio of your food intake.
So, to lose weight, you must use up more calories than you consume each day.
To gain weight, you must take in more calories than you take in each day.
This principle is called the Law of Energy Balance.
The first step to getting in shape then is to eat less food each day. A practical way to achieve this is to go out and buy a smaller set of dinner plates. In fact, buying plates that are designed for children is one of the best things you can do to lose weight and get in shape!
Three macronutrients are contained in the foods we eat:
Each of this macro, or large, nutrients have different effects on the body. They each also have their own unique amount of calories or stored energy.
- There are 4 calories of carbohydrate in every gram.
- There are 4 calories of protein in every gram.
- There are 9 calories of fat in every gram.
Unlike fats and proteins, carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient. We rely on them as an energy source, but they are not the only one. The body can also use fat, or even if it needs to, protein for energy. However, carbs are our most efficient source of energy.
The body stores fat as a back-up store of energy. An average woman with a body fat percentage of 25% will have about 118,000 calories of stored body fat sitting on her body. Her body will also store carbs but in much smaller amounts. In fact, we can only store about 1,600 calories of glucose (the broken-down form of carbs) in our muscles and another 400 calories in our liver.
Carbs are the limiting factor in exercise performance. Exercise quickly burns up glycogen, and if you don’t replenish it, you will hit the wall.
It is undeniable that reducing carb intake will help you to burn body fat. But going on a long-term low to zero carb diet is not the answer. It will deplete you of energy and be unsustainable in the long run.
So, let’s make this clear . . .
Cutting out any of the 3 macronutrients is a bad idea.
Leading on from this, every meal that you eat needs to contain all three macronutrients. To eat for a lean body, you need to eat a mixture of lean proteins, natural carbs and healthy fats at each meal.
Of the three macros, protein has the highest thermic effect. That means that it takes far more metabolic energy to absorb protein than it does carbs or fats. Protein, of course, is also vital for muscle maintenance – and a pound of muscle tissue requires five times more energy to maintain itself than does a pound of fat. Throw in protein’s appetite suppressant effect, and you can see how vital protein is to the fat loss story.
Getting control of your nutrition is the first and most important step to getting in shape. In this article, we’ve bypassed all of the dietary confusion out there to zoom in on two simple steps to get your eating on track. Reduce your daily caloric intake and balance your consumption of lean proteins, fibrous and starchy carbs and healthy fats, and you will be well on the way to a healthier new you.