Nutrition and Fitness…How do you achieve and maintain it?
Learn why eliminating food groups is not the answer for long term nutrition and fitness.
Discover why short term “fixes” are not sustainable and may even be harmful.
Any why including even simple exercises at home can be beneficial.
We hear so much about nutrition and fitness in the media. We are bombarded with information, but how do we know what is fact vs fad? Whose advice is reliable?
There is a continual influx of new diets and quick answers to losing weight, but in reality, most of these are not sustainable.
“In order to truly be beneficial, eating habits must be lifelong and timeless”.
Let’s start with nutrition. We are what we eat
Our bodies need the right fuel to function at its best. Eliminating any of the macronutrient groups such as carbohydrates, proteins, or fats may result in a short-term “fix”, but these are necessary components of a long-term healthy diet.
Carbohydrates…necessary components of nutrition and fitness.
Sugars are the simplest form of carbohydrates and occur naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and milk products.
Starches and Fiber are the more complex type of carbohydrates and are found naturally in vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Fiber passes through the body largely undigested, regulating the body’s use of sugars and starches. Fiber is also essential for optimal digestive health.
Carbohydrates have taken a bad rap
Carbohydrates have taken a bad rap, but they are necessary components of of our diet. Starches and sugars provide glucose, a necessary fuel for the brain, central nervous system, and all the cells in the body.
The brain depends on glucose for energy. Consequently, it uses glucose to feed the cells in the body to perform and function well.
While glucose cannot be replaced, it can be supplemented. For example, in the absence of glucose, the brain can use energy created by lactic acid. Lactic acid is a substance which is increased during intense exercise.
Or it can use ketones, which are byproducts of low carbohydrate or ketogenic diets. In the absence of carbohydrates, ketones become elevated as fats are used for energy. This is an example of our body’s “survival response” to starvation.
Ketones and lactic acid can be used for energy in the short run, however these are “second choice” fuels and not the preferred fuel over time. Our bodies run best on glucose.
Is the Keto diet safe?
Anyone following social media is familiar with the popular Keto diet. It is true, people are losing weight on it. BUT it is not a diet that can be sustained over a lifetime. And if it isn’t sustainable, is it worth it?
The Keto diet works by eliminating carbohydrates, causing “ketosis”, and thereby forcing fat to be utilized for fuel.
The Keto diet is comprised of about 75% fat, <5% carbohydrates and about 20% protein.
On the keto diet, there are no limitations on protein sources. You can consume all types of meats, fish, eggs, and poultry. You can eat bacon, hot dogs, and processed meats. Portions are not measured.
Since fats make up a huge part of the diet, the addition of oils, mayonnaise, lard, and butter are encouraged, as long as they are sugar free.
Cheeses and whole milk as well as nuts are also included on the diet.
Only extremely low carb veggies such as kale, spinach, cabbage, and mushrooms are allowed as well as a few lower sugar fruits such as blueberries and raspberries, and only in small amounts.
All grains, breads, and legumes are disallowed.
So, what is wrong with this picture?
Eliminating carbohydrates, is reasonable for a short time and might bring about quick weight loss, however ketones are not the body’s preferred type of fuel.
Also, the extremely high fat content is contrary to what we know about the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease.
Aside from being arguably unhealthy, the Keto diet is “unbalanced” and impractical.
For instance, never eating pasta, bread or cereals is not likely to be a diet most people want to continue over time. Consequently, most revert to prior eating habits and weight is regained.
The Ketogenic Diet Does Have Some Benefits.
The ketogenic diet does have benefits. For example, it has been shown to be a viable treatment for drug resistant epilepsy, especially in children. The mechanism is not completely understood, and research in this area is continuing. Other neurological diseases such as Dementia, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis are also being studied.
Proteins are necessary for nutrition and fitness.
Protein is another macronutrient and is found in all areas of the body.
It plays a role in maintaining muscles, bone and skin integrity and carries oxygen in the blood, to cells in the body.
Protein is another macronutrient and is found in all areas of the body. It plays a role in maintaining muscles, bone and skin integrity and carries oxygen in the blood, to cells in the body.
It is important that we include protein rich foods in our diet daily.
But all proteins are not created equal
Protein from animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy are complete proteins. In other words, proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins.
Protein from vegetable sources, such as legumes, nuts, tofu, and dark leafy greens are incomplete proteins and need a little “help”.
