With so much contradicting information and conflicting opinions it can be very difficult as to what to do. The first thing many of us do is to drastically reduce the amount of food we eat. Some of us skip meals totally in the hope that discipline and self-sacrifice alone will burn the fat off. Some try the latest wonder diet or ‘diets of the stars’ only to wind up fatter than when they started. Now that is one sure fire way of blowing your motivation.
If you start on a diet that is very restrictive you are going to fail. Have you ever been on a diet before? Yes! Then why did you come off it? Generally speaking there are two reasons:
1. The diet is too restrictive
2. The diet just stopped working.
It takes a lot more than just eating less to strip fat from your body. If you do merely eat less your body soon adjusts to a reduction in calories. Your body loses fat burning muscle for starters, and it’s this muscle that is in-fact responsible for the greatest fat loss. It is imperative that you maintain your lean body weight or there will be a corresponding reduction in the resting metabolic rate. (RMR)
The RMR is best described as the energy required by you at rest. When a significant reduction in the metabolic rate occurs your grandest fat loss efforts will be sabotaged. You see our ancestors may have experienced this before, but they called it starvation. To them it was never a voluntary act, but a battle of survival against insurmountable odds. Luckily, the human body becomes very efficient at storing and hoards every calorie it can get. This is one reason we have survived as a species. You, however as a human of the 21st century, have a different problem to our ancestors. Food is all around us, and we are lucky. Yet with more information about diet available to us than ever before we still get fat, and statistics overwhelmingly suggest we are getting fatter.
There are diets that recommend the elimination of fat, and essentially claim that it’s impossible to get fat eating carbohydrates. Others, which are very popular now, strictly inhibit carbohydrate consumption. This is because carbohydrates cause an increase in blood sugar which inturn releases insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels, and when the level of glucose in the blood reaches a certain level insulin is released and promptly transports it to its destination. That destination being the muscles, the liver, and the fat cells if too much is eaten.
These diets were very popular in the 1960’s and 70’s, when diets such as the Atkins’ and the grapefruit diet were made popular. Scientists have now invented an index, which rates carbohydrates. This rating called the glycaemic Index organizes carbohydrates based on the speed of entry into the bloodstream and resulting insulin response. The faster they enter the bloodstream the higher the rating. The ones that enter the body slowly will allow for more efficient fat loss. They may also reduce the incidence of diabetes and heart disease.
High G.I. foods should be eaten in small-moderate amounts. Bread, rice, potato, and many pastas, and cereals are high G.I. because of their immediate effect on the blood and consequent insulin increase. The over-consumption of these foods can make you fat, or at least impair your fat loss efforts. These foods should be substituted or part substituted with beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables.
Low G.I. foods like most fruit and vegetables can easily be eaten in place of high G.I. foods. Low G.I. carbohydrates have a moderate effect on blood sugar, provide more fibre, more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and provide a sustained energy, and should be consumed in moderate amounts throughout the day.
(See Article Glycaemic Index)
One of the main arguments for an increase in protein intake is during fat loss, and the rebuilding of tissue, especially when accompanied by weight resistance training. When sufficient quality protein is provided in the diet it will assist in maintaining lean muscle tissue. Protein foods in your diet should include vegetable sources such as bean and lentils. Best quality protein is available from low fat meat sources including lean beef, fresh and canned fish (also a valuable source of essential fatty acids), poultry, eggs, and low fat dairy products.
Protein intake paramount importance if involved in intense exercise, and when body fat reduction is required. Protein foods can have a positive effect satisfying hunger. Small and frequent meals will enable you to ingest and metabolise your daily nutrients more efficiently, and have less effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, this helps prevent hunger pangs, cravings, and the storage of any excesses.
As mentioned earlier the metabolism is faster when food is being digested. Eating smaller more meals equates to a longer time digesting food. Although we all know that fibre is an essential component of any healthy diet we don’t get enough. People who enjoy a high fibre diet are less likely to suffer low fibre related cancers, metabolic disorders, heart and cardiovascular disease. There are two types of Fibre:
1. Soluble Fibre
Soluble fibre is abundant in most natural carbohydrate foods. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and cereals are great examples of soluble fibre sources. Soluble fibre is slow to digest and inhibits the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood stream. Soluble fibre can assist in lowering cholesterol and help control related metabolic disorders. A diet high in soluble fibre will provide more balance energy levels, and assist in attaining a healthier and leaner body composition.
2. Insoluble Fibre
Insoluble fibre is totally indigestible and moves through the small intestine cleaning, absorbing wastes, and eliminating toxins, carcinogens, and unused food. It’ s natures intestinal cleaner, and helps prohibit the absorption of these nasty bits. It promotes regularity, as efficient elimination is its job.
There is fat that is essential to our health. Finding the right balance is essential to your health, body, mind and general well being. Essential fatty acids like those found in olive and canola oils, avocado, fish, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are all excellent choices. The inclusion of these can improve your health and are essential to healthy and permanent fat loss. When on limited calories essential fats are integral appetite suppressers, and may actually encourage fat loss. After prolonged period of low fat the body produces its own, and unfortunately, this fat is saturated fat. Too much can do the same. “Essential fat” grams should be counted, as the overabundance will turn to fat.
Women min. 30-50gm
Men required 50-70 grams.
One change you may like to include in your diet may be the transition from high G.I. foods to low G.I. foods. Switching from too much bread, rice, potatoes, and large amounts of pasta to fruit vegetables, and legumes can easily achieve this. These foods are valuable sources of vitamins, low G.I. carbohydrates, and fibre. Some vitamins included are vitamins A, C and beta-carotene. As result of this, fruit and vegetables have become prominent in any contemporary diet recommended to promote good health and prevent disease.
Free radicals are renegade cells within the body, which are believed to be the precursor for many cancers, and degenerative diseases. Pollutants and chemicals in the air and water, and food, and cigarettes cause free radical production. Research suggests that your risk of various cancers is reduced if you have a diet high in fruit and vegetables. To ensure adequate supplies of natural antioxidants and phytochemicals you should eat at least 7 servings of fruit and vegetables daily. However, when it comes to vegetables, the more the merrier. Vegetables and fruit are highly nutritious as they contain high levels of micronutrient (vitamins), are high in fibre, have little to no fat, and are generally low on the glycaemic index.
N.B. studies have shown if you’re in the top 1/4 of fruit and vegetable consumers you halve the risk of most cancers, and it’s not just antioxidant content. Plants contain phytochemicals, which are potent anticancer agents. If you don’t like the taste of vegetables… Get over it!
There are fats that have lived up to their reputations as being detrimental to our health. They do us no good, are a major cause heart disease and many metabolic disorders. Saturated fats are those found in meat, and full fat dairy products. Eat lean meats such as fish and chicken, with low fat dairy products being preferred.
To the novice all this information is a lot to digest. No single diet suits all, however, with a sensible approach and small but positive adjustments like the inclusion of moderate daily exercise, everybody can improve their appearance, well being, and lose body-fat. Patience, moderation and reasonable expectations are the keys to eating healthy for life.