Quinoa and Amaranth are an exception. In other words, these plant-based foods are complete proteins.
Diets that eliminate animal products, run the risk of inadequate or incomplete protein. So how do vegetarians and vegans meet their needs?
The Challenge of Achieving Nutrition and Fitness on Vegetarian and Vegan Plant-Based Diets.
The challenge of moving to a plant-based diet includes learning how to prepare new foods, as well as the art of “mixing and matching” to achieve high quality complete protein.
For example, combining incomplete proteins such as rice or whole grains with beans or other plant-based foods results in a complete protein.
Additionally, substituting quinoa for rice in any recipe adds high quality protein.
Find out more about Plant-Based Eating and suggestions for making the change.
Fats… Do we need them to achieve nutrition and fitness?
Fat is a third macronutrient that is essential to our health. Fats provide essential fatty acids. Fatty acids function as energy storage and act as fuel when glucose is in short supply, as in the case of the ketogenic diet.
Fats in our diet help our body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. For instance, the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E can only be absorbed by fats.
In excess, just as with carbohydrates and proteins, when fat that is not used for energy it is stored as body fat and leads to obesity.
What kind is best…bad fat vs good fat
All fats are not the same. Trans or Saturated fats or bad fats are those that raise cholesterol and increase risk for heart disease
Saturated fats come predominantly from animal sources, such as meats, butter, cheese, and eggs. Palm and coconut oils, as well as coconut, are plant sources of saturated fats.
Additionally, saturated fats are often found in pre-packaged biscuits, cakes, and pastries. Look for hydrogenated fat, palm oil, and coconut oil, on the ingredient list.
Often unsuspecting foods have these “hidden” in the fine print. For example, you may find saturated fats in microwave popcorn, breakfast cereals and some crackers.
Unsaturated fats or good fats include oils from plants and oily fish. These include olive oil, corn oil, avocados, almonds, and peanuts. Additionally, sardines, salmon and mackerel contain unsaturated fats.
Evidence suggests replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can help to lower cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease.
How much do we need?
While we need some fat in our diet, it should be eaten in moderate amounts. For example, fat should not make up more than 15-20% of calories. For instance, on a 2000 calorie diet, fat should be limited to about 40 grams.
To give some examples, one egg has about 5 grams of fat and an ounce of cheddar cheese has about 9 grams of fat. A 6oz skinless chicken breast contains about 5.5 grams of fat.
Products claiming “low fat” must contain at least 30% less fat than the original product. Becoming familiar with and reading nutrition labels can help make wise eating choices.
So, what should we eat for life long nutrition and fitness?
- Foods from ALL food groups!! Fruits and vegetables should make up half of your plate. The greater the variety and the more colorful the better.
- Portions in moderation!! Proteins and whole grains should make up the other half of your plate. Avoid processed foods.
- Fats in moderation!! Choose unsaturated fats such as healthy oils, avocados, and almonds.
- Desserts, sweets, and alcohol on occasion!! Allowance should depend on weight loss needs.
- Stay hydrated!! Drink water throughout the day. Limit coffee and tea to 1-2 cups per day. Milk and dairy to once or twice daily.
A survey of nutritionists was taken to determine their idea of the “healthiest diet”. Hear what 61 of them had to say!
Walk every day. Strive for a daily goal of 10,000 steps or 250 steps each hour.
However, make sure to check with your doctor before starting an any exercise regimen.
Adding simple exercises will help burn more calories and accelerate weight loss!
Exercise also boosts metabolism and mood. Incorporate these into your daily routine to help keep you in shape.
- Increase your heart rate with Jumping Jacks. Aim for 3 sets of 15.
- Squats and lunges help tone legs and glutes. Set a goal of 3 sets of 10 each.
- Crunches or sit ups will tighten your core. Try for 3 sets of 10.
- Try to a plank for core strengthening. Aim to hold for 60 seconds.
In summary, remember these points:
- A diet needs to be realistic, achievable and sustainable. In other words it needs to make sense and able to be a lifelong way of eating.
- Anything that is too good to be true, usually isn’t, in the long run..
- Remember the importance of consuming all macronutrient groups, such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Our bodies need and benefit from all three.
- Do make wise choices within each group, keep portions moderate, and stay active.
- There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat or splurge. Feeling deprived is not the goal and may actually lead to binge eating